B1G Burning Bowl Questions
Bowl season is just a week and a half away. Well, for B1G teams it is.
With the postseason fast approaching, here’s a look at a burning question for each B1G bowl team:
-Can Minnesota finally look good against a MAC school?
It’s a realistic question. Sorry, Gopher fans, but Kent State and Ohio came into Minneapolis and nearly pulled off upsets. Against Central Michigan, the Gophers are facing a much more offensive-minded group that will spread them out and take their shots downfield. But for Minnesota not to play down to its competition, it also needs to establish the passing game, which it certainly didn’t in those two non-conference scares.
-Can Nebraska out-coach Jim Mora Jr. for once?
The Huskers get a rematch of sorts when they get to take on UCLA. The Bruins are not at the same level they were at when they beat Bo Pelini’s Nebraska squads in 2012 and 2013. Pelini was ripped for the lack of halftime adjustments when UCLA scored 38 unanswered points and stomped the Huskers at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska didn’t score a second-half touchdown against UCLA in 2012, either. With a month to prepare, can Mike Riley draw up an offensive gameplan that will keep the Bruins off-balanced?
-How will Jordan Howard’s status affect his NFL decision?
Kevin Wilson said that he wants to do what’s best for the IU tailback’s long-term future. That would lend itself to the notion that he’ll be overcautious with Howard’s lingering knee injury. If he can’t play in the Pinstripe Bowl, would that potentially bring him back another year? Howard only played in nine games, only seven of which he was somewhat healthy for. Maybe ending the year on the shelf will convince him he isn’t physically ready to test the NFL waters.
-Will Carl Nassib play?
James Franklin is optimistic that we’ll see the nation’s best defensive lineman in the TaxSlayer Bowl. The Lions need him because they haven’t been the same team since he went down before that final drive against Northwestern. He’s the key to the Lions forcing third-and-longs, getting off the field and allowing the offense to get into some sort of rhythm.
-What kind of note will Joel Stave end on?
One of the more scrutinized players in the B1G in recent memory will play his final collegiate game. Stave certainly didn’t have the Camp Randall swan song he was probably hoping for against Northwestern. But it would be somewhat fitting if Stave played his best game of the year and led the Badgers to a 10-win season, confusing his legacy even more.
-Will Northwestern destroy that laughable spread?
It went down to 8.5, but nothing better illustrates the misconceived SEC dominance better than the line for the Outback Bowl. The Wildcats, who haven’t lost since the middle of October, looked like the group that beat Stanford down the stretch. That’s the win Northwestern gets zero credit for. Everyone is assuming a big back like Jalen Hurd will run all over the Wildcats. But if Anthony Walker and Dean Lowry play like they did in the final five weeks, the Vols will be searching for offense all afternoon.
-Will Florida and Michigan combine for 30 points?
Everybody is expecting this game to be a defensive struggle because two top-five defenses are squaring off. But Michigan isn’t anywhere near as inept as Florida is on offense. The Wolverines actually complete forward passes and can sustain drives, which the Gators struggle to do without Will Grier. Still, with two of the top secondaries in America, points could be few and far between.
-Will we see the Michigan version of Ohio State?
The obvious question on the mind of all OSU fans heading into another top-10 showdown is how will the Buckeyes come out for this one? There aren’t many people who would say Notre Dame’s best is better than Ohio State’s best. If the Buckeyes repeat their Michigan effort up front, there’s not a team in the country that can stop them. That, of course, is easier said than done against that Notre Dame defense.
-Can Iowa prevent Christian McCaffrey from running wild?
The Heisman Trophy runner-up is obviously going to warrant plenty of attention from the Iowa defense. McCaffrey has athleticism that the Hawkeyes haven’t seen at the tailback position all year. Winning the battle in the trenches is obviously key but Iowa’s Rose Bowl fate could be determined by its ability to tackle at the second level and prevent McCaffrey from busting the big play.
-Is this the ultimate chip-on-the-shoulder game for MSU?
Despite the fact that nobody has more quality victories in the last month than the Spartans, they’re nearly a double-digit underdog against Alabama. Nobody plays the disrespect card better than Mark Dantonio. Against the overwhelming favorite to win the national title and the Heisman Trophy winner that actually called MSU “Michigan,” this is the perfect pregame script for the Spartans. Whether or not it’ll lead to an effort like we saw against Ohio State remains to be seen.