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The Whistlestop Tour: Recapping the Big Ten Bowl Season

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The Big Ten finishes the bowl season with a winning record.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl - Purdue v Auburn Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/Getty Images

With Ohio State winning the Rose Bowl last night the 2018 Big Ten Football season is over. Nine teams made it to bowl games and the conference closes with a final mark of 5-4. Ohio State, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Wisconsin all won, while Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State all lost. Here is your recap, as well as how Purdue’s non-conference opponents for 2018 and 2019 did.

QuickLane Bowl: Minnesota 34, Georgia Tech 10

I thought Georgia Tech would put up more of a fight here, but Mohamed Ibraham ran for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Gophers rolled:

Ibrahim was, at one point, the Gophers’ third-string running back. Then Shannon Brooks was lost for the season after tearing an ACL during offseason workouts last winter, and Rodney Smith followed suit two games into the season. Couple that with the fact that Ibrahim missed three games this season due to injury, and suddenly his 1,160 rushing yard season seems even more remarkable. The Gopher running back capped by his redshirt freshman season with an exclamation point, rushing for 224 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia Tech to earn the title of Quick Lane Bowl MVP. He also did so behind a Minnesota offensive line that was dominant despite the absence of three-year starting left tackle Donnell Greene, opening the door for true freshman Curtis Dunlap to crack the starting five and offer Gopher fans of their offensive line for the foreseeable future.

Pinstripe Bowl: Wisconsin 35, Miami 3

Miami’s offense was a complete mess all year and it especially came to the fore in the bowl game. Jonathan Taylor had himself a day and Miami pretty much did nothing all night:

In a rematch from last season’s Orange Bowl, the Wisconsin Badgers overwhelmed the Miami Hurricanes in a 35-3 win during the 2018 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Thursday.

On both sides of the ball, Wisconsin (8-5, 5-4 Big Ten) took control. The Badgers gained 406 yards against a Hurricanes defense that came in allowing an average of 268.3 per contest. That unit only allowed 127.5 per game on the ground, but UW gained 333 in that category.

Music City Bowl: Auburn 63, Purdue 14

Purdue did no favors for its reputation in getting absolutely blasted by Auburn, but it was a perfect storm of a lack of depth, injuries, and a significant talent advantage for the Tigers:

Well, I for one had a great time seeing Gus call the good plays and running Wildcat touchdowns and end-arounds and screens to Ryan Davis. Auburn did exactly what it wanted to do and dominated a team that has beaten some decent squads this season. I think being mad about anything to do with this game would be a huge waste of the short time we all have earth. Life is short, enjoy the wins.

Peach Bowl: Florida 41, Michigan 15

It was definitely a bitter end for Michigan, who got blown out in the final two games after the 10-1 start:

Harbaugh is now 1-10 against teams that finish the season ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll during his four years at Michigan. The only win coming in 2016 against Penn State, which wasn’t ranked at the time the teams played. The losses have come to Notre Dame (2018), Ohio State (2018), Penn State (2017), Wisconsin (2017), Ohio State (2017), Ohio State (2016), Florida State (2016), Michigan State (2015) and Ohio State once more (2015).

It’s disheartening, it’s infuriating and it’s mind-blowing.

Holiday Bowl: Northwestern 31, Utah 20

Northwestern gets another 9-win season with a pretty solid win over a good Utah team:

Things didn’t look so rosy early on. Missing three senior starters, the Wildcat defense looked lost in the game’s opening minutes, allowing Shelley to prance around the pocket and find open receivers. Facing a 17-point halftime deficit, NU refused to panic in the locker room. The players and coaches chalked the unsavory performance up to poor execution and communication and moved on.

Redbox Bowl: Oregon 7, Michigan State 6

Oh goodness, this was an affront to football. Oregon won but we all lost:

On the Spartans second to last drive of the game, Coghlin lined up to attempt a 50-yard field goal. Earlier in the fourth quarter, the kicker missed from this same distance. However, he would never get a second opportunity. The snap was bobbled by Brian Lewerke and he was forced out of bounds after attempting to make a pass.

The game was the perfect representation of the Spartans season, especially the last month of games. Despite complete dominance by the MSU defense against an explosive Oregon offense, the Spartans weren’t able to do much of anything with the ball.

Citrus Bowl: Kentucky 27, Penn State 24

Inexplicably, Penn State kicked a field goal down 6 inside the red zone. To me, when you do that, you deserve to lose:

I don’t know about you folks, but I’m getting pretty tired of Penn State losing games in which the statistics say it should not.

And yet, here we are, facing a Citrus Bowl loss where the Nittany Lions outgained the Wildcats by nearly 100 yards.

Outback Bowl: Iowa 27, Mississippi State 22

Iowa used its defense to close out another Outback Bowl win:

And at noon yesterday, the Iowa kicked off against Mississippi State. There was already bad blood between the two teams as words had apparently been exchanged during a visit to a hospital, of all places.

But this was a different Iowa team and a different season. Mississippi State was the stand-in for the SEC foe that the Hawkeyes sometimes have trouble contending with. Despite a slow start on offense, things started to pick up.

Nate Stanley, who many Iowa fans love to hate, was able to hit his receivers. Easley, playing in the final game of his career in the Black and Gold, started making catches. The offense started moving.

Rose Bowl: Ohio State 28, Washington 23

The Buckeyes close out their season an imperfect 13-1 with Purdue being the one blemish, but Washington sure made it interesting after falling behind 28-3:

If there was any fear of an Ohio State Buckeyes letdown in the Rose Bowl, it was squashed by the midway point of the first quarter. However, things got fraught in the second half, as the Huskies mounted an incredibly impressive comeback. In Urban Meyer’s final game as head coach of the Scarlet and Gray, the Buckeyes beat the Washington Huskies in the 105th edition of the Rose Bowl Game, 28-23.

Not only do the Bucks raise their second trophy in as many games, but more milestones were set in the process. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins eclipsed the 50 touchdown mark for a season with a goal line pass to Rashad Berry before halftime. Haskins ended the game with 251 yards on 25-of-37 passing, sprinkling three passing scores in the process. His scoring strikes to wide receivers Johnnie Dixon and Parris Campbell were across the middle of the field — and both were wide open.

2018 Non-Conference opponents:

Camellia Bowl: Georgia Southern 23, Eastern Michigan 21 - The Eagles lost another close game, this one on a walk-off field goal.

Liberty Bowl: Oklahoma State 38, Missouri 33 - Some bizarre coaching decisions led to this loss for the Tigers.

First Responder Bowl: Boston College vs. Boise State - This is an incomplete, as lightning made it the first ever cancelled bowl game. An A.J. Dillon touchdown early on was the only scoring.

2019 Non-Conference Opponents

Arizona Bowl: Nevada 16, Arkansas State 13 (OT) - Nevada capped an 8-win season with a thrilling overtime win.

Texas Bowl: Baylor 45, Vanderbilt 38 - Vanderbilt finished 6-7 after dropping a high scoring affair.

Cheez-It Bowl: TCU 10, California 7 (OT) - Somehow TCU won a bowl game with only 28 yards passing and four interceptions. This is mostly because Cal had five interceptions.