Dienhart: One storyline for all 10 Big Ten bowls
Every game has a storyline, right? So what are they for the 10 Big Ten bowl teams?
From Ohio State and its playoff matchup with Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl to Maryland and its battle vs. Boston College in the Quick Lane Bowl, here is what to watch for.
Indiana vs. Utah, Foster Farms Bowl. This is chance for new coach Tom Allen to put his stamp on a program that is in back-to-back bowl game for the first time since 1990-91.
Notes: The Hoosiers had an interesting week, as Kevin Wilson abruptly resigned and the program earned a bowl bid for a second season in a row as it heads to the Foster Farms Bowl to take on Utah. It’s the first time IU has gone to back-to-back bowls since the 1990 and 1991 seasons. Indiana and Utah will meet for the third time and the first since 2002. IU earned a victory vs. Utah in 1975, while the Utes collected wins in 2001 and 2002. The Hoosiers have played two postseason games in California. Indiana defeated BYU (38-37) in the 1979 Holiday Bowl under Lee Corso and fell to USC (14-3) in the 1968 Rose Bowl.
Iowa, vs. Florida, Outback Bowl. Neither team has a top offense, but there will be plenty of defense on display. This is a good chance for Iowa to notch a big win vs. the SEC East champs and begin to point toward a run at the Big Ten West title in 2017.
Notes: The Hawkeyes are making their fifth appearance in the Outback Bowl, and their first appearance in Tampa since 2014. The Hawkeyes are 2-2 in previous Outback Bowl contests. Iowa defeated Florida (37-17) in 2004, lost to Florida (31-24) in 2006, defeated South Carolina (31-10) in 2009, and lost to LSU (21-14) in 2014. Iowa has posted a 14-14-1 record in 29 previous bowl appearances. The 2017 Outback Bowl also marks the 10th January bowl game for the Hawkeyes under Kirk Ferentz.
Maryland vs. Boston College, Quick Lane Bowl. The Terrapins, who went 3-9 a season ago, surprised by reaching a bowl in DJ Durkin’s first season. So, this is a great chance to get extra practice and build mojo toward 2017 for a developing program.
Notes: Maryland will be making its third bowl appearance in four years and 27th all-time when it meets Boston College. This will mark the 12th all-time meeting between the Terps and Eagles, who were both members of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) from 2005-2014.
Michigan vs. Florida State, Orange Bowl. Here’s a chance to prove that the playoff committee made a mistake by excluding the Wolverines.
Notes: The Wolverines are headed back to the Orange Bowl for the first time since the 2000 season when they downed Alabama in OT behind a QB named Tom Brady. The Wolverines have compiled a 1-1 record in their previous two appearances in the Orange Bowl. Michigan lost to Oklahoma (14-6) in the 1976 game in addition to the 35-34 OT win vs. Bama. Michigan will be seeking its second all-time victory over Florida State. The Wolverines earned a victory against the Seminoles in a 1986 regular-season match-up in Ann Arbor, and fell to FSU in a regular-season game in 1991.
Minnesota vs. Washington State, Holiday Bowl. This will be a chance for Minnesota to score its biggest win of the year, as the Gophers lack a marquee win. Minnesota lost to Penn State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa who combined to go 38-12. Wazzu is 8-4 and led by boffo QB Luke Falk.
Notes: The Golden Gophers are headed to California for a bowl game for the first time since playing in the Rose Bowl after the 1961 season. Minnesota will face off vs. Mike Leach, whose Texas Tech team overcame a 31-point halftime deficit to beat the Gophers in the 2006 Insight Bowl that led to the firing of Glen Mason.
Nebraska vs. Tennessee, Music City Bowl. Could the Huskers be the team to beat in the Big Ten West in 2017? Maybe. Beating the talented Vols would be a nice building block as Mike Riley looks for a big breakthrough in Year Three next season.
Notes: The Huskers will take on a Volunteer club that failed to live up to expectations, falling to Vanderbilt the last time out to kill Sugar Bowl dreams. Will UT, the pick to win the SEC East, be motivated? Tennessee and Nebraska have met twice before and both were in bowls. Nebraska won each meeting, defeating Tennessee 42-17 in the 1998 Orange Bowl to clinch a share of the 1997 national championship under Peyton Manning and 31-21 in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl. The programs were scheduled to meet this season to begin a home-and-home series, but the games were pushed back to the 2026 and 2027 seasons to accommodate Tennessee playing Virginia Tech in Bristol, Tennessee, at a stock car track.
Northwestern vs. Pitt, Pinstripe Bowl. This will be a fun clash between two good offenses and a classic battle between top running backs in Northwestern’s Justin Jackson and Pitt’s James Connor.
Notes: NU will meet the Panthers, led by former Michigan State DC Pat Narduzzi. The Wildcats are bowl eligible for the seventh time in the last nine seasons. The Panthers will be making their ninth consecutive bowl appearance and are the only team in the nation this year to defeat two “Power 5” conference champions (Penn State of the Big Ten and Clemson of the ACC).
Ohio State vs. Clemson, Fiesta Bowl. A rematch of the 2014 Orange Bowl, the Buckeyes are one win away from playing for their second national title in three seasons.
Notes: The Buckeyes make their second playoff appearance and became the first non-conference champ to earn a playoff slot, while the Tigers are in it for a second season in a row after winning the ACC. OSU won the national tilte in 2014; Clemson lost the title game to Alabama last season. These teams met in the Orange Bowl three years ago, as the Tigers took a 40-35 decision. Ohio State and Clemson’s only other meeting came in the 1978 Gator Bowl. Clemson won that game, 17-15, in what would be legendary coach Woody Hayes’ final game as coach after he socked a Tiger.
Penn State vs. USC, Rose Bowl. So much on the line here in a matchup of two of the nation’s hottest teams and offenses. For Penn State, though, it’s a chance to win a 10th game in a row and perhaps stamp it as the team to beat in the Big Ten East next season.
Notes: Penn State returns to the Rose Bowl and also makes its first trip to a California bowl for the first time since the 2008 season. This will be Penn State’s fourth appearance in the Rose Bowl, with the last time coming in the meeting against the Trojans in 2009. Penn State is 1-2 all-time in the Rose Bowl.
Wisconsin vs. Western Michigan, Cotton Bowl. The Big Ten West champs had bigger aspirations a week ago, but there’s this: With a win to close the season, the Badgers can send the Broncos, one of two undefeated teams in the nation, to their first loss.
Notes: This will be the Badgers’ 15th consecutive bowl, which is the longest active streak in the Big Ten and is tied for the sixth-longest active run in the FBS ranks. Wisconsin has ended each of the last two seasons with a win, downing Auburn in the Outback Bowl to close the 2014 season and topping USC in the Holiday last season. Wisconsin enters the game coming off its fourth appearance in six seasons in the Big Ten Championship Game, while Western Michigan is the unbeaten MAC champ. The game will mark Wisconsin’s seventh matchup this season with a team ranked among the top 12 of the Associated Press poll.