Game Preview: Big Ten Bowl Games
Host Logan Bourandas alongside Ben Geller and Jeremy Ganes look at all of the bowl games taking place around the Big Ten. They dive into some of the biggest matchups as well as give predictions for the biggest games:
The Big Ten has nine teams representing the conference in bowl games this season. That’s just as many as the SEC and trails only the ACC, who has 10.
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: Dec. 28
Ohio State (13-0) vs. Clemson (13-0)
Both Clemson and Ohio State are entering this game coming off of impressive conference championship game victories. Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers’ number one overall ranked defense takes on Justin Fields, Chase Young and Ohio State’s top-ranked defense.
Clemson is certainly going to be entering this game with a chip on their shoulder, being the first team to start the season No. 1 and then finish the season undefeated and not end up No. 1. Ohio State may be entering this matchup with some added motivation, as well. The Buckeyes are the first team since 1983 to beat three teams in the top 10 of the AP Poll in consecutive weeks to finish the season and drop in the final rankings.
Rose Bowl: Jan. 1
Wisconsin (10-3) vs. Oregon (11-2)
It’s Wisconsin representing the Big Ten in the historic Rose Bowl, facing off against the Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks. These two programs met in the Rose Bowl in 2012. The Ducks edged the Badgers, 45-38.
Justin Herbert is going to be looking capitalize on this big moment, and potentially elevate his draft stock. Wisconsin’s stout defense isn’t going to make it easy. Additionally, Oregon hasn’t seen a running back the caliber of Jonathan Taylor this year. Taylor could be the difference maker.
GoodYear Cotton Bowl Classic: Dec. 28
Penn State (10-2) vs. Memphis (12-1)
Memphis, champions of the American West Conference, and Penn State will square off in the Cotton Bowl. This will be the third New Year’s Six bowl for the Nittany Lions in the past four years. This is Memphis’ first ever appearance in a New Year’s Six bowl.
Both teams have had shakeups with their coaching staff since their season finales. For Penn State, head coach James Franklin was awarded a six-year extension and offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne is now set to be the next head coach at Old Dominion. It’s up in the air whether or not he will coach in this game.
It’s unlikely that Mike Norvell will coach for Memphis, since he was recently hired to be Florida State’s next head coach. Regardless, it should be a hard-fought game versus two great teams.
VRBO Citrus Bowl: Jan. 1
Michigan (9-3) vs. Alabama (10-2)
The Michigan Wolverines will take on the Alabama Crimson tide in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day. This is probably not where either team aimed to be at the beginning of the season, however it’s where they are. There is great speculation on who will play or not for Alabama. For Michigan, Jim Harbaugh’s going to be seeking to secure what could be his biggest win as the head coach of the Wolverines.
Alabama’s defense has been somewhat vulnerable this season, and Michigan’s offense has really begun to come around as of late. Assuming for now that Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and the rest of Alabama’s remarkable receiving corps opt to play, then expect many touchdowns and a high scoring affair.
Outback Bowl: Jan. 1
Minnesota (10-2) vs. Auburn (9-3)
Minnesota and head coach P.J. Fleck were one of the biggest surprises in all of college football this year, putting together an impressive 10-2 campaign and earning a trip to the Outback Bowl. This year the Golden Gophers are trying to be the first team in their school’s history to win 11 games. The Tigers are trying to win their second bowl game in a row.
This is the first ever meeting between the two teams. It’s seemingly a bigger game for Minnesota than it is for Auburn, who already beat Alabama and missed out on the SEC title. This one could come down to who wants it more.
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: Dec. 27
Iowa (9-3) vs. USC (8-4)
Iowa and USC will square off in San Diego, with the chance to be named Holiday Bowl champions. The Trojans lead the all-time series with the Hawkeyes at 7-2 and are winners of the last six. The two teams haven’t played each other since 2003.
USC, a Pac-12 team, is a pass-first team who likes the get the ball out quickly. The Trojans have an arsenal full of talent at the wide receiver position, with Michael Pittman Jr. leading the way for one of the best receiving corps in the nation. However, Iowa is ranked 12th in total defense in all of college football and the Trojans haven’t seen a defense as physical and smashmouth as the Hawkeyes’ all year. Expect this to be a great football game to watch.
TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: Jan. 2
Indiana (8-4) vs. Tennessee (7-5)
Indiana’s unexpectedly exceptional season lands them a matchup with the Tennessee Vols in the Gator Bowl. Tennessee, after a poor start to the season, turned it around and have to be content with an opportunity to cap off their season with a bowl game victory over a very good Indiana team.
This is only the second time the teams are facing off ever, with Tennessee winning the only contest back in 1988. A win for either Tom Allen or Jeremy Pruitt would be enormous for each program and could be a tone-setter for next season.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Dec. 27
Michigan State (6-6) vs. Wake Forest (8-4)
The Michigan State Spartans and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons will face off in Yankee Stadium, fighting to raise the Pinstripe Bowl trophy. This is going to be the first time ever that the two teams meet.
Michigan State’s strongest unit is its defense – at least compared to its offense. For Wake Forest, it’s the opposite. Although late in the season, the Demon Deacons have become riddled with injuries. Most notably, Deacons quarterback Jamie Newman has been a victim to injury all season. It’s unsure whether or not he’s going to play in this game but, if he does, Wake Forest’s electric RPO attack could present a challenge for the Spartans.
Redbox Bowl: Dec. 30
Illinois (6-6) vs. Cal (7-5)
Last, but certainly not least, there’s the Redbox Bowl between the Illinois Fighting Illini against the California Golden Bears. Illinois head coach Lovie Smith has the Fighting Illini back to a bowl game in his fourth season as head coach. It’s Illinois’ first bowl game appearance since 2014.
Last year, Cal played in one of the most hideous, yet exceptionally entertaining bowl games in recent memory. An interception fiasco, in which Cal and TCU combined for nine interceptions. TCU emerged victorious with a final score of 10-7. With both teams in this matchup relying heavy on defense, a similar low-scoring result is likely.
Zach Donaldson is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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