Disappointing. But oh, so close to greatness.

That’s the best way to describe the Big Ten’s roller-coaster 2022/23 bowl season, especially when it began with so much promise.

From the outset, there was a chance at a historic showdown between Ohio State and Michigan for the national championship.

And when the Big Ten opened bowl season with a 4-0 start, the tug of destiny seemed to be calling. Maybe the Buckeyes and Wolverines would provide a fitting finish to the best-ever B1G postseason.

If not for Penn State’s Rose Bowl rout, the Big Ten’s final moment of glory for the 2022 season would have involved Mike Locksley getting covered in mayonnaise while wearing an enormous hat.

Fortunately, it ended with the far more dignified sight of James Franklin being sprinkled with rose petals, capping the B1G’s 5-4 bowl performance.

Here is 1 takeaway from each Big Ten team’s bowl performance, in chronological order.


Outcome: Beat Oklahoma State, 24-17, in Guaranteed Rate Bowl

Takeaway: Obviously, it’s difficult to have much of a takeaway here — Luke Fickell was on the sidelines for the first time with the Badgers, but Jim Leonhard was actually calling the shots in his final game with the Badgers. Very little of what we saw will carry over to next season.

Actually, there is one takeaway: This will be the last time Braelon Allen rushes for the same number of yards as his quarterback passes for, and it’s not because Allen is incapable. New offensive coordinator Phil Longo isn’t going to have many games where his quarterback throws for only 116 yards.


Outcome: Beat Syracuse, 28-20, in Pinstripe Bowl

Takeaway: It’s time to revise the list of classic blunders.

  1. Never get involved in a land war in Asia.
  2. Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.
  3. Never bet against PJ Fleck in a bowl game.

Fleck is now 4-0 in bowl games at Minnesota.


Outcome: Beat NC State, 16-12, in Duke’s Mayo Bowl

Takeaway: It’s impressive how much defensive growth Maryland displayed this season. The Terrapins climbed all the way from 97th nationally in scoring defense in 2021 (30.7 ppg) to 40th this season (23.3 ppg).

Brian Williams, who took over the defense with 3 games remaining last season, is a coordinator who should be garnering more attention — though for Maryland’s sake, hopefully not too much attention.

Mike Locksley has turned Maryland into a solid program. We’ll see if the Terps can continue building into even more than that.


Outcome: Beat Kentucky, 21-0, Music City Bowl

Takeaway: Any Nashville residents who attended the past 2 Music City Bowls likely have whiplash. A year after Purdue’s wild 48-45 win over Tennessee, they got … this.

Though if you’re an Iowa fan, this was something beautiful, because it was pitch-perfect Iowa football. Only the Hawkeyes could score 2 touchdowns in 11 seconds and have the game total still come nowhere near the record-low over/under of 31.5 points.

The final score:

  • Iowa Defense: 14 points
  • Iowa Offense: 7 points
  • Kentucky: 0 points

Will Michigan transfer Cade McNamara jostle the offense into better production next season? Perhaps, though there’s only so much that can be done in Brian Ferentz’s scheme. So Iowa will still probably be winning lots of games in this fashion.


Outcome: Lost to TCU, 51-45, in Fiesta Bowl Playoff semifinal

Takeaway: Michigan’s defense simply hasn’t gotten the job done in either of its Playoff appearances, saving its worst performance of the season for last.

The Wolverines gave up a season-high 7.9 yards per play to Georgia in the 2021 CFP semifinal, then gave up a season-high 7 yards per play to TCU in the 2022 CFP semifinal.

When push comes to shove in the College Football Playoff, it’s Michigan that gets shoved.

Ohio State

Outcome: Lost to Georgia, 42-41, in Peach Bowl Playoff semifinal

Takeaway: The Buckeyes gave it their all — especially CJ Stroud — but were outscored 18-3 in the 4th quarter.

Ohio State is accustomed to playing without its stars this season — wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and running back TreVeyon Henderson have missed plenty of time, including the Peach Bowl. But the loss of receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. to a concussion was one body blow too many.

Despite losing Harrison, the Bucks were still in position to win the game. Ryan Day’s contentment to settle for a 50-yard field goal attempt to win will be a head-scratcher for a long time to come.


Outcome: Lost to Mississippi State, 19-10, in ReliaQuest Bowl

Takeaway: This was always going to be a tough ask for the Illini — no Ryan Walters, no Chase Brown, and Mississippi State playing to honor the memory of Mike Leach. Illinois did well to keep this game down to the wire before the Bulldogs scored 9 points in the final 4 seconds.

For what it’s worth, it looks like the Illini will still be defensively solid without Walters coordinating.

But the offense without Brown? It’s not hard to envision the 2023 Illini looking a lot 2022 Michigan State’s offense without Kenneth Walker III.


Outcome: Lost to LSU, 63-7, in Citrus Bowl

Takeaway: Purdue has 3 legitimate NFL prospects, all of whom sat out this game and are the heart of the offense. LSU has legitimate NFL prospects at almost every position, and a majority of them were on the field.

Oh, and the Boilermakers didn’t have a coach, either.

No one should be surprised this tied for the biggest blowout in bowl game history. Purdue’s train never had a chance to make it out of the station.

Penn State

Outcome: Beat Utah, 35-21, in Rose Bowl

Takeaway: Sure, the Nittany Lions caught a break when Utah quarterback Cam Rising exited with a knee injury that brought the Utes’ offense to a halt.

But Rising’s injury had nothing to do with Utah’s inability to stop Nicholas Singleton from scoring an 87-yard touchdown or Sean Clifford from connecting with Keandre Smith-Lambert for an 88-yard touchdown.

Penn State’s performance was by far the best of any Big Ten team this postseason, and also lifted the B1G to a 5-4 overall bowl record.

More importantly, it also gave James Franklin his first win over a top 10 opponent since beating Ohio State in 2016. Penn State’s stock is soaring as we head into the offseason.