The conference will be looking for a better performance this year. Last season, the Big Ten started 2-0 in the postseason—then went 0-5 on New Year’s Day before Ohio State beat Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, a victory that later was erased by OSU as part of NCAA sanctions. View the entire 2011-12 bowl schedule and check out BTN senior writer Tom Dienhart’s quick analysis of all 10 bowl matchups in this post.
Wisconsin vs. Oregon, Rose Bowl - This shapes up as one of the best matchups of the postseason, as each team features explosive, high-scoring offenses. Each squad arguably has emerged in the last few years as the best in their respective conference, with the Badgers making a second consecutive Rose Bowl trip and the Ducks making a second in three years with a junket to the BCS title game last season.
Michigan vs. Virginia Tech, Sugar Bowl - The Wolverines are headed to a BCS bowl for the first time since the 2006 season in one of the most improbable stories of 2011. Can’t wait to watch quarterbacks Denard Robinson and Logan Thomas face off. And the defenses for each team are strong, too, with Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison matching wits with counterpart Bud Foster. This will be fun.
Nebraska vs. South Carolina, Capital One Bowl - These teams began 2011 as the pick of many to win their divisions. Didn’t happen. Neither offense is spectacular, as the Gamecocks have lost star running back Marcus Lattimore to injury and quarterback Stephen Garcia has been booted off the team. The Huskers’ attack has been a little too run-oriented. I like the Bo Pelini-Steve Spurrier coaching clash.
Michigan State vs. Georgia, Outback Bowl - This pits the losers of their respective league title games. Who will be motivated? The Spartans invested so much focus and energy on getting the school’s first Rose Bowl since the 1987 season. This game will feature outstanding defenses, as well as top-notch quarterback play.
Iowa vs. Oklahoma, Insight Bowl - The Hawkeyes will head back to Phoenix to play the Sooners. The schools have met just once, in 1979, with OU winning in Norman. Neither team is hot, as Oklahoma has lost two of its last three games and finished 3-3 after opening 6-0 with national title hopes. The Hawkeyes also lost two of their last three, and three of their last five.
Ohio State vs. Florida, TaxSlayer.com Bowl Gator Bowl - Has there ever been a more anticipated matchup between 6-6 teams? I think not. Of course, what makes this so juicy is the fact new Buckeye coach Urban Meyer will meet his old school Florida. But Meyer won’t be on the sideline. Still, the storyline will be hammered for weeks. A bigger issue: Will either offense score? First team to 14 wins!
Northwestern vs. Texas A&M, Meineke Car Care Bowl of Houston - The Aggies are limping, losing four of their last five games to finish 6-6. It cost Mike Sherman his job. Conversely, the Wildcats finished with a flurry, winning four in a row before closing the season with a loss to Michigan State. If you like defense, don’t watch. But the offenses are filled with playmakers. Bottom line: Expect a lot of points.
Purdue vs. Western Michigan, Little Caesar’s Bowl - The Boilers weren’t expected to drop this far and have to be disappointed after most had them pegged for the TicketCity Bowl. Nonetheless, this is Purdue’s first bowl since 2007, so it is excited to back in postseason action as Danny Hope continues to build the program. Now, can Purdue contain an explosive Bronco offense?
Illinois vs. UCLA, Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl - The Illini are in the midst of an historic flop, losing their last six games after opening the season 6-0. Ron Zook was fired. The Bruins also 6-7 but are coming off a Pac-12 South title and loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. Regardless, Rick Neuheisel was fired. Both teams have solid defenses but have been plagued by spotty offenses, as this will be the fourth bowl meeting between the schools (Rose Bowl after 1946 and 1983 seasons; 1991 Sun Bowl).
Penn State vs. Houston, TicketCity Bowl - This bowl has to be thrilled to have two ranked teams. But it may come with a price of sorts, as the cloud of the Jerry Sandusky scandal will follow the Nittany Lions to Dallas. And Houston may lose head coach Kevin Sumlin. But on the field, this looks like a fun clash between Penn State’s tough defense and Houston’s high-flying offense led by quarterback Case Keenum, who gives the bowl some star power.
Big Ten Bowls
|BOWL GAME||SITE||MATCHUP||TV||TRACK IT|
|Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Tue., Dec. 27 @ 4:30 p.m.
|Detroit, MI||Purdue vs. Western Michigan||ESPN||Live scoreboard|
Fri., Dec. 30 @ 10 p.m. Insight Bowl
|Tempe, AZ||Iowa vs. Oklahoma||ESPN||Live scoreboard|
|Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas
Sat., Dec. 31 @ 12 p.m.
|Houston, TX||Northwestern vs. Texas A&M||ESPN||Live scoreboard|
|Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Sat., Dec. 31 @ 3:30 p.m.
|San Francisco, CA||Illinois vs. UCLA||ESPN||Live scoreboard|
Mon., Jan. 2 @ 12 p.m.
|Dallas, TX||Penn State vs. Houston||ESPNU||Live scoreboard|
|Capital One Bowl
Mon., Jan. 2 @ 1 p.m.
|Orlando, FL||Nebraska vs. South Carolina||ESPN||Live scoreboard|
Mon., Jan. 2 @ 1 p.m.
|Jacksonville, FL||Ohio State vs. Florida||ESPN2||Live scoreboard|
Mon., Jan. 2 @ 1 p.m.
|Tampa, FL||Michigan State vs. Georgia||ABC||Live scoreboard|
|Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO
Mon., Jan. 2 @ 5 p.m.
|Pasadena, CA||Wisconsin vs. Oregon||ESPN||Live scoreboard|
|Allstate Sugar Bowl
Tue., Jan. 3 @ 8:30 p.m.
|New Orleans, LA||Michigan vs. Virginia Tech||ESPN||Live scoreboard|
For all other bowl games, check out our complete 2011-2012 College Football Bowl schedule.
Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. Find all of his work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow Dienhart on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his RSS feed.