5 juiciest storylines in the Big Ten as bowl week kicks into high gear
The Big Ten is off to a great start in bowl season, with underdogs Minnesota and Wisconsin blowing out ACC rivals Georgia Tech and Miami so far. Considering the fact that of the nine Big Ten teams playing in bowls, only three were favored, this is a nice way to start off this week of bowl fun.
There are still seven more games to go, starting with Friday’s Music City Bowl in Nashville between Purdue and Auburn. Here are the five juiciest storylines as bowl week kicks into high gear:
Jeff Brohm starts Purdue’s ascension with a big win over Auburn
One of the biggest stories in the Big Ten after the regular season ended was Purdue’s ability to keep Jeff Brohm as its head coach. He was wooed hard by Louisville, his alma mater, but the Boilermakers stepped up with a boatload of money to keep him around. It’s been a long time since Purdue has contended for conference titles, and they think they can get there with Brohm in as coach for the long-term. A win over Auburn, a top-10 team earlier this year, would send a strong message.
Urban Meyer says farewell at the Rose Bowl
In early December, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer announced his retirement and said Tuesday’s Rose Bowl game with Washington would be his last. It’s a fitting ending to a bizarre season in Columbus, one that started with Meyer being suspended for three games for his mishandling of the Zach Smith domestic violence issue. The conspiracy theorists say all of this was part of the plan, that Meyer agreed to leave when the suspension was handed out. In any case, this is it. The Ohio State players love their coach and they’ll play extra hard for him in this fond farewell. An Ohio State rout isn’t out of the question.
Don Brown’s Michigan defense under a microscope
Michigan gets Florida in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta on Friday, and the spotlight is going to be on the Michigan defense, which was ranked No. 1 in the country most of the year before that epic 62-39 collapse against Ohio State to end the regular season. Don Brown, considered the best in the business when it comes to defensive coordinators, has a wound to heal here, so look for the Wolverines to really come after a Florida offense that has struggled for much of the season despite having nine wins.
Can Michigan State’s defense stop Oregon QB Justin Herbert?
Michigan State has been torched through the air a few times this season, and now they have a big challenge Monday in the RedBox Bowl when it takes on Oregon and quarterback Justin Herbert. He’s been regarded as the most NFL-ready QB in the country this year, but he surprised a few people this week when he said he was returning to Eugene for his senior season. The Spartans, 7-5 on the season, really need a win to end the season on a high note, and it’s going to be up to the depleted MSU secondary to get the job done.
Can Big Ten upsets continue in bowl week?
The prognosticators predicted a 3-6 record for the Big Ten this bowl season, but two underdogs already have recorded wins. That’s a big thing for a league that would love to validate last year’s great bowl run, when they won all but one matchup. Having a winning record again would be great for a league that was left out of the College Football Playoff for the second straight year.