College Football 2010: The Big Ten Went Bowling but Could Not Find an Alley

JA AllenSenior Writer IJanuary 7, 2011

College Football 2010: The Big Ten Went Bowling but Could Not Find an Alley

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    The Big Ten had an opportunity to make a statement in this year’s 2010 Bowl-o-Rama, as it sent its eight best teams into the fray touted as, perhaps, the second best conference behind the SEC.

    Instead, most Big Ten Conference teams stuttered, dropped their lines and fell off the stage.

    The Big Ten failed to accomplish what they wished, to put it mildly.

    2010 bowl season got under way with Iowa and Illinois leading the way, playing Big 12 teams Missouri and Baylor respectively.

    When both Iowa and Illinois scored wins, it looked like it might be another stellar year for the Big Ten Conference.

    But on New Year’s Day, with five teams playing, the Big Ten was blanked, losing to one Big 12 team, three SEC teams and one Mountain West team. 

    The final game, on January 4, was the Sugar Bowl featuring Ohio State and Arkansas, the last of the SEC opponents. Thankfully, Ohio State also brought home a hard-fought victory.

    In all the Big Ten went 3-5 in the 2010 bowl season.

    Last year the Big Ten managed a winning record, 4-3, in bowl game appearances, as Iowa, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin won their contests with Iowa and Ohio State in BCS bowls. Michigan State, Northwestern and Minnesota came close but no cigars.

    All in all, 2009 was a great bowl year for the Big Ten.

    Great when you consider that after the 2008 football season the Big Ten went 1-6, with only Iowa winning that year over SEC opponent South Carolina.

    Following the 2007 football campaign, the Big Ten compiled a 3-5 record.  

    In the past four years the Big Ten has skidded to an 11-19 record. This while the SEC continues to rack up winning bowl seasons.

    Cornhuskers, get ready to chew up that SEC turf.

Insight Bowl: Iowa (Big Ten) Defeated Missouri (Big 12), 27-24

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    The Iowa Hawkeyes, rocked by scandal in December and on the heels of a three-game losing skid in November, entered Tempe as decided underdogs against a high-flying Missouri team.

    The Tigers, behind their stellar quarterback Blaine Gabbert, had won their last three games and came into this contest ranked No. 12 by the BCS.

    With Adam Robinson sidelined, the Iowa running corps was reduced to one player, Marcus Coker. 

    Iowa’s defense had failed and the offense had looked shaky and uncertain in the loss against an inspired Minnesota during the last game of the regular season.

    When Iowa gave the ball to Marcus Coker, they set the stage for a breakout performance by Iowa’s next dominating running back. Coker rolled for 219 yards on 33 carries, scoring two touchdowns, including one for 62 yards.

    The freshman running back scored the first touchdown of the game for Iowa in the first quarter. One of the best run defenses of the country could not contain the young Maryland native.  

    Iowa led at halftime 17-10 with two Coker touchdowns and a Michael Meyer field goal. 

    In fact Iowa led throughout the game until the end of the third quarter, when Missouri finally squeezed ahead by four points 24-20.

    But then the magic came back into the Iowa secondary when Micah Hyde intercepted a Gabbert pass, running it back 72 yards for the score and the win late in the fourth quarter. Iowa held on to win 27-24.

    Even though Gabbert threw for 434 yards, and even though his receivers T.J. Moe and Jerrell Jackson caught for 152 yards and 129 yards respectively, Iowa won the game. 

    In the process Iowa redeemed a season that seemed to offer so much promise back in September, which now gives the Iowa faithful a reason to celebrate the upcoming season in 2011.

Texas Bowl: Illinois (Big Ten) Defeated Baylor (Big 12), 38-14

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    Both teams, Illinois and Baylor, entered this game in Houston thrilled to be playing in a bowl game.

    Both teams demonstrated vast improvements over their 2009 seasons and had games throughout the 2010 season that brought glory back to their seemingly depleted programs. 

    But this bowl game belonged to the Illini behind a breakout performance by Illinois running back Mikel LeShoure.

    Baylor seemed powerless to stop LeShoure, as he scampered for 184 yards, scoring three touchdowns.

    The Illinois running back set five school records during this football game.

    In the process, the Illini denied the Baylor Bears a bowl victory after the Bears waited 16 seasons to win one.

    Illinois captured its first bowl victory since 1999.

    It was coach Ron Zook’s first bowl win as a head coach.

    Behind freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and an improving defense, Illinois appears to have a solid future as it heads into 2011.

    It is yet to be seen whether LeShoure will return to lead the running game next year.

    Not many gave the Illini much of a chance to win this game being played in Baylor’s backyard.

    They not only won the game—Illinois dominated as a second Big 12 team went down to defeat at the hands of a Big Ten team.

TicketCity Bowl: Texas Tech (Big 12) Defeated Northwestern (Big Ten), 45-38

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    It did not look promising for Northwestern as they faced Texas Tech in the inaugural TicketCity Bowl in Dallas.

    Northwestern’s inexperienced quarterback sent in to replace starter Dan Persa had not fared well against Illinois or Wisconsin.

    The Wildcats lost their last two games of the regular season, looking less than impressive. 

    Persa was injured on the final play of the game during Northwestern’s upset of Iowa.

    It looked positively dismal when the Wildcats trailed the Red Raiders 31-9 well into the third quarter.

    A fumble recovery in the end zone gave the Wildcats a touchdown followed by a two-point conversion. 

    Texas Tech quickly answered with another touchdown.

    But then the Red Raiders tried an onside kick, which Northwestern recovered. After another score, the Wildcats closed to 38-24. 

    The Wildcats kept scratching their way back to within a touchdown of tying the game but could not quite get the job done. 

    Texas Tech held on to win the game 45-38, intercepting an Evan Watkins pass with less than a minute to play. 

    It was another good effort from the Wildcats, as they came close again. But Northwestern could not deliver a win. 

    This was the Big Ten's first loss on New Year's Day. It would not be its last.

Outback Bowl: Florida (SEC) Defeated Penn State (Big Ten), 37-24

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    This was a game filled with errors and turnovers.

    Penn State challenged Florida in an offensive nightmare of a game hardly deserving of New Year’s Day status.

    Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin threw five interceptions on the afternoon, and still Joe Paterno left him in the game. Perhaps when it was obvious that this was not his day, Rob Bolden might have helped out.

    Still, Penn State led early in the contest while Florida continued to sputter.

    John Brantley threw an interception on Florida’s first play, leading to a trio of miscues early in the game for the Gators.

    At the end of the first quarter the Lions led 7-0. After the Gators tied up the score in the second quarter, they benefited by blocking a Penn State punt, grabbing the ball and scoring to lead 14-7.

    The score teetered back and forth as the two teams traded the lead until a Chas Henry field goal put the Gators up 30-24 with seven-and-a-half minutes left on the clock. 

    Another McGloin interception kept Penn State from scoring again, leading instead to another Gator score, leaving a victory unreachable as time ran out on the Lions. 

    It marked Urban Meyer's last game as the Gator head coach with Will Muschamp taking over in 2011. 

    84-year-old Joe Paterno plans on leading the Lions again next year––hopefully to bigger and better results.

Capital One: Alabama (SEC) Defeated Michigan State (Big Ten), 49-7

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    The entire state of Michigan should have stayed home on January 1, 2011.

    Stepping foot onto the gridiron was not an advantageous thing for Michigan football players to attempt.

    Big Ten co-champion and No. 9-ranked Michigan State faced SEC powerhouse the No. 16-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide in Orlando for the Capital One Bowl.

    This was a game Michigan State was awarded after tying for the Big Ten championship. It was a game they needed to win.

    The problem was that the Spartans left their game back in East Lansing. The Spartans never got on track during the entire contest.

    The Tide rolled up 546 yards of offense while allowing Michigan State 171.

    The Alabama defense was crushing.

    The Spartans only managed to score during the last five minutes of the game.

    It was a sad day for this Spartan team that had gone through so much and accomplished so much up until this Capital One Bowl.

    Alabama ran without restraint, scoring five rushing touchdowns. 

    It was another nail in the Big Ten coffin on the first day of a new year.

Gator Bowl: Mississippi State (SEC) Defeated Michigan (Big Ten) 52-14

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    Both Michigan and Mississippi State were pleased to be playing in this year’s January 1 Gator Bowl.

    Unranked Michigan had not been to a bowl game in three years. Mississippi State’s last bowl appearance came after the 2007 season.

    Both teams and their fans were hungry for postseason play.

    But only one team showed up to play a full football contest in Jacksonville. 

    The Bulldogs ran away with this game behind quarterback Chris Relf, who passed and ran for four touchdowns, while running back Vick Ballard added three scores. 

    The 52-14 score was the worst bowl defeat in Michigan history.

    It cost coach Rich Rodriguez his job as the head coach of the Wolverines.

    Michigan was done scoring by the end of the first quarter, and its defense was powerless to stop the Bulldogs after that.

    The SEC sat down hard on the Big Ten in this lopsided contest.

Rose Bowl: TCU (MWC) Defeated Wisconsin (Big Ten), 21-19

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    Wisconsin came out of the Big Ten race with the higher BCS ranking.

    For their diligence, the Badgers won the trip to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl—the granddaddy of all bowl games.

    Wisconsin had not appeared in the Rose Bowl since 2000, when they met and defeated Stanford.

    The Badgers might have met Stanford on January 1, 2011—except that this year the BCS awarded the TCU Horned Frogs, from a non-automatic qualifying conference, a berth to play in the Rose Bowl.

    It was a game one would characterize as a defensive struggle, especially in the second half.

    By the end of the second quarter, TCU led 14-13.

    In the third quarter only the Horned Frogs scored, as Luke Shivers ran it in from one yard out, sending TCU up 21-13.

    Late in the fourth quarter, Wisconsin assembled its running game, driving down the field to score.

    Its subsequent two-point conversion pass was swatted away.

    Then the Badgers' onside kick failed as well. 

    Wisconsin lost 21-19 when the Horned Frogs held on by gaining their last first down. 

    The clock ran out on the Badgers and the Big Ten, who lost all five games that day.

    TCU delivered quite a statement on behalf of the “little schools” who felt they deserved a better shot in the BCS system.

Sugar Bowl: Ohio State (Big Ten) Defeated Arkansas (SEC), 31-26

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    To say that the Big Ten was hanging on by a thread was a bit of an understatement.

    Ohio State stared across the field watching its opponents from the SEC, the Arkansas Razorbacks, warm up, ready to play in the 2011 Sugar Bowl.

    Out of the eight teams representing the Big Ten in bowls, half of the contests were against the SEC.

    Coming into the Sugar Bowl, the Big Ten so far was 0-3.

    If Ohio State lost, the SEC could claim a sweep of its Big Ten opponents.

    Luckily it did not happen.

    The Buckeyes managed after nine tries to deliver a win over an SEC team in a bowl game.

    The monkey is now definitely off Ohio State's back.

    Ohio State shot out to a big lead—28-10 at the half.

    But behind the leadership of quarterback Ryan Mallett, the Razorbacks began to climb back into the game, gaining on the Buckeyes.

    Ohio State fans got nervous because this looked frighteningly familiar—deja vu all over again!

    The Razorbacks got as close as 31-26 before a final interception sealed the win for the Buckeyes, allowing them to escape with a win.

    The win stopped the Big Ten bleeding, but not the media analysis. Ah, well—there is always next year.