Dienhart: 2017-18 Big Ten bowl matchups at a glance
The bowl matchups are set. Eight Big Ten teams will be bowling, including three in New Year’s Six Games (Cotton: Ohio State vs. USC; Orange: Wisconsin vs. Miami; Fiesta: Penn State vs. Washington).
Here is a quick look at the Big Ten matchups.
Cotton Bowl, Dec. 29
Ohio State (10-2) vs. USC (10-2)
Skinny: A battle between league champs. It doesn’t get much better. The Buckeyes thought they did enough to warrant a playoff spot. Still, landing in the iconic Cotton Bowl is a nice consolation prize. And Ohio State gets to play fellow blue-blood USC, which has won five in a row. It will be fun to watch Trojan QB Sam Darnold (3,787 yards passing with 26 TDs) and RB Ronald Jones (1,486 rushing yards) battle a good OSU defense.
Orange Bowl, Dec. 30
Wisconsin (12-1) vs. Miami (10-2)
Skinny: Both teams lost their conference championship game. The Badgers saw their unbeaten run end in the Big Ten title game. The Hurricanes raced to a 10-0 start before losing its last two at Pitt and to Clemson in the ACC title game. Mark Richt has Miami thinking big in his second year in Coral Gables. Defense is a big part of each team’s profile, led by touted young coordinators in the Badgers’ Jim Leonhard and the Hurricanes’ Manny Diaz.
Fiesta Bowl, Dec. 30
Penn State (10-2) vs. Washington (10-2)
Skinny: A good matchup of quarterbacks, with Penn State’s Trace McSorley taking on Washington’s Jake Browning. The Huskies finished strong, winning four of their last five. The Nittany Lions—who have won three in a row–came close to greatness, losing their two games by a total of four points. UW lost at Arizona State and at Stanford. Could this be the last game for Saquon Barkley? He will battle UW back Myles Gaskin, who has 1,282 yards rushing.
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1
Michigan (8-4) vs. South Carolina (8-4)
The skinny: Who can forget the last time these teams met? It was in the Outback Bowl after the 2012 season, a USC 33-28 win. And Gamecock DE Jadeveon Clowney made an epic hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith. Count on seeing this play re-played 10,298 times between now and kickoff. South Carolina has a good, young QB in Jake Bentley, who hits 62 percent of his passes for 2,555 yards and 16 TDs. The Wolverines finished the year with consecutive losses.
Holiday Bowl, Dec. 28
Michigan State (9-3) vs. Washington State (9-3)
Skinny: A marquee matchup outside of the New Year’s Day matchups. Wazzu is led by eccentric Mike Leach, who once again has one of the nation’s most prolific passing games, as the Cougars are No. 2 in the nation with 374.8 ypg. Luke Falk is the triggerman with 30 TD passes and 3,593 yards passing. The Spartans are a young team that often wins ugly, as they look to cap a remarkable rebound season from a 3-9 mark in 2016.
Music City, Dec. 29
Northwestern (9-3) vs. Kentucky (7-5)
Skinny: Two teams trending in opposite directions, Northwestern has won seven in a row, while Kentucky has lost three of four and four of six. Still, Mark Stoops has UK trending up and in a bowl for a second year in a row. This year’s club is led by the SEC’s No. 2 rusher in Benny Snell Jr., who has 1,320 yards. It will be fun to watch him battle star NU back Jackson Jackson, who has 1,154 yards on the ground and is the Wildcats’ all-time leading rusher (5,283).
Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 27
Iowa (7-5) vs. Boston College (7-5)
Skinny: The Hawkeyes look to punctuate what has been an inconsistent season with a win vs. a hot BC team that has won five of its last six. Eagles coach Steve Adazzio has Boston College in a bowl for the second year in a row and fourth time in five years. Iowa will face a strong rush game that is No. 3 in the ACC (224.2 ypg) led by burly freshman RB AJ Dillon, who is No. 2 in the league with 1,432 yards rushing.
Foster Farms Bowl, Dec. 27
Purdue (6-6) vs. Arizona (7-5)
Skinny: The Boilermakers could be playing on Mars vs. the University of Phoenix. They don’t care about the foe or venue. They are just happy to be bowling for the first time since 2012. They will take on an Arizona team that has lost three of its last four and is coached by former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, who went 1-2 vs. Purdue as Wolverine coach. Gonna be fun to watch the tough Boiler defense take on a Wildcat attack that is No. 3 in the nation in rushing (324.4 ypg). Arizona QB Khalil Tate has been a revelation as a runner with 1,353 yards–No. 2 in the Pac-12, averaging 10.2 yards per tote.