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How Indiana's Opponents Look This Bowl Season

Even though the Hoosiers didn't go bowling, they played a lot of teams that did.

Harry How

Of Indiana's 12 opponents this year, only 4 of them will not be going bowling (Indiana State is FCS, Penn State is still on sanctions, and Illinois and Purdue failed to win enough games). The remaining 8 teams are preparing to play one more game this season. Here is a brief preview of each of their games.

Navy vs. Middle Tennessee State, the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 30): A matchup of 8-4 teams that finished similarly. MTSU is a much more pass heavy team than the Midshipmen, but they are also quite good when they choose to run. The Blue Raiders are quite susceptible to the run on defense, so Navy may take Middle Tennessee by surprise and win handily.

Bowling Green vs. Pittsburgh, the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl (Dec. 26): The MAC Champion Falcons return to Ford Field, where they knocked off Northern Illinois to win the conference, to face 6-6 Pitt. Bowling Green will be led by interim coach Adam Scheier, who takes over for new Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson until Dino Babers finishes up his commitments to Eastern Illinois. Bowling Green boasts a quality offense and a stout defense against a team that struggled mightily in the ACC, but still has some quality players capable of making timely big plays.

Missouri vs. Oklahoma State, the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic (Jan. 3): Both teams come in somewhat disappointed after losses in their respective conference championship games (Mizzou in the SEC title game, Oklahoma St. against Oklahoma in a game that would have given OSU the title, but their loss made Texas vs. Baylor the Big 12 title game instead). They also pack high powered offenses and defenses, so this game will likely come down to who makes the fewest mistakes, and/or when those mistakes are made.

Michigan State vs. Stanford, the 100th Rose Bowl (Jan. 1): This should be a battle of tough defenses, particularly designed to shut down the run, likely putting the game onto the arms of the quarterbacks. The Spartans ran the table in the B1G, while Stanford suffered losses at Utah and at USC. Michigan State is appearing in the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1987 season, while Stanford is appearing for the second consecutive season.

Michigan vs. Kansas State, the Buffalo Wild WIngs Bowl (Dec. 28): This is the first ever meeting between these two teams. Kansas is making their first bowl appearance in over a decade, while Michigan is making its first appearance in this particular bowl under any name. The teams have similar results, with the Wildcats possessing a stronger rushing average. This game will probably come down to whether the Michigan that scored 63 on IU and 41 on Ohio State shows up, or the Michigan that rushed for negative yards against the Spartans.

Minnesota vs. Syracuse, the Texas Bowl (Dec. 27): Minnesota is making their second consecutive trip to the Texas Bowl; they lost to Texas Tech 34-31 last year. Both teams bring top-40 rushing attacks to the game, while the Gophers are a moderately better defensive team than the Orange. Syracuse has only beaten Minnesota once in the four meetings between the schools.

Wisconsin vs. South Carolina, the Capital One Bowl (Jan. 1): Both of these teams like to roll up a lot of yards, particularly on the ground. The matchup that I have my eye on is Joel Stave vs. Jadeveon Clowney. If South Carolina wants to win, they have to force Joel Stave to beat them, and if Jadeveon Clowney wants to regain any luster from his aborted Heisman campaign, he needs to show up in this game.

Ohio State vs. Clemson, the Discover Orange Bowl (Jan. 3): In a game that shouldn't be nearly as historically important as the last meeting between these two teams (1978 Gator Bowl, Woody Hayes), both Ohio State and Clemson bring powerful offenses, and reasonably competent (if at times suspect) defenses. The Buckeyes are 3rd in the nation in rushing, while the Tigers are 13th in the nation in passing, so both defenses will be tested early and often, and will probably play a large role in deciding who wins this game.