Seven. And Oh My.
With a tip of the mic to Dick Enberg—a Michigan native and Indiana alum before he went West—how do we explain the Big Ten sweeping its first seven bowl games?
Michigan can make the Midwestern behemoths a perfect 8-0 with a victory in the Outback Bowl on Monday against South Carolina. And I'm guessing Jim Harbaugh doesn't want to miss out on the fun.
Why is this happening?
Some theories. . .
For one, the Big Ten, which usually outkicks its coverage when it comes to bowl bids, muffed on the College Football Playoff.
That not only meant Ohio State faced USC, which is good but not Clemson. It also meant that Penn State faced Washington, which is good but not USC. And Wisconsin faced Miami, which is good not Washington. And so on and so on.
All of which might or might not have mattered.
I will say this. There have been times in the past—when everybody was ripping the Big Ten for struggling in bowl games—when moving everyone up in weight class mattered. A lot.
The luck of the draw also counts. Last year, when the Big Ten was stumbling to 3-7, it caught two traditional SEC powers (Florida and Tennessee) and the pride of the ACC (Clemson and Florida State).
This year, it had four Pac-12 teams to kick around.
In addition, the weird bounces have gone the Big Ten’s way this bowl season.
When Northwestern, for example, lost its star quarterback to an act of God (a knee injury), Kentucky lost its star running back to an abuse of power (an ejection for declining the referee’s offer to help him up).[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Iowa, which is not up to its usual standards, caught a break at slippery Yankee Stadium because Boston College, as Blaudschun has told us repeatedly, is skittery. Even more skittery than the Hawkeyes.
Two more #B1G explanations: Quarterbacks. And coaching. And not necessarily in that order.
J.T. Barrett is a stud. And I’m not making any assumptions about where they fit in at the next level. But Penn State’s Trace McSorley, Wisconsin’s Alex Hornibrook, Purdue’s Elijah Sindelar and Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke make the most of their skills, and manage games well. Even Northwestern backup Matt Alviti, or maybe especially Northwestern backup Matt Alviti, didn’t flinch.
Perhaps most importantly, the league has a good core of hungry, capable coaches who had their teams ready to play. They range from rookie-of-the-year Jeff Brohm to turn-it-around Mark Dantonio to speak-softly-and-get-it-done Paul Chryst to relentless-in-their-own ways Urban Meyer and James Franklin.
They are a very talented crew.
I always try to avoid drawing too many conclusions when the Big Ten slips and slides during bowl season. So I don’t want to start overstating things now, as I try to block out the image of Jim Delany doing cartwheels.
But I will say this: The stable of Big Ten football coaches is approaching a very high level of excellence. The jury is still out at Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska, although Scott Frost sure looks like he’ll be the answer at Nebraska
Everywhere else, Big Ten football is in capable hands. And we are seeing that this bowl season.[/membership]