Let's go bowling
I'm really glad that the Big Ten is extending the football slate into Thanksgiving weekend starting next season. This sitting around waiting, speculating and gathering rust is not helpful while the other conferences are hogging up the spotlight.
In fact, I wish the Big Ten would hurry up and add a 12th team so that we can just have a conference championship game already. It could even rotate between Detroit, Indy and Minny to spread the wealth. But that's another wish for another story.
Time now to focus on here and now. The Big Ten bowl bids more or less shook out as expected and finally, the conference might have a chance to quiet its critics and win some ball games. And something that none of the pundits are willing to point out very readily - this is the ninth time in 12 BCS years that the Big Ten sends two to the "big bowls." Since the inception of the BCS in 1998, the Big Ten has qualified 21 teams for BCS bowls, more than any other conference. Not bad at all...
Champs Sports Bowl - Orlando, FL: 8pm on December 29
Wisconsin vs. Miami-Florida
An interesting match-up of power versus speed. I do think that the Badgers stack up better here than Northwestern would have and in fact, this might be one of the best pre-New Year's Bowl contests. The Badgers hammered Hawaii and likely wound up here due to a gut feel that UW fans might be travel fatigued after the basketball and football teams have been in Hawaii in the past three weeks. Early edge? Miami-Florida.
Insight Bowl - Tempe, AZ: 6pm on December 31
Minnesota vs. Iowa State
A good match-up for the Big Ten. Minnesota is back to Tempe for the second-straight season and this time seeks a victory. I am a little surprised that the Alamo passed on Minnesota based on the off the field stuff hitting the fan in East Lansing, but then again, MSU provides a better match for Texas Tech. Iowa State had a great turnaround from last year's two-win campaign. The Golden Gophers limp into this but want to win to set the tone for next year. Early edge? Minnesota
Outback Bowl - Tampa, FL: 11am on January 1
Northwestern vs. Auburn
I've always been a fan of this game. You wake up after a late night bringing in the New Year and viola, football is on and the Big Ten is front and center. You can bet Northwestern is loving it too. After being snubbed for Iowa a season ago, the Wildcats snuck past Wisconsin. That is all about the fact that UW has been to Hawaii and back recently. Plus, frankly, the match-up is better. I like the Wildcats' chances in this one. Their first New Year's Day contest since 1997 and a shot at their first win in 60 years. Early edge? Northwestern
Capital One Bowl - Orlando, FL: 1pm on January 1
Penn State vs. Louisiana State
A classic New Year's day tilt between two college football powerhouses. And hey, if JoePa stays around long enough, this could preview a coaching match of the minds of the future in the Big Ten (that is if RichRod fails and Les Miles comes to the rescue in Ann Arbor). Penn State is probably a little disappointed that it got passed over by Iowa for the BCS at-large berth but you all know how I feel. When all else is tied, the head-to-head winner should get the nod. LSU never quite materialized this year while PSU also had its share of head scratching moments. Still, I like this match-up too. Early edge? Penn State
The Rose Bowl - Pasadena, CA: 4:30pm on January 1
Ohio State vs. Oregon
This should be the best BCS game outside of the National Championship. The Buckeyes defense versus the Ducks potent offense. Two of the more athletic quarterbacks in college football. Surprisingly, given their successes, the first Rose Bowl jaunt for either team since the mid-90s. The last time here the Buckeyes won on a late Germaine to Boston TD pass to beat Jake the Snake and the ASU Sun Devils. Oregon's last trip to the hallowed grounds was a loss to Penn State. I can't wait to watch this one... Early edge? Oregon
Alamo Bowl - San Antonio, TX: 9pm on January 2
Michigan State vs. Texas Tech
I have already heard everyone from Fox to ESPN to the Big Ten Network call this a major mismatch. I'll forgive them for being so presumptive so quickly. The Spartans will go into this with a chip on their shoulder. Riding a three game bowl losing streak, without some notable players and all the talk about how the Red Raiders will shred the MSU secondary. So be it. I think that if MSU can get some pressure and also shut down the run game, this will be a chance to silence the critics. And the State offense is pretty good too, with or without a few wide outs. This is perennially one of the better non BCS games, it might be again. Early edge? Texas Tech
Orange Bowl - Miami, FL: 8pm on January 5
Iowa vs. Georgia Tech
This one is very intriguing to me. Iowa has one of the most underrated defenses in the nation. Georgia Tech is a throwback joy to watch with the triple option. I know that with the limited access to triple option capable scout team players, the Yellow Jackets should have an upper hand, but I want Norm Parker on my side every time in these cases. My bigger fear is Iowa's attack. It hasn't been great and Stanzi will have to shake two months of rust. Still, as we get closer, I'll like Iowa's chances to get it done. Right now? Early edge? Georgia Tech
As for the rest...
Illinois - what a painful - if not appropriate - way to end the season. It looks like Zook will be back but the noose is on and will quickly tighten if the Illini don't get back to winning next season.
Indiana - the really bad news is that IU doesn't have hoops to look forward to quite yet. Will be a long winter in Bloomington, but this program has a chance to take a step up next season.
Michigan - I'm not sold that this team is poised to make the next step next year. Yes, the defense was young but it was also really bad. The offense isn't where it needs to be yet and there are rumors that Forcier might be supplanted by a newcomer next season? Not the start this program needs for 2010.
Purdue - The Boilers came on strong this year but have to replace some key pieces and parts. I do like the fire Danny Hope brings to the table, however, and think Purdue will make some noise in the near future.
The final Get Gamm picks - bowl style - are due by December 28. And BruceS gets to pick with me for winning the tiebreaker on the week 12 picks...