Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Big Ten bowl game predictions

Holidays are nearing, which means posting will slow down in the next week. With scouting material and general Michigan whathaveyou slowing to a crawl, I figure it might be fun to take a look at each Big Ten bowl game (excluding Michigan, obviously, which will get its own dedicated preview next week).

Insight Bowl
#12 Missouri (10-2) vs. Iowa (7-5)
Tuesday, December 28
10 pm EST
Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ

On paper, this looks to be one of the uglier matchups for the Big Ten. A mediocre 7-5 Iowa team is headed up against what appears to be a 10-2 powerhouse in Missouri. Add in the fact that most of Iowa's team is either on drugs, suspended, or arrested, and you have the makings for a blowout. Then again, Missouri did play in the awful Big 12 and had only one win of note: against then #1 Oklahoma at home. Besides Oklahoma, though, Missouri played only two ranked teams, splitting decisions to #14 Nebraska (L) and #24 Kansas State (W). With that in mind, Missouri's 45th in total offense and 44th in scoring offense look remarkably unimpressive, however their 6th in scoring defense, while it benefited from a weak schedule, is still worth noting. In the end, I think this is closer than the teams' respective records indicate it will be, but Iowa just doesn't have the firepower to pull it out.
Prediction: Missouri 24-14

Texas Bowl
Illinois (6-6) vs. Baylor (7-5)
Wednesday, December 29
6 pm EST
Reliant Stadium, Houston, TX

Two of the more surprising teams this year were Baylor, despite finishing the season at 7-5, and Illinois, until their epic collapse at the end of the year. Baylor found their groove behind the arm of Robert Griffin III who threw for nearly 3,200 yards this season with a 21/8 TD/INT ratio. Illinois, on the other hand, shut down offenses with a smothering defense (until Michigan, of course, when we broke their brain). Baylor ranks 82nd in scoring defense and Illinois plummeted to 53rd after being in the top 20 until the Michigan game. Offensively, Baylor is 29th in scoring offense and Illinois isn't far behind at 34th. Baylor's only real win was a shootout against #22 Kansas State, but they were thrashed by any other team with a pulse. Illinois' best win, however, came against Northwestern late in the season. The point being, this game is going to be ugly and is probably a toss up, but I'm inclined to give it to Baylor.
Prediction: Baylor 35-30

TicketCity Bowl
Northwestern (7-5) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)

Saturday, January 1
12 pm EST
Cotton Bowl, Dallas, TX

There's really not much need to talk about this one. Northwestern QB Dan Persa is out due to injury and Texas Tech is an 11-point favorite according to Vegas--last time I checked, anyway--playing ostensible a home game. Though Texas Tech isn't much of a force, the loss of Persa will likely be too much, as freshman Evan Watkins is tossed into the fire after leading the Wilcats to a 70-23 massacre at the hands of Wisconsin. Texas Tech, meanwhile, was bad in a bad conference, going 3-4 in league play. Unless Pat Fitzgerald's system-QB plug-and-chug can come up with a miracle, this one looks firmly in the hands of Tech.
Prediction: Texas Tech 31-20

Capital One Bowl
#16 Alabama (9-3) vs. #9 Michigan State (11-1)
Saturday, January 1
1 pm EST
Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, FL

Defending national champs Alabama are far and away the best three-loss team in the country. Michigan State, meanwhile, is easily the worst one-loss team. This one has the makings to be ugly. Another game that's squarely in the opponent's territory, Alabama's offense and defense both significantly overpowering against an MSU team that's struggled to stay at 11-1 (including some late-game heroics against Purdue late in the season). Alabama has a one-point loss to Auburn, a three-point loss to LSU, and the only real blemish, a 14-point loss to South Carolina. All three losses come to ranked opponents, and a quick spot check of Alabama's schedule shows a murderer's row of games: seven (seven!) games against then-ranked opponents. Alabama walks away with this one and Nick Saban gets a win against his former employer
Prediction: Alabama 42-24

Outback Bowl
Florida (7-5) vs. Penn State (7-5)

Saturday, January 1
1 pm EST
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL

I don't really know what to think about this game. Both teams were ranked highly preseason (although in PSU's case, it probably wasn't warranted) and quickly hit brick walls to fall from the standings. Penn State found a solution in walk-on quarterback Matt McGloin, who thoroughly embarrassed Michigan and looked like a real quarterback for a half against Ohio State before properly imploding. Florida, meanwhile, got by primarily because they just have more talent than everyone else in the country. By almost all metrics, these are evenly matched opponents. However, the game is being played in Florida and I expect the Gators to come away with a close one to salvage the end of the Urban Meyer era.
Prediction: Florida 24-21

Rose Bowl
#5 Wisconsin (11-1) vs. #3 TCU (12-0)

Saturday, January 1
5 pm EST
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA

Finally, a game that looks like the Big Ten can win. Don't let Wisconsin's one loss to Michigan State fool you: this is an incredibly talented football team. Were it not for their brain fart against MSU, Wisconsin would be playing for the national title this year, or at least in the discussion. They put up 70+ points three times this year and 30+ 6 other times. This team is a juggernaut controlled by Godzilla. TCU, meanwhile, is the Cinderella mainstay that can't quite make it to the BCS. Their biggest strength is a smothering defense, but everyone would look dominant in the truly abysmal Mountain West conference. The one stat you need to know:
  • Average weight of TCU defensive line: 262 pounds
  • Average weight of Wisc offensive line: 304 pounds
This is going to be a bloodbath. Wisconsin is going to roll.
Prediction: Wisconsin 41-20

Sugar Bowl
#6 Ohio State (11-1) vs. #8 Arkansas (10-2)

Tuesday, January 4
8:30 pm EST
Superdome, New Orleans, LA

This is a difficult game to predict. Arkansas rides the lightning arm of Ryan Mallett and Ohio State, per usual, is built on an incredibly sound defense that never makes mistakes. Add in last year's Rose Bowl performance against Oregon and it's reasonable to expect that Tressel will have a foolproof gameplan for Arkansas. Offensively, Ohio State doesn't have a whole ton going for it. Pryor is still hit or miss, their receivers aren't very good (not mention the great passing defense of Arkansas), and Dan Herron is a career backup running behind a great offensive line. For Arkansas, the team lives and dies by Mallett. In terms of season-long production, I'm inclined to give this game to Arkansas in a close one, but Ohio State's performance against Oregon last year (where Tressel rewrote the playbook and they pulled out all of the stops) makes that difficult to do. One way or another, this is going to be a close one.
Prediction: Ohio State 27-24


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