The B1G got all but two teams into bowls, Minnesota and Indiana brining up the rear. It's a record for number of teams in postseason play, the most in conference history. Some of them didn't make any sense - how the hell Michigan got into a BCS bowl is baffling - but all the teams earned their bowl bids.
For this, I'll just break down each bowl game and offer my prediction, just like I did during the season. For the season, I finished 97-31, which - and not to brag - is way, way better than I thought I would.
Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl - Purdue vs. Western Michigan
I realize how much I hated on Purdue and how they were better than I ever gave them credit for. In actuality, they finished better than Ohio State did in the B1G. However, it wasn't exactly a hard schedule they played, beating two slacks in non-conference, then got three wins against the three worst B1G team (Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois). Their one big one came against Ohio State, which was a nice win.
That being said, Purdue is still a solid team. Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush are splitting snaps with TerBush getting more snaps. They aren't particularly overwhelming in any sense. They don't have a dominant passing game, no dominant rushing game, and no dominant defense. Considering Western Michigan has a high-octane offense, I don't see Purdue winning this game.
Western Michigan is going to simply out-score Purdue. They'll win 38-21.
Insight Bowl - Iowa vs. Oklahoma
This is a very interesting match-up, in my opinion. Oklahoma minus Ryan Broyles has taken a significant step back. In general, injuries have really depleted this team. They stumbled to a 9-3 record, losing two of their last three. They clearly look like a different team, a less explosive team. They miss Broyles skills and his leadership.
Iowa proved one thing this year: they are incredibly inconsistent. Their last 6 games were alternated wins and losses. Despite that, the offense has never been inconsistent. James Vandenberg, Marcus Coker, and Marvin McNutt are a very solid trio offensively. Honestly, it's probably the best QB/RB/WR combo in the B1G. That being said, the defense isn't exactly stout. Losing Adrian Clayborn hurt them more than they could manage.
All that being said, I expect a shootout in this game. Both offenses are fully capable of putting up lots of points and the defenses have proven incapable of stopping teams. I think McNutt and Coker have huge games and, in the end, Iowa has more firepower and confidence than OU at this point. Iowa wins 42-35.
Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl - Northwestern vs. Texas A&M
Talk about flying under the radar. Northwestern finished the year winning four of their last five, including an upset of Nebraska that pretty much ruined their B1G title game hopes. Dan Persa's return sparked this team (as well as an easy schedule). The offense leads this team, even though the defense somewhat exceeded expectations. Still, it's going to come down to the offense outscoring TAMU.
As for TAMU, they've played exactly the opposite as Northwestern down the stretch, losing four of their last five. The one win came against a Kansas team that was awful this year (probably worse than IU). I doubt they'll be all too excited to play in this bowl game with their eyes set on the SEC next year.
Northwestern great finish continues as they take down TAMU 34-24.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl - Illinois vs. UCLA
Talk about no one caring about this game. Illinois flopped so hard after their 6-0 start that Ron Zook was fired. Not to be outdone, UCLA lost their final two games 99-31 and got Rick Neuheisel fired. This leads me to question how many times we've had two bowl teams play each other after firing their coaches beforehand. It's got to be a short list.
Illinois is actually favored in the game, albeit by just 2. Considering they lost six straight to make a bowl and haven't won a game since early October, that shocks me.
Despite that, Illinois does have some talented players. Whitney Mercilus was named AP first team. Offensively, A.J. Jenkins has 84 receptions for 1196 yards and 7 touchdowns. The team isn't as bad as their record indicates and maybe Ron Zook was the problem. The problem with this game is that the whole "Win one for our coach" motivation isn't going to give either team an advantage because both teams lost their coach.
However, I think this will be a very hard, very physical game. Both teams aren't going to have to listen for over a month about how neither of them belong in bowl games and their coaches taking the fall for it. This game intrigues me. I'll take Illinois 28-24.
Ticket City Bowl - Penn State vs. Houston
This is really one of the most interesting bowl match ups. Outside of the obvious story lines following Penn State around, not including their QB losing a fight with their wide receiver and being knocked out, this game will be a big test for both teams.
On one side, you have Penn State's suffocating defense. They aren't filled with big-name players outside of Devon Still. Despite that, they give up just 15.7 points a game and only three times did they give up more than 20 points. It's quite impressive considering some of the great players they've faced this year: Marcus Coker, Taylor Martinez, Braxton Miller, and Russell Wilson and Montee Ball. Their offensive very challenged, but they haven't had to up to this point really.
On the other side, Houston has arguably the highest octane offense in the nation. Case Keenum, despite his 5000+ pass yards this year, hasn't gotten the recognition he deserves. He has carved up defenses Timmy Chung-style. Much like Penn State hasn't faced an offense like Houston, Houston hasn't faced a defense like Penn State. The blue-print on how to beat them was laid out by Southern Mississippi in the conference title game. Houston has a lot of questions to answer now after that embarrassing loss on national TV.
Once the game starts, I think all these distractions are going to be too much for Penn State. Between that and the fact that their offense is non-existent, Houston is going to win this game. I'll predict the final being 35-17, Houston.
Outback Bowl - Michigan State vs. Georgia
This could also be called the "2nd Place Bowl" as these two teams lost their respective conference title games. Each team is very much a great team and will be overshadowed not only by their conference winners, but also by the games played that day.
For Michigan State, they were one misstep toward the punter away from a possible B1G title game championship. Instead, the game will forever be known as a big "what if" in Michigan State history. They still have a great offense led by Kirk Cousins and B.J. Cunningham. Had the team won, they'd have taken the spot in the Rose Bowl (obviously) and competed just as well as Wisconsin will. I think Wisconsin and Michigan State are the two best offenses in the B1G.
As for Georgia, they hung tough with LSU but fail victim like everyone else before them. Offensively, Georgia's coaches had the perfect game-plan for beating the LSU defense, the players just didn't execute it. This team has really found it's stride, including the first half of the LSU game. The defense is underrated and the offense, led by Aaron Murray, is flourishing. This Georgia team's only losses were to LSU, Boise, and South Carolina, making them quite possibly the best three-loss team in the nation, right there with MSU.
This game will be highly contested. If Georgia puts together a game-plan like the one they had against LSU while also executing it, I think they can win this game. Right now, I have Georgia winning 31-21.
Capital One Bowl - Nebraska vs. South Carolina
On a day packed with great bowl games, this one is probably the least exciting. That's not to say, however, that it won't be a good game. Nebraska is coming in off a mixture of wins and losses, never proving they were a consistent threat week in and week out. South Carolina, however, has won three straight games, including a win over Clemson.
Nebraska, led by Taylor Martinez, has the 13th best run game in the nation. Rex Burkhead and Martinez have a combined 2100 rush yards this year with 24 touchdowns. With Martinez's passing yard numbers, he's at nearly 2700 all-purpose yards and 21 touchdowns. Making Martinez throw is the key to beating them, but it's hard to do considering how well their run game is.
For South Carolina, losing Marcus Lattimore was a huge blow. Despite that, they finished the year 3-1 and are a dangerous team. Their only losses came to Auburn and #7 Arkansas, but they played a very weak schedule, missing out on LSU and Alabama somehow. They are a very valid team, still. However, their biggest problem is going to be the fact they give up 135 yards per game on the ground.
This game will get buried in the mix of other games, but Nebraska will come out victorious....barely. 28-27, Huskers.
Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl - Ohio State vs. Florida
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Just a couple years ago, this game was for a national title and featured a slew of great players. Now, after both teams losing their head coaches before the season, these two teams went a combined 12-12. Neither of them were all too impressive this year and are definitely in rebuilding mode.
For Florida, they certainly were a victim of a brutal schedule, getting LSU, Bama, South Carolina, Auburn, and Georgia this year. Despite that, Jared Brantley and Chris Rainey are the two mainstays and keys on the offense. Both had injury issues, but both are young, good players and players that Ohio State is really going to have to focus on and stop.
For Ohio State, it was very much a rebuilding year as they started a true freshman in Braxton Miller by mid-season. Their off-the-field issues have been much talked about recently as they'll be facing a bowl ban for next year. However, for this team, once they got all their starters back, showed some fight for the future. They had Nebraska down big until Miller was injured, then beat Illinois and Wisconsin (both ranked at the time) and hung on against IU. However, they ended the year with three straight losses and lost all momentum.
For this game, I'm not sure either team cares too much. The one motivating factor is that Ohio State won't be in this position next year and will be playing very hard. Braxton Miller leads the Buckeyes to a win, 21-17.
Rose Bowl - Wisconsin vs. Oregon
Easily the most high-profile matchup for the B1G this season. Wisconsin is the one team from the B1G I honestly could see being able to keep up with Oregon's offense. But the most surprising thing is that the over/under is set at just 72. And that's not even a joke. These two teams score 46 (Oregon) and 44 (Wisconsin) points a game and nothing tells me that they'll score any less than that. I'm not a betting man, but if any of you are, take the over on that in a heart beat.
As for the game, Wisconsin, in my opinion, was quite clearly the best team in the B1G this year. Outside of a couple late game hail mary's that have been much talked about, this team was dominant all year long. Excluding those two losses, they never won by less than 11 points until the B1G title game.
Montee Ball and Russell Wilson are as good a two-headed monster there is in the nation and will give Oregon all they can handle. Oregon hasn't faced anything like Wilson this year and certainly nothing like Ball either.
But on the other hand, Wisconsin hasn't faced an offense as dynamic, fast-paced, and high-scoring as Oregon's. Had LaMichael James not been injured, he would have definitely been invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony and might have even won it. That offense is ridiculously fast and ridiculously high scoring. They even put up 27 points on LSU, which was also their lowest output of the season.
For this game, Oregon is simply too fast-paced and too quick. It'll be super high scoring and super entertaining. I'll take Oregon 55-48.
Allstate Sugar Bowl - Michigan vs. Virginia Tech
And the top of your list of "Why the hell" bowl games of the year, Michigan was, at best, the fourth best B1G team and was selected as an at-large to the Sugar Bowl.
It's not that Michigan doesn't belong and it's not Michigan's fault that they were picked. Denard Robinson's 3100 yards of offense and 34 touchdowns puts him near the top of B1G all-purpose yardage leaders. Considering Fitzgerald Toussaint also was a 1000 yard rusher with Robinson and this offense is quite impressive. And the fact they actually have a defense makes them that much more dangerous.
Expect the game to go quickly with David Wilson, the nation's 5th leading rusher, on the other side. Va Tech went the entire year under the radar and, had they beaten Clemson, they'd been a top 5 team and very deserving of this placement. Even now, they aren't as big of a reach as Michigan was, but I'll not go into the flaws of the BCS.
For the game, Michigan is simply a better team and more tested. Their last three games have been big wins for them and they have lots of momentum. Michigan wins 35-28.
Next Best 3
National Championship Game, LSU vs. Alabama - This game is the one no one wanted, but it'll still be a good game. I don't care to talk about it much because it's been talked about to death. LSU wins 24-14.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - Oklahoma State vs. Stanford - I don't think this game will be that close. Oklahoma State is feeling disrespected from being left out and Stanford isn't as good as people claim. Ok State's offense is too good. I'll take them with a 51-31 win.
AT&T Cotton Classic Bowl - Arkansas vs. Kansas State - Kansas State's only losses came to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Arkansas's were to Alabama and LSU. These two teams are better than people think and will put on a great game. Kansas State wins 34-27.