Breaking down the Big Ten bowls

Danny Daly

No. 8 Ohio State vs. No. 7 Oregon, Rose Bowl, Jan. 1Even a midseason stumble against Purdue couldn’t prevent Ohio State from taking part in a BCS game for the fifth consecutive season. The Buckeyes haven’t lost since that 26-18 debacle in West Lafayette, Ind., and much-maligned sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor has been more functional. Their defense has clamped down on opponents, giving up more than 10 points just once in the last five games. But momentum is on Oregon’s side, after a victory over rival Oregon State earned the Ducks a Rose Bowl berth. They have a handful of running threats, with mobile quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, freshman running back LaMichael James and the return of fellow tailback LeGarrette Blount from his suspension. Ohio State gave Texas a competitive game in last year’s Fiesta Bowl, but the Buckeyes haven’t played as well this season. It doesn’t seem like the Big Ten’s Pasadena drought will end in this game.Prediction: Oregon 31, Ohio State 20 No. 10 Iowa vs. No. 9 Georgia Tech, Orange Bowl, Jan. 5One of the biggest mysteries of the bowl season will be which Iowa team shows up. The Hawkeyes weren’t the same after junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi injured his ankle against Northwestern, though they did play inspired the next week in a dogfight with Ohio State for the Big Ten title. With Stanzi back to practice and expected to take the field, it remains to be seen if Iowa can recapture some of its early-season magic. Georgia Tech wasn’t overly impressive in its last two outings, losing to Georgia before squeaking by Clemson in the ACC championship game. But the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option ground attack will be a different challenge for the Hawkeyes’ stingy defense.Prediction: Georgia Tech 23, Iowa 17 No. 11 Penn State vs. No. 13 LSU, Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1They might as well rename this one the “Two Teams That Haven’t Beaten Anybody” Bowl. Penn State and LSU notched their most impressive victories – over Northwestern and Auburn, respectively – against the two squads playing in the bowl below them. But that’s not to say these teams aren’t talented. Nittany Lions senior defensive tackle Jared Odrick was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and the Tigers got solid production out of sophomore quarterback Jared Jefferson and an All-SEC season out of senior tackle Ciron Black. Both teams are ranked in the top 12 nationally in scoring defense, so expect a low-scoring battle.Prediction: LSU 24, Penn State 13 No. 25 Wisconsin vs. No. 15 Miami, Champs Sports Bowl, Dec. 29Keep an eye on this game, as it features two sophomores that will be at the top of 2010’s preseason Heisman watch list. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris had his ups-and-downs but showed potential, throwing 23 touchdowns, while Wisconsin running back John Clay rushed for more than 1,200 yards and was named the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year. It’s a matchup on conflicting styles, with the physical, ground-oriented Badgers trying to slow down the athletic Hurricanes. With both teams winning four of their last five games behind explosive offenses, they figure to put on one of the more exciting games of the bowl season.Prediction: Wisconsin 34, Miami 30 Michigan State vs. Texas Tech, Alamo Bowl, Jan. 2This matchup is a prime example of why the Big Ten has a poor record in recent bowls. With two teams playing BCS games, every team in the conference is bumped up one spot in the pecking order – meaning an 8-4 Texas Tech team is paired with a 6-6 Michigan State squad that lost its last game 42-14. Not only that, but the Spartans have suspended eight players, including three starters, stemming from a fight in a campus dorm a few weeks ago. Sophomore quarterback Kirk Cousins progressed nicely in his first year as the starter, though it will be difficult without wideouts B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell at his disposal. Despite not being as good as last year, the Red Raiders should cruise.Prediction: Texas Tech 38, Michigan State 24 Minnesota vs. Iowa State, Insight Bowl, Dec. 31The last Big Ten-affiliated bowl features two teams going in opposite directions. Minnesota took a step back this year, and the offense was relatively inept in its last two games. Not having star wide receiver Eric Decker, who’s out for the season with an ankle injury and missed the last month, didn’t help matters. On the other hand, the Cyclones surprised some in coach Paul Rhoads’ first year at the helm – their six wins were more than they had in the last two seasons combined. They also prevailed in one of the strangest games of the season, a 9-7 win over Nebraska in which the Cornhuskers committed eight turnovers, half of which were inside the 10-yard line. Neither Minnesota nor Iowa State finished particularly strong, so it’s hard to predict how the two teams will come out.Prediction: Minnesota 16, Iowa State 10

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