Dienhart: Quick Look at Big Ten Bowl Matchups

The Big Ten is bursting with bowl teams, as a record 10 schools are headed to the postseason. The Big Ten has two teams in the BCS for the seventh season in a row. And its 10 bowl eligible teams are the most since 2007.

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
Insight Bowl
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
TicketCity Bowl
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
Gator Bowl
Mon., Jan. 2 @ 1 p.m.
Jacksonville, FL Ohio State vs. Florida ESPN2 Live scoreboard
Outback Bowl
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.

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11 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (11 Comments)
Paul on 12/4/2011 @ 10:23pm EST Said:

wow, you couldn’t even do a writeup on PSU-Houston?

You all at BTN must despise that program in PA

bob jones on 12/4/2011 @ 10:27pm EST Said:

Tom, I wish you would have taken a little more time to clarify the bowls for us a little bit, could you please tell me if the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, featuring 6-6 Illinois vs a 6-7 UCLA team is a BCS game? Thank You, it looks like an instant classic.

    Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer on 12/4/2011 @ 11:24pm EST Said:

    I’m guessing you are being funny, right? Two struggling teams with coaches on the way out.

Matt on 12/4/2011 @ 10:27pm EST Said:

Why is Penn State left off of this list?

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 12/4/2011 @ 10:39pm EST Said:

    Penn State bowl game has been added. The omission was not intentional. Thanks for your understanding.

Ryan on 12/5/2011 @ 7:44am EST Said:

Will the Big Ten Network air the Penn State vs. Houston Bowl Game?

    BTN.com staff on 12/5/2011 @ 11:03am EST Said:

    Ryan, BTN won’t be airing any bowl games live. All bowls and their TV channels are listed on our BTN Bowl Schedule page.

Bobby on 12/5/2011 @ 11:05am EST Said:

I saw another article that said Penn State was the 7th team chosen for a bowl in the Big Ten AFTER the BCS made their choices. Does this mean 8 Big Ten teams were selected for bowls ahead of Penn State even though they tied for 2nd in the conference standings?

B more Girl on 12/5/2011 @ 12:03pm EST Said:

I just want to hear the College Gameday crew say “The Redemption Rose Bowl is for those teams WHO CAN’T SEEM TO WIN BIG GAMES!!!” Thx TP for ending this motto for da Buckeyes!! hahaha Will Wi be on the B10 crying AGAIN this year???? hahaha

detroit5039 on 12/5/2011 @ 4:03pm EST Said:

Mich over Mich State…… What a joke

chris on 1/2/2012 @ 10:10am EST Said:

can someone tell me why big ten teams always play up in rankings when in bowl games #14 oklahoma vs iowa, #9 s carolina vs #20 nebraska, #22 penn st vs #19 houston, #10 wisconsin vs #5 oregon, #13 michigan vs #11 VT, ohio st vs florida gator bowl in florida and imagine that LSU gets to play another title game in the super dome, year after year this is how it always shakes out, unreal basis and another point that its all fixed the way certian people want to see it, why aren’t we playin the gator bowl in browns stadium today,or the NT in new england ? the annalist say field position dont matter in bowl games but then they turn around on sunday and say green bay needs home field advantage no one wants to play them on “the frozen tundra” and oh the big ten didnt do well in the bowl games. go big ten and go bucks