This year, there are 10 Big Ten teams who are playing in bowl games. These games start today and run all throughout the week. So with that in mind, let’s rank all ten games - from least to most watchable - and offer a prediction for each.
10. Quick Lane Bowl
Maryland vs. Boston College
Both these teams finished 6-6. Maryland got outscored 121-6 in consecutive weeks in November. I went to a BC game this year, in which they got throttled 52-7 by Lamar Jackson and Louisville. The game is today at 2:30, and while I know you may be itching to get in on some bowl game action, especially if you have the day off from work, I’d advise against this one.
Prediction: Maryland 17, BC 14
9. Outback Bowl
Iowa vs. Florida
Iowa had a strange season in which they lost to an FCS school, gave up 38 to Northwestern, and gave Kirk Ferentz yet another contract extension, but also knocked Jim Harbaugh off in Iowa City. Meanwhile, Florida won the SEC East, and their prize was a trip to Atlanta to try and survive knockout punch after knockout punch from Alabama. The Gators might still be recovering. Don’t watch this game unless punting is your favorite part of football.
Prediction: Iowa 11, Florida 5
8. Holiday Bowl
Minnesota vs. Washington State
The Gophers almost boycotted this game, due to 10 of their players being suspended. It’s a long trip for them to San Diego, and I’m not sure if they’ll have the motivation for this one, whereas Wazzu needs to rebound from an embarrassing Apple Cup loss at home to their CFP-bound in-state rivals.
Prediction: Washington State 34, Minnesota 10
7. Music City Bowl
Nebraska vs. Tennessee
Last we saw of the Huskers, they were humiliated by Iowa in a 30-point loss. Meanwhile, Tennessee started off their season by almost losing to Appalachian State, and continued uneven play throughout the year, culminating in a bad loss to Vandy. Oh yeah, and Butch Jones just lost a croot to Indiana. My prediction for this one? Voluntears.
Prediction: Nebraska 24, Tennessee 20
6. Cotton Bowl
Wisconsin vs. Western Michigan
Western Michigan just finished an undefeated dream regular season, and to make matters even better, PJ Fleck is going nowhere. So he’ll be around for this New Year’s Six game, and I think he’s determined to make sure the Broncos end up winners. Wisconsin, on the other hand, got exposed during the second half of the B1G title game against Penn State, and I don’t see this game motivating the Badgers as much as it will for WMU.
Prediction: WMU 31, Wisconsin 30
5. Pinstripe Bowl
Northwestern vs. Pitt
As we all know, last year’s Pinstripe Bowl was entertaining, and that the kick was good. This year, Pitt comes into the Bronx as the #CHAOSTEAM. Here have been their scores from the 2016 season:
Yes, that 76-61 game is a football score, not basketball. Even though Pat Narduzzi made his name as a defensive coordinator in East Lansing, it’s his offense that has provided the thrills for Pitt this season. Panthers edge Team Medill in a crazy one.
Prediction: Pitt 45, Northwestern 38
4. Orange Bowl
Michigan vs. Florida State
Both these teams had higher expectations going into the season. The Wolverins suffered two last-second losses in their final three games, while the Seminoles were only two plays from finishing 11-1 instead of 9-3. Although Michigan was not playing its best football down the stretch this season, Wilton Speight will have had a month to recover from injury, and they should be able to hold off FSU’s offense enough to take home the victory.
Prediction: Michigan 20, FSU 16
3. Foster Farms Bowl
Indiana vs. Utah
This will be Indiana’s first game under new permanent head coach Tom Allen, who already has created a dramatic improvement on the defensive side of the ball this season. The IU players seem to have bought in under Allen, but Utah under Kyle Whittingham has always been prepared for bowl games. Last year they scored 35 points in the first quarter against rival BYU, and in 2008 they beat Bama to finish off an undefeated season. But assuming Indiana’s run defense is up for the challenge against Utah RB Joe Williams, give me the Hoosiers in this one to win their first bowl game since 1991.
Prediction: Indiana 24, Utah 21
2. Rose Bowl
Penn State vs. USC
If the season had started on October 1 instead of September 1, both these teams would be surefire playoff contenders, as neither one has lost since September. Instead, we get them faced off for a Rose Bowl that should be full of points.
Prediction: USC 38, Penn State 34
1. Fiesta Bowl (CFP Semifinal)
Ohio State vs. Clemson
This game definitely sounds like the better option of the two CFP semifinals, as Alabama should make quick work of Washington. Ohio State deserved a place in this playoff; however, the Buckeyes have been lacking that extra gear on offense since early October, whereas Clemson seems to be firing on all cylinders right now. DeShaun Watson outduels J.T. Barrett in what should be a wildly entertaining playoff game.