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Northwestern was looking to put an exclamation point on a standout 10-win season by dumping an SEC team. It didn’t happen for what has been one of the nation’s most surprising teams that opened 2015 with a win vs. Pac-12 champ Stanford.
So many storylines dominated the Cotton Bowl matchup. Michigan State was making its first playoff appearance coming off a Big Ten title. Alabama was here last year, getting upset as the No. 1 seed by Ohio State, which went on to win the championship. Protégé (Mark Dantonio) was trying to beat mentor (Nick Saban). On it went.
BTN.com’s Tom Dienhart talked to some assistant football coaches who took on Alabama this season to get an insider’s scouting report on the Crimson Tide offense and defense ahead of Michigan State’s game in the Cotton Bowl. Here’s what those coaches told our senior writer.
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When Michigan State takes on Alabama tonight, we’ll all be watching closely. BTN.com’s Tom Dienhart suggests we keep an eye out for these five keys the Spartans need to unlock the Crimson Tide and advance to the title game. You know this already, but none of them will come easily.
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BTN.com’s Tom Dienhart is watching every Big Ten bowl game, and on Wednesday night he rolled out his assessment of Wisconsin’s impressive 23-21 win over No. 25 USC in the Holiday Bowl. See his grades and his overall take in this post.
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Minnesota had lost seven bowls in a row, which tied Ball State for the longest active postseason losing skein.
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Not all Big Ten conference schedules are created equally. And, that doesn’t make for a fair and level playing field when it comes to crowning a conference champion. But, no one said life is fair.
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Nebraska was one of three teams in the postseason with a 5-7 record. UCLA also arrived in the Foster Farm’s Bowl slumping, losing two of its last three after looking like a contender in the Pac-12 South.
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The first Big Ten bowl was a doozie, as Duke took a 44-41 overtime win vs. Indiana in a Pinstripe Bowl that featured eight lead changes.
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Usually, a nine-win season is cause for celebration. But Wisconsin was tabbed by most to win the Big Ten West. Instead, the Badgers finished second in Paul Chryst’s debut as head coach.
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The 2015 campaign was filled with tumult for Rutgers. In August, it was revealed that Kyle Flood had improper contact with a professor concerning the course work of a player. He subsequently was suspended for three games after an investigation. Flood also came under fire after several players ran afoul of the law. In all, six players were dismissed from the team after a string of arrests. Even star WR Leontee Carroo missed time after an arrest.
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Saturdays in the fall in West Lafayette are long, as Darrell Hazell can’t seem to flip a losing script. He now stands 6-30 in three seasons. And three of those victories have been vs. FCS programs. How many Big Ten wins does Hazell have? Two, against 22 losses. And the defeats are often lopsided.
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Penn State remains a work in progress, but James Franklin continues to make progress in his second season. He has the program in a bowl for a second season in a row. But personnel shortcomings are apparent as the effects of probation are still being felt from a depth standpoint.
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As the defending national champion, Ohio State entered 2015 with a big target on its back. Adding to the pressure was a unanimous preseason No. 1 ranking. The Buckeyes were the hunted.
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It’s that time of the week when I reach into my Big Ten Mailbag. And with basketball season heating up, hoops emails have started to hit my inbox. Can anyone catch Michigan State? Is Purdue OK? There are football questions, too.
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This is an interesting playoff matchup pitting former Michigan State coach Nick Saban vs. Mark Dantonio, a one-time Saban aide in East Lansing. When these teams line up, it will be like looking in a mirror. Both have tough, physical offenses built on punching defenses in the nose with the running game. And the defenses for each team are anchored by two of the best lines in the nation.
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When 2015 dawned, questions loomed over Northwestern. The Wildcats went 10-3 in 2012, winning their first bowl since the 1948 season. But consecutive 5-7 seasons followed. Could Pat Fitzgerald get a program seemingly rocked by a highly-publicized effort to unionize back on track? On the field, had Northwestern gone soft? All is well now in the wake of a 10-win season and a New Year’s Day bowl trip as one of the most surprising teams not just in the Big Ten—but in the nation.
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How about some bowl picks based on confidence in my selections? Sure! You know the drill.
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Iowa is making its first Rose Bowl appearance since the 1990 season. Stanford is back in Pasadena for the third time in four years.
The excitement that surrounded the arrival of Mike Riley from Oregon State evaporated quickly in the wake of myriad close losses that caused stomachs to turn on an almost weekly basis across the state. Each Saturday seemingly brought another round of misery, as iffy decisions, a lack of execution and personnel shortcomings conspired to sully Riley’s debut.
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Hard to believe 19 years have passed since Peyton Manning—yes, THAT Peyton Manning—led Tennessee to a 48-28 vs. Northwestern in a New Year’s Day Bowl in Florida. Pat Fitzgerald couldn’t stop Manning on that day in the Citrus Bowl as a BMOC linebacker for the Wildcats. No shame in that.
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Two schools that came oh-so-close to making the playoffs square off in what should be one of the best bowls of the season. In fact, the Buckeyes may have a better case to be in the Rose Bowl than Iowa.
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Coming off back-to-back 8-5 seasons—including the program’s first New Year’s Day bowl since the 1961 season in 2014—Minnesota fell … hard. The Golden Gophers were thought to be a legit contender in the Big Ten West. Instead, the team sunk to near the bottom of the standings with a losing record and made a bowl only because of a good APR and the fact there weren’t enough 6-6 teams to fill a bloated postseason system that needs 80 teams.