10 things I am absolutely overreacting to in the Big Ten after bowl season
Another wacky bowl season has come and gone and the Big Ten has acquitted itself well, all things considered. The nine Big Ten teams were favored in only three of the nine games, but it was the underdogs who outperformed the favorites.
Of the three favorites, only Ohio State won, with Michigan and Penn State getting upset. Thankfully the league finished 5-4, with underdogs Northwestern, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota coming out on top.
1. Ohio State makes Urban Meyer sweat one last time
Urban Meyer’s final game at Ohio State — and, he says, anywhere — ended with a win at the Rose Bowl, a place he’d never coached at before. Dwayne Haskins had another great game, throwing for three touchdowns as the Buckeyes rolled out to a 25-point lead. But then Washington roared back with 20 fourth-quarter points before coming up short 28-23. Considering the up-and-down moments that Ohio State experienced all season, this was a fitting end to what might be the most disappointing 13-1 season ever.
2. Michigan’s ineptitude against top-10 teams continues
I’m really starting to wonder if Michigan is ever going to win a game that really matters. When the Wolverines were 10-1 in late November and ranked No. 4 in the country, they were on the verge of winning the Big Ten and earning a spot in the College Football Playoff. With Ohio State next, we asked “if not now, then when?” Ohio State won 62-39, which we’ve seen before. But losing 41-15 to Florida in the Peach Bowl is a whole new matter. That was not some juggernaut Florida team. But still, as soon as things got tough in the second half, Michigan rolled right over. When is this going to end?
3. Penn State loses, and says goodbye to Trace McSorley
When Penn State was losing by 20 points to Kentucky heading into the fourth quarter, it looked like another lost ending to a season for the Nittany Lions. But then Trace McSorley and his banged-up knee took over, running of a touchdown and throwing for another. He almost pulled of a miracle comeback, falling just short 27-24. Our last memories of him are great ones, because he’s a fighter and he went down swinging here once again.
4. Iowa rolls through top-ranked Mississippi State defense
OK, I’ll be the first to admit that I completely whiffed on this one. I just didn’t think Iowa’s up-and-down offense would be able to score any points against Mississippi State. So needless to say, I was shocked they rolled to a 27-22 win and did it with Nate Stanley throwing the ball all over the place, throwing for three touchdowns. It was a great way to end a 9-4 season that could have been so much more.
5. Northwestern pulls off another wild rally
When will people stop underestimating Pat Fitzgerald and the Northwestern Wildcats? The surprising Big Ten West champions were slight underdogs against Utah, and trailed 20-3 at halftime. But then they roared back with 28 unanswered points to win the Holiday Bowl 31-20. Clayton Thorson ended his great four-year career by throwing for 241 yards and two touchdowns. The Wildcats are back, and they’re not going anywhere.
6. Michigan State needs to make some fixes on offense
Michigan State’s defense was sensational Monday against Oregon, but the offense kept shooting itself in the foot all day in the ugly 7-6 loss that featured more punts (18) than points (13). That’s the third time in four games that the Spartans failed to score a touchdown. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio has to look long and hard at co-offensive coordinators Dave Warner and Jim Bollman, This scoring drought simply can’t continue.
7. Purdue’s most embarrassing bowl moment
Every time an SEC team beats a Big Ten team, we hear that roar from down south, that “y’all suck at football up there, you damn Yankees.” Purdue had no argument for that after getting crushed by Auburn 63-14 in the Music City Bowl in Nashville. It was 56-7 at halftime! Auburn scored on all eight first-half possessions and probably could have scored 100 if it wanted to. The 56 points were the most ever scored in a half in any bowl game ever. That’s putrid. “That one snowballed faster than most,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “I’ve been part of games that were a bad outcome, but that one happened fast.” The might be the understatement of the year.
8. Wisconsin takes advantage of Miami upheaval
A year ago, Wisconsin and Miami paired up in a New Year’s Six bowl after the both had successful seasons. They met again this year in the Pinstripe Bowl in New York after poor seasons, but Wisconsin was far better off than a Miami team that was imploding. Wisconsin won 35-3 and completely dominated on defense. Miami passed for only 48 yards on 17 attempts, completing only 6 passes. And Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor was his usual impressive self, rushing for 205 yards. The Badgers’ 8-5 season was a disaster considering many thought they were a potential playoff team in the preseason, but a win to end it all does make things a little better.
9. Minnesota rowing the boat in the right direction
One of the best compliments that Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck gets is that he’s a good teacher and his teams get better as a season goes on. He’s certainly proved that this year with his Gophers, who won the Quick Lane Bowl 34-10 over Georgia Tech from the ACC. After losing five of its first six Big Ten games, Minnesota finished the season with impressive blowout wins over Purdue (41-10), Wisconsin (37-15) and now Georgia Tech. This is just a start for the Gophers, who will be Big Ten West contenders soon.
10. The season ends, and it’s another big disappointment
For the third straight year, the Big Ten champion failed to get an invite to the College Football Playoff. It looks like Ohio State will be the only team in the top-10 of the final AP poll, which is embarrassing for a league like the Big Ten. Michigan and Penn State both laying an egg as favorites against SEC teams Florida and Kentucky just means another offseason of jokes about how bad the league is. Throw in all those ugly nonconference losses back in September, and this is a season worth tossing in the trash.