Bowl season is pretty much for conference bragging rights. The vast proliferation of bowls means that Power conferences put more than half their members into the postseason. This year feels especially bad. Both the SEC and ACC ended up putting 11 of 14 teams into bowl games. Only Florida State, Louisville, and North Carolina missed from the ACC, with the Seminoles missing it by one game. In the SEC Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas are staying home, with Ole Miss and Tennessee each missing by a game.
In the Big Ten we only had 9 of 14 teams make it. Maryland was a game short after dropping a non-conference game to Temple. Indiana was a game short after a 4-1 start. Nebraska’s slow start kept them home, while Illinois and Rutgers were, well, Illinois and Rutgers.
The rest of the conference is playing in bowl games, and they start this afternoon in Detroit.
Minnesota (6-6) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5) 5:15pm, ESPN
The Gophers had an up and down year. The non-conference win over Fresno State ended up looking really good, but then they were drilled at Illinois. The surprising blowout of Purdue and win at Wisconsin got them to their first bowl under PJ Fleck though. Their reward is a pretty tough bowl game. They get to face the triple-option in a retirement game for Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson. There is a lot of emotion for the Yellow Jackets in this one and that will be tricky to overcome. Georgia Tech 31, Minnesota 21
Miami (7-5) vs. Wisconsin (7-5), 5:15pm, ESPN
This game is a rematch of last year’s Orange Bowl and both teams are in disarray. Jack Coan will start for the Badgers and Miami’s N’Kosi Perry may or may not be suspended. Both teams also started the year in the top 10 and stumbled to a 7-5 finish. Any potential rematch was expected to be in the playoff, not in New York. If there is one thing you can count on, however, it is that Miami sucks in cold weather games. It will be a high of 42 degrees in New York tomorrow. Wisconsin 24, Miami 14
Music City Bowl
Purdue (6-6) vs. Auburn (7-5)
I think we’re going to have some fun with this bowl game. I just saw the tweet from Jeff Brohm with him on the waterslide and it is clear the team is going to enjoy this trip. I think the playbook will be opened up. David Blough is going to come out gunslinging and I think the offense has a good day. As long as the offensive line holds up and keeps him clean I think the offense has a good day. Unfortunately, I think our own defensive line is going to have a rough day, but we could see a shootout a bit like last year’s bowl game vs. Arizona. Purdue 34, Auburn 31
Michigan (10-2) vs. Florida (9-3) Noon, ESPN
Michigan was pretty good this year, aside from getting absolutely pantsed by Ohio State (again). Florida was kind of mediocre, but still 9-3. Their best win was over LSU, but they lost to Missouri, Kentucky, and Georgia pretty handily. The rest of the schedule was pretty meh. The same can be said of Michigan, too. In their two marquee games they lost easily, but dominated everyone else. It’s probably as dull of a top 10 matchup as you can get. Michigan 27, Florida 20
Michigan State (7-5) vs. Oregon (8-4) 3pm, FOX
This is the new name for Purdue’s bowl game from last year and it is a nice little Big Ten vs. pac-12 matchup. The Ducks and Spartans played a home and home a few seasons ago that was also quite entertaining. As for what to expect from this game, Oregon had its ups and downs with a win over Washington, but slipups against Stanford and Arizona. As always, they have a ton of pure athletes that Michigan State will have to neutralize. Oregon 34, Michigan State 24
Northwestern (8-5) vs. Utah (9-4) 7pm, Fox Sports 1
Northwestern did not perform well outside of the Big Ten West this year, but they were 6-0 against divisional foes. They were still 0-3 outside of the conference overall and just 205 against non-Big Ten West teams. Utah is a stout defensive team, so this could be a low scoring affair where both offenses struggle to get much going. Northwestern 24, Utah 21
Mississippi State (8-4) vs. Iowa (8-4) Noon, ESPN2
Is there a rule that states Iowa must go to the Outback Bowl every year? This is the third time in six seasons Iowa has been here. It is also the sixth times since 2004 the Hawkeyes have been to Tampa. These teams seem pretty much identical, so that makes this game somewhat of a toss-up. Iowa has at least been a little more unpredictable his season. Iowa 27, Mississippi State 24
Capitol One Bowl
Penn State (9-3) vs. Kentucky (9-3) 1pm, ABC
It seems weird to have Kentucky in a New Year’s Day bowl game, but I know it is something that seems to happen about once every 10 years. The Wildcats have been pretty impressive all years since finally ending their losing streak to Florida. Penn State has been solid, even if they lost to Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State. That makes for a fun little game here. Penn State 30, Kentucky 24
Ohio State (12-1) vs. Washington (10-3) 5pm, ESPN
Gee, I wonder who gave Ohio State their one loss and why they are here instead of the playoff? Washington is a pretty weak Pac-12 champ. They lost to Auburn, Oregon, and Cal. Ohio State may not have been great, but they beat everyone on their schedule (except Purdue). Their offense was lethal for most of the season (except against Purdue), so let’s enjoy the fact that Purdue absolutely walloped the soon to be 13-1 Rose Bowl winner. Ohio State 45, Washington 24