Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, January 4, 2016

Not every school?s bowl experience was the same. Some teams are coming off postseason highs. Others enter the offseason on a down note.

[ MORE: Full bowl schedule | Best of bowl season | Bowl game picks revisited ]

Here is a ranking of how the 10 Big Ten teams performed.

1. Michigan. No Big Ten team was more dominating than the Wolverines, who flattened SEC East champ Florida 41-7 in the Citrus Bowl. Jim Harbaugh called it ?the best game we?ve played all year.? No argument here. The Gators arrived in Orlando with an inept offense-and they lived up to their billing vs. a Michigan defense that played well most of the season. The play of a Wolverine offense that had 503 yards was invigorating. No Big Ten squad has a brighter future.

2. Ohio State. These aren?t Bob Davie?s, Charlie Weis? or Gerry Faust?s Fighting Irish. These are Brian Kelly?s Irish. And, they are swimming in talent-and very well coached. Yes, ND?s roster had taken some hits with injuries, but that doesn?t sully the strong performance by the Buckeyes in a 44-28 Fiesta Bowl victory. With the bowls in our rear-view mirror, don?t you get the feeling OSU was the Big Ten?s best team? Sure you do.

3. Wisconsin. The Badgers? 23-21 victory over Pac-12 South champ USC in the Holiday Bowl was one of the Big Ten?s best postseason victories. Think about this: UW?s losses this year were vs. Alabama, Iowa and Northwestern-all double-digit win teams. And the Badgers came oh-so-close to beating the Hawkeyes and Wildcats. The play of the defense vs. the Trojans was suffocating (286 yards). Just too bad star DC Dave Aranda has bolted for the same gig at LSU. Still, Wisconsin always manages to keep moving forward no matter who is coaching or playing. Credit Barry Alvarez.

4. Nebraska. Yes, the Cornhuskers had a 5-7 record. But a play here, a break there, and the Cornhuskers could have been 8-4 or 7-5. Regardless, Nebraska showed it belonged in the postseason with a 37-29 win vs. UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl. No doubt, the Bruins were banged up-especially on defense. Still, the Huskers took care of business and played with a purpose, scoring 30 consecutive points after trailing 21-7. Nebraska went 3-1 in its last four games, offering hope for the future. NU?s luck has to change in 2016, right?

5. Minnesota. The Golden Gophers were one of three 5-7 teams in the postseason. But Minnesota justified its postseason trip with a methodical 21-14 victory vs. Central Michigan in the Quick Lane Bowl. It was a nice win for freshly minted head coach Tracy Claeys, who saw quarterback Mitch Leidner run 13 yards for a touchdown with 4:26 remaining, and then saw the defense hold on with a late interception. Best of all, former coach Jerry Kill was on hand to witness the win.

6. Indiana. When does a loss feel like a win? When a dubious call may have cost you a victory. Indiana went back and forth with Duke in a thrilling Pinstripe Bowl that had more twists, turns, action and excitement than any other bowl involving a Big Ten squad. There were eight lead changes in a game that went into OT and had 1,203 combined yards. After Duke booted a field goal on its first possession of overtime, Indiana lined up for a tying 38-yard kick ? and missed. Replays showed the field-goal attempt by Griffin Oakes may have been good. Regardless, the Hoosiers went home a 44-41 loser.

7. Penn State. The Nittany Lions lost to Georgia, 24-17, in the TaxSlayer Bowl. But, the team left Jacksonville, Florida, with some good vibrations. The Nittany Lions could have folded after falling behind, 24-3, after three quarters. But James Franklin?s squad rallied with 14 fourth quarter points behind backup QB Trace McSorley, who was throwing into the end zone for a tying score as time expired after taking over for injured Christian Hackenberg.

8. Iowa. Stanford scored on the first play of the game-and never looked back, racing to a 35-0 halftime lead en route to a 45-16 win in the Rose Bowl. It was a downer for a Hawkeye program making its first trip to Pasadena since the 1990 season. The game turned into a showcase for Stanford?s Christian McCaffrey, who set a Rose Bowl record with 368 all-purpose yards. So, after opening 12-0, the Hawkeyes lost their final two games. This will be a difficult season to top.

9. Michigan State. The Spartans took a step forward in their evolution under Mark Dantonio by making the playoffs. Did I mention that Michigan State took another step in its evolution under Dantonio? Trying to stay positive about a Spartan squad that got totally thumped by Alabama in the Cotton Bowl, falling 38-0. Football is a simple game won by big men in the trenches. And, Michigan State?s big men got whipped.

10. Northwestern. First, let?s have a round of applause for the Wildcats, who won 10 games after consecutive 5-7 seasons. What a rebound season in 2015. Now, the bad news: Much work remains, which is evident after NU was run off the Outback Bowl field by Tennessee in a 45-6 demolition that wasn?t even as close as the final score indicated. More dynamic ability is badly needed on offense. The defense? It is pretty good.


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