Doc's Big Ten Report - Bowl Issue
The Bowl Season has approached and the Big Ten Conference will be a little light in the wallet since they were not able to fill all of their allotted bowls. Two teams came up short in Hawaii and that likely cost the conference $750,000. A team that did benefit was the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who avoided the Motor City Bowl and moved up to the Music City Bowl.
The Big Ten will be underdogs in every bowl game except one, but that will not stop us from using some of them as selections. I believe at least two of them will win their respective games straight-up and the money line may be worth a look in a couple of those contests. The following will examine the Big Ten Bowl games and look for the turning point that will decide each of these contests.
The Bowl season will kick off on December 29 with the Alamo Bowl featuring The Ohio State Buckeyes against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The game is difficult to forecast and one that we will be staying away from. The Bucks have numerous playmakers at the wide receiver position in Ted Ginn Jr. and Santonio Holmes. These two players need to come up big in order for the Buckeyes to have a chance to win this game. The only other advantage the Bucks have is in the kicking game as Mike Nuggent just received the Lou Groza Award . The Cowboys are a difficult team to handicap because they do not have any quality wins and they blew a 28-point lead and lost the game by 21 to the Longhorns. If Oklahoma State does not beat themselves and does not allow the Buckeyes defense to play a role in this game, that would be the only side that I would consider.
The next Bowl game for the Big Ten takes place on New Year's Eve in Nashville. On paper, this will be a good match-up against two schools that like to run the ball. Minnesota backed their way into this game losing three straight and five of their last six games played. Alabama did not fare much better, losing three of their last four games.
The key this game will be the Golden Gopher defense. The front seven is undersized but Bama does not pose much of a threat through the air, so this should allow them to concentrate on stopping the run. Bama's strength is their defense and that does not bode well for the high-powered Gopher running game. Whoever wins the battle in the trenches will come out victorious in this game. I feel that the only edge in this game comes via the total.
Next up is the Outback Bowl taking place early New Year's Day. Most people will be asleep during this game, but since we work in Wisconsin, we will probably wake up in time for the start of this game. Injuries may pose problems for both sides as Bulldog QB David Greene had a hand injury in their season finale win over Georgia Tech. The Badgers have problems of their own with star RB Anthony Davis sitting out the season finale against the Hawkeyes. As I previously stated, Davis is the Badger's only playmaker on offense and without him they cannot scare the Bulldogs with anybody. David Pollack should have a field day sacking QB John Stocco and the nation found out how effective he is without a strong running game. Nonetheless, Coach Alvarez has an impressive bowl record losing only twice (both SEC opponents) in his 15 year tenure at Wisconsin.
If the Badgers get down in this game early, I would expect Georgia to run away and win this game by twenty plus points. But if UW, can stay close, that will afford them the luxury of running the ball and that is the best way to offset the team speed of the Bulldog defense. I feel this is a solid line and may be a game not to wake up for.
Continuing on the train, our next stop comes up the interstate in Orlando, for the Capital One Bowl where the Iowa Hawkeyes meet the Louisiana State Tigers. This may be the game where the Big Ten asserts themselves against the SEC. LSU does not scare me on offense and their defense is nowhere near what it was one season ago. Iowa just keeps winning despite having no running game and no playmaker on offense besides quarterback Drew Tate.
The Tigers have won six consecutive games but only one of them came in blowout fashion. This team had a huge drop-off at quarterback with the loss of Matt Mauck to the NFL. JaMarcus Russell and Marcus Randall have both seen action and neither one could grab the number one starting job based on the performance.
Iowa shocked the SEC last season by beating the Florida Gators in the Outback Bowl and I would not be surprised if they do that again and knock off another SEC foe, despite being a touchdown underdog. We have been bitten by the Hawks all season, so this may be a game that we stay away from.
The bowl season will conclude for the Big Ten in Pasadena in the late afternoon. Michigan thought they would be playing the California Bears, but instead have to prepare for the Texas Longhorns. I believe the Wolverines caught a big break with this match-up and should be able to compete better against a ball control, run it up the middle, team. The Bears would have caused numerous match-up problems for the Wolverines because of their ability to stretch the field. The Horns do not posses much of a threat in the passing game and if Michigan can keep Vincent Young in the pocket and not let him beat them with his legs I really like their chances. Texas has laid down numerous times in bowl games and I like Michigan's chances provided Chad Henne does not lose the game. This may be another situation where we look toward a total.
I fully believe that the oddsmakers have undervalued the Big Ten this season. If one were to bet the money line for every game that the Big Ten has played in, one would walk away a winner.
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That's it for the season and I hope you have a happy holiday and we will see you back again next year!
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