Let’s not shed too many tears for the Big Ten. Even though Ohio State was snubbed by the College Football Playoff presented by Waffle House, the Midwestern behemoths will easily be able to pick up the check at the 24-hour breakfast establishment of their choice.
Three—count 'em, three—New Year's Six bowls. Big life. Big stage. Big paydays. Big Ten.
Alas, there’s no traditional Rose Bowl item on the menu. Those mean playoff people have gobbled that up.
But three New Year’s Six bowls ought to be a very soothing balm for being burned by those mean playoff people.
Would you believe the Cotton, Fiesta and Orange bowls all will have Big Ten teams? And the matchups all are intriguing.
No. 5 Ohio State (10-2) and No. 8 USC (10-2) will tangle in the Cotton Bowl (Dec. 29, 7:30 p.m. Central, ESPN) in a meeting between the two Power Five champions who were deemed unworthy of playoff status. This will be only the second Cotton Bowl trip for Ohio State, which went to Dallas at the end of the 1986 season and beat Texas A&M 28-12.
In another Big Ten/Pac-12 matchup of displaced Rose Bowl partners, No. 9 Penn State (10-2) and No. 11 Washington (10-2) will meet in the Fiesta Bowl (Dec. 30, 3 p.m. Central, ESPN). This will be the Nittany Lions’ seventh Fiesta Bowl trip, but their first since 1996.
And finally, the Orange Bowl will feature a matchup between two teams that were tracking for the playoff until they ran into brick walls in their conference championship games.
No. 6 Wisconsin (12-1), the Big Ten runnerup to Ohio State, will play No. 10 Miami (10-2), the ACC runnerup to Clemson at Hard Rock Stadium in South Florida. (Dec. 30 , 7 p.m. Central, ESPN). This will be the Badgers’ first trip to the Orange Bowl.
Those are three really good games.
And five more Big Ten teams will do battle in bowls that will flash acroos Midwestern TV screens because—well, because we love our bowl games. They’re a wonderful guilty pleasure, and a respite from shoveling snow and elbowing our way through holiday shopping.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Michigan (8-4) takes on South Carolina (8-4) in the Outback Bowl. I would never admit this in public, but the first time I covered an Outback Bowl, I inadvertently consumed an entire bloomin’ onion in the first half. That was not the plan, but I had skipped breakfast, not knowing that the signature (decidedly not Omaha) steaks were a halftime event, rather than a pre-game deal.
Coach Jim Harbaugh needs the nourishment of a bowl win to get through an off-season of discontent. The trouble is, former Florida coach Will Muschamp, like former Gators coach Steve Spurrier before him, has the Gamecocks on top of their game.
In other words, this is also a matchup that has potential.
If anybody deserves a holiday, it’s Mark Dantonio, who survived the depths of a 3-9 season in 2016 by navigating No. 16 Michigan State (9-3) to a good bounceback this year in the rugged Big Ten East.
The Big Ten East, as everybody in the nation except the College Football Playoff (presented by Waffle House) selection committee knows, is the best division in the nation.
So it’s fitting that Sparty’s reward is a Holiday Bowl meeting with No. 18 Washington State (9-3) on Dec. 28 (8 p.m., Central, FS1). It will be Michigan State’s first Holiday Bowl appearance.
The Cougars’ Mike Leach will win the press conference. As for the game, we’ll see.
I still don’t understand why Michigan State gets all the accolades over No. 21Northwestern, which (duh!) beat Michigan State. And Nashville isn’t exactly a warm-weather destination. But it’s a good enough fit for Northwestern (9-3), which will play Kentucky (7-5) in the Music City Bowl (Dec. 29, 3:30 p.m. Central, ESPN).
Sophisticated NU alums, if they are open to new things, will enjoy the vibrance of the country-music capital. And Pat Fitzgerald’s purple gang ought to enjoy the relatively-easier challenge of trying to post a 10-win season against the up-and-coming-but-not-Auburn-yet Wildcats.
Author's note: I saw Northwestern lose a thriller to Auburn bloomin' Outback Bowl.
Iowa (7-5) will meet Boston College (7-5) at Yankee Stadium in a Pinstripe Bowl matchup (Dec. 27, 4:15 p.m. Central, ESPN) that ought to bring a big yawn in the Big Apple.
On the other hand, if Iowa, which has lost it last five bowl games, can make it here—oh, never mind.
Purdue (6-6) makes its first bowl trip since 2012 against Arizona (7-5) in the Foster Farms Bowl (7:30 p.m. Central, Fox). It’s a nice reward for first-year coach Jeff Brohm, who is off to such a great start that other schools already are trying to poach the Boilermakers' excellent young coach.
Arizona doesn’t always win its games, but it usually tends to put up big numbers. And if Purdue’s superior defense has lapses, the Boilermakers have enough offensive stuff to turn this game into an entertaining shootout.
There you have it. Eight bowls for the Big Ten. More than half of them figure to be entertaining.
Maybe the spotlight won’t be as bright as it would have been with Ohio State in the College Football Playoff. But it will be big enough. And so will the bowl checks.[/membership]