Hickey: First impressions of every Big Ten bowl game matchup
A big bowl season awaits the Big Ten.
There will be a minimum of 9 B1G bowl games this postseason, with Michigan and Ohio State both earning the opportunity to play in a 10th for the national championship.
The Big Ten’s first year with 2 teams in the College Football Playoff has a trickle-down effect on the rest of the conference’s bowl bids. Everyone is essentially moving up a slot, meaning there will be no B1G representative at the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit.
Of course, with every team technically punching up in class, it may not turn out to be a winning bowl season.
But if it’s an all-B1G national championship game, who will really care about that?
Here’s our first impression of each matchup.
Guaranteed Rate Bowl
Wisconsin (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State (7-5)
When: Dec. 27, 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
First impression: It’s the first game of the post-Graham Mertz era for the Badgers. Wisconsin’s 3-year starting quarterback entered the transfer portal Sunday, making Chase Wolf the likely starter against the Cowboys.
The question for Wisconsin is who else won’t be there, starting with the head coach. Luke Fickell wants Jim Leonhard to stay on as defensive coordinator, and typically interim coaches handle bowl games during a transition. But if Leonhard goes elsewhere, we may see an interim for an interim. Or maybe Fickell will jump in midstream in such a scenario.
Oklahoma State comes in losing 4 of its past 5 games, so whoever does show up for Wisconsin could pick up a win.
Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl
Minnesota (8-4) vs. Syracuse (7-5)
When: Dec. 29, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN
First impression: Bad Boy Mowers went from sponsoring a game at Tropicana Field to sponsoring a game at Yankee Stadium, which is definitely an upgrade from a baseball perspective. Players and fans, however, may wish they were indoors in Florida rather than exposed to the elements in the Bronx in late December.
Yankee Stadium is a nightmare venue for Minnesota sports fans. The Twins have lost 16 consecutive playoff games dating to 2004, 13 of which have come against the Yankees. Regular season included, they are 3-24 at Yankee Stadium since 2015.
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None of this has any bearing on the Gophers, of course. PJ Fleck is unbeaten in bowl games. But if there’s any venue where that streak might end … look no further.
Duke’s Mayo Bowl
Maryland (7-5) vs. No. 23 NC State (8-4)
When: Dec. 30, noon ET, ESPN
First impression: It’s a renewal of one of the most remarkably even series in college football history.
These former ACC rivals haven’t played since 2013, leaving the all-time series knotted up at 33-33-4. And with no renewal currently scheduled, there’s no telling how long the winner of the game will remain in the series lead.
If that’s not drama, I don’t know what is.
TransPerfect Music City Bowl
Iowa (7-5) vs. Kentucky (7-5)
When: Dec. 31, noon ET, ABC
First impression: Really? We’re doing this again?
A year after meeting in the Citrus Bowl, the Hawkeyes and Wildcats face off in Nashville. This is a rematch absolutely no one asked for, but nevertheless former Iowa defensive back Mark Stoops gets another shot at his alma mater after last year’s 20-17 win.
The sequel should feature an even lower score. With Alex Padilla in the transfer portal and Spencer Petras out for the season and Cade McNamara’s transfer pending, we will learn who Iowa’s third-string quarterback is.
Vrbo Fiesta Bowl
No. 2 Michigan (13-0) vs. No. 3 TCU (12-1)
When: Dec. 31, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN
First impression: Do the Horned Frogs have enough explosiveness to overcome Michigan’s power in the trenches?
Oddsmakers, who have established the Wolverines as 9.5-point favorites, do not believe that will be the case. The contrast in styles, though, would make this fun to watch even if it wasn’t a CFP semifinal.
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
No. 4 Ohio State (11-1) vs. No. 1 Georgia (13-0)
When: Dec. 31, 8 p.m., ESPN
First impression: Unfortunately, Justin Fields has a game in Detroit the following day, so don’t expect to see him patrolling the sidelines in this matchup of his schools. But the quarterbacks actually playing in this game — Stetson Bennett IV and CJ Stroud — should provide more than enough highlights.
Given Georgia’s 50-point outburst in the SEC championship game, it feels like this could be a shootout on par with the Bulldogs’ 2017 semifinal win over Oklahoma, 54-48 at the Rose Bowl.
Let’s hope so.
Illinois (8-4) vs. No. 24 Mississippi State (8-4)
When: Jan. 2, noon ET, ESPN2
First impression: The game formerly known as the Outback Bowl was a lot more fun when America stood a chance at winning a free Bloomin’ Onion the next day. New sponsor ReliaQuest is going to have a hard time generating that level of excitement.
If Illinois running back Chase Brown plays, this is low-key one of the more fun matchups of bowl season. But if Brown opts out, it’s wholly unappealing.
Perhaps ReliaQuest should draw up a very lucrative NIL deal to make sure the game’s best player is on the field.
Cheez-It Citrus Bowl
Purdue (8-5) vs. No. 17 LSU (9-4)
When: Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET, ABC
First impression: This is the first-ever matchup between the Boilermakers and Tigers, which is just as bowl season should be. Hopefully former Purdue and LSU quarterback Danny Etling is invited to do the ceremonial coin flip. Or former Purdue and Saints quarterback Drew Brees. There’s a lot of good coin-flip possibilities out there.
So expect to see someone from “Dancing With the Stars” who has no connection to either school.
Rose Bowl Game
No. 11 Penn State (10-2) vs. No. 8 Utah (10-3)
When: Jan. 2, 5 p.m., ESPN
First impression: Screw modernity. Give me Penn State’s all-white road uniforms as the sun sets over the San Gabriel Mountains at the end of the third quarter. Every. Damn. Time.
Beyond aesthetics, this is just a great matchup. The Utes are the Pac-12’s most physical team and will be a stout test as the Nittany Lions look to springboard into 2023 with a boatload of momentum.