5 things I'm absolutely overreacting to after B1G bowl season
One more game. That’s all that remains for this 2020 college football season. Did anyone else hear the Garth Brooks song “Friends in Low Places” start playing like it’s 2 a.m. at a local dive bar and the server is asking for last call?
The B1G season started too late and finished too early. But, we made it to the end, through bowl season and all. All that remains is a College Football Playoff National Championship Game showdown between No. 3 Ohio State and No. 1 Alabama to close out one of the craziest and most chaotic years in the sport.
Over the last few days, we’ve had the opportunity to take in four B1G bowl games to close out the season. The league represented itself pretty well, finishing with a 3-1 record this postseason. Not too shabby, considering the low bowl turnout for the league.
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Although there were a minimal number of games, there were still some major takeaways from the last weekend of the B1G football season. So, let’s try to get through these overreactions without showing too much emotion, shall we?
OK, fine. Grab the tissue box if you need to, I’m not judging.
Justin Fields’ Heisman moment was too late, but definitely not too little
Remember in the first three weeks of the season when Justin Fields had as many touchdown passes as incompletions (11) and we all thought he was a lock to win the Heisman Trophy? Obviously, his chances took a hit with only playing 6 regular season games and struggling in games against Indiana and Northwestern.
There was one question we were all asking ourselves as the season was coming to a close: What the hell is going on with Fields? Well, we all look pretty dumb now, don’t we?
Fields isn’t a Heisman Trophy finalist, but he had his Heisman moment in Friday night’s Sugar Bowl. The junior quarterback completed 22-of-28 passes for 285 yards and 6 touchdowns in the win — again throwing as many TD passes as incompletions in the biggest game of his career. And he did most of that work after taking a painful rib shot from Clemson linebacker James Skalski.
James Skalski: Addicted to targeting pic.twitter.com/byXBdZ4C0Z
— The Real USC (@BarstoolUofSC) January 2, 2021
To quote Buddy the Elf, “Son of a nutcracker!”
Honestly, just walking to the sideline after taking that hit was the most impressive part of Fields’ performance. 99% of us would still be lying on the turf at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome right now if we took a hit like that. But the Buckeyes QB sat out ONE PLAY, returned and threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Chris Olave.
It was a performance for the ages.
Even though Fields won’t be holding up the Heisman Trophy at the end of the season, there’s still no doubt that he’s one of the best QBs — if not the best — in college football.
The actual game was far from the most interesting part of the Duke’s Mayo Bowl
Have you ever watched a bowl game in which a team intercepted passes on 4 consecutive possessions and that wasn’t the biggest storyline? When was the last time a team was outgained 518-266, won by 14 points and that that wasn’t the talk of the game?
That was the case for the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. Let’s be honest, nothing that happened on the field in Charlotte is what anyone is talking about this week.
Before the game started, the Twitter account of the Duke’s Mayo Bowl sent out a cryptic tweet, showing nothing but a large water cool with the scratchy-chin emoji (yes, I’m fairly certain that’s the proper term). So, right from the start, everyone was either really excited, or very concerned, that this giant tub was filled with delicious (or disgusting) mayonnaise, and whether the winning coach would be doused with the condiment after the game.
SOMETIMES THE JOURNEY IS BETTER THAN THE DESTINATION…
— Duke's Mayo Bowl (@DukesMayoBowl) December 30, 2020
Turns out the cooler was full of water. That was truly a holiday miracle for most of us, disgusted by the thought of Paul Chryst covered in mayonnaise.
The non-game storylines didn’t stop there. After Wisconsin secured the 42-28 win over Wake Forest to finish 4-3, the Badgers were having a pretty raucous postgame celebration in the locker room, when the glass football slipped off the base and shattered into a million pieces.
— Frank 'em Bucky! (@frankembucky) December 30, 2020
See what I mean? The Duke’s Mayo Bowl might actually be the most memorable of the 2020 postseason — with absolutely nothing about it related to what happened in the 60 minutes of actual game time.
A fitting end for Mike Hank-winz
Do you think Mike Hankwitz started filling out the Change of Name form yet? It’d be a pretty simple switch, exchanging the “T” in his last name for an “N” to more appropriately describe his time as a college football coach. If not, I’ll just refer to him has Hankwinz through the rest of this story.
Northwestern sent Hankwinz out on a high note, defeating Auburn in the Citrus Bowl. It marked victory No. 400 for Hankwinz, who was involved in coaching for 51 seasons, and spent the last 13 years with the Wildcats, establishing one of the most consistent and impenetrable defenses in the B1G for the past decade-plus.
In appropriate fashion, it was Northwestern’s defense that held strong in the Citrus Bowl, holding Auburn to just 61 rushing yards on 26 carries and holding the Tigers to just 2-of-13 on 3rd down conversions and 1-of-3 on 4th down attempts.
From start to finish, Northwestern’s defense held strong. And Hankwinz gets to retire with his head held high.
Mike Hankwitz bath pic.twitter.com/nMCHHjSOmO
— Ⓜ️arcusD ▶️ (@_MarcusD3_) January 1, 2021
Indiana’s Outback Bowl performance was coconut shrimp-like
I’m not going to lie, I hate the fact that the B1G is always associated with the free coconut shrimp appetizer while the SEC gets the bloomin’ onion. It’s arguably the most substantial evidence we have that SEC bias actually exists in this country. It’s time for change.
Just look at how much Cole Cubelic is enjoying that bloomin’ onion!
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 2, 2021
Indiana’s performance against Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl on Saturday was coconut shrimp-like. So, I guess it kinda was fitting this year. Losing 26-20 to a 4-5 rebels team in an otherwise-outstanding season is going to leave a bitter taste in the mouths of the Hoosiers. Almost as a bad a taste as coconut shrimp.
Sorry, I’ll move on.
Yes, Indiana was without starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and backup Jack Tuttle was toughing out a separated shoulder, but the game plan by offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan — against an Ole Miss defense that surrendered a nation’s worst 535 yards per game — was not good. The vaunted Indiana defense didn’t resemble anything we saw during the regular season.
All around, it was a poor performance.
The Outback Bowl game shouldn’t take away from Indiana’s marvelous 6-2 season, with wins over Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin. This was still a special season and the Hoosiers still had a really good football team. That was just a poor performance against a mediocre SEC team, and there was really no excuse for it.
Just like there’s no excuse to keep pairing the B1G with coconut shrimp, Outback Steakhouse. Alright, I’ll stop!
About the B1G being “really bad,” Mr. Pollack…
Nothing quite like ripping a B1G team’s bowl performance against a subpar opponent to lead into my next point — arguing with ESPN’s David Pollack about his comments on the B1G’s having a “really bad” year. This should be fun!
I’ve already taken my jabs at Pollack on social media for his constant criticism of the B1G, calling it a “really bad” year because Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State all struggled. That was his legitimate argument, essentially saying that because the traditional powers didn’t have a great year, then it was impossible for the conference to be strong this year.
Does a 3-1 bowl record change your mind? How about Ohio State’s 21-point win over mighty Clemson? Or Wisconsin’s 14-point victory over Wake Forest? Maybe Northwestern’s 16-point handling of Auburn? How about Indiana’s…wait, forget I said that.
— Dustin Schutte (@SchutteCFB) January 2, 2021
The bottom line is, it’s impossible to know how good leagues were in 2020. Yes, bowl season does provide some clarity, and for the most part, the B1G held up its end of the bargain. So did the SEC, finishing 6-2 and the Big 12 by ending with a 5-0 record. I think it’s fair to say that all three of those leagues are pretty comparable this year.
I’m not so stubborn to say the B1G had a great year in 2020, or that it was the best conference in college football. I legitimately don’t know. But watching teams like Ohio State, Northwestern, Indiana, Iowa — and even Rutgers, Minnesota and Maryland at times — I can promise you the B1G was not “really bad” this year, Mr. Pollack.
I think there’s more than enough evidence to prove you wrong at this point.