Hickey: Predicting the final score for every Big Ten bowl game
Bowl season is finally upon us in the Big Ten.
Thanks to a pair of teams reaching the College Football Playoff, every other B1G team essentially moved up a spot from where it normally would have been this bowl season. And that means the festivities haven’t gotten under way yet but finally will when Wisconsin kicks off in Tuesday night’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
With Ohio sports betting apps launching this week, you can sign up now and get hundreds of dollars in free bets to use on the Buckeyes, NFL games and other sports:
Given the patchwork nature of bowl rosters and coaching staffs, predicting the outcomes of these games is seemingly an exercise in futility. But in the eyes of the sports books, these games certainly still count — and thus come with a vested interest from outsiders.
Without further ado, brace yourself for our 2022 Big Ten bowl predictions. The only guarantee is they will not go 9-0.
Guaranteed Rate Bowl
Wisconsin (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State (7-5)
When: Dec. 27, 10:15 p.m. ET
Where: Chase Field (Phoenix)
Prediction: Wisconsin 21, Oklahoma State 16
Both teams lost their starting quarterback in the transfer portal, which is automatically an advantage for the Badgers. (Yes, I’m being mean to Graham Mertz, but this could be the last time I can ever throw shade at him.)
Chase Wolf and freshman Myles Burkett both figure to get snaps at quarterback for the Badgers in Luke Fickell’s first game on the sidelines. And really, that’s all it will be — Fickell is basically symbolically coaching Wisconsin with the current coaching staff doing all the decision-making.
Oklahoma State also lost its leading rusher to the portal, while Wisconsin has Braelon Allen available. The Badgers could romp. But it’s a bowl game. So, who knows?
Minnesota (8-4) vs. Syracuse (7-5)
When: Dec. 29, 2 p.m. ET
Where: Yankee Stadium (Bronx, NY)
Sports Betting in Big Ten Country
21+ and present in OH. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER.
Prediction: Minnesota 28, Syracuse 12
A pair of unstoppable forces collide in this matchup.
First, and most important, is PJ Fleck coaching in a bowl game. The Gophers are 3-0 in bowls under Fleck, and with a win here he’ll have the most bowl wins of any coach in Minnesota history.
But the venue is undoubtedly disconcerting to any Minnesota sports fan. Since the beginning of 2015, MLB’s Minnesota Twins are an almost unbelievable 3-24 at Yankee Stadium. Overall, the Twins are 38-98 against Yankee Stadium’s regular tenants since 2002, including a 14-53 record in the Bronx.
We’ll see how powerful the Yankee Stadium curse on Minnesotans is.
Duke’s Mayo Bowl
Maryland (7-5) vs. No. 23 NC State (8-4)
When: Dec. 30, Noon ET
Where: Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte)
Prediction: NC State 24, Maryland 23
The winning coach in this game gets doused with a cooler of mayonnaise, which means I would absolutely be throwing this game if I was a head coach. Though I suppose it’s still better than getting doused with a cooler of Miracle Whip.
The Terps and Wolfpack have a surprisingly fun rivalry going back to their ACC days. The all-time series is deadlocked at 33-33-4. So even though they haven’t played in 9 years, this figures to follow suit as a thriller.
Music City Bowl
Iowa (7-5) vs. Kentucky (7-5)
When: Dec. 31, Noon ET
Where: Nissan Stadium (Nashville)
Prediction: Kentucky 12, Iowa 7
The over-under for this game is 31 points, and I’m wondering how Vegas figures it will be that high scoring.
Kentucky’s best 2 offensive players — quarterback Will Levis and running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. — are opting out. The Hawkeyes are down to third-string quarterback Joe Labas, who could beat out neither Spencer Petras nor Alex Padilla for the starting job.
And on top of that, both of these teams are built on great defenses. If there are touchdowns in this game, they’re more likely to come on special teams or defense than offense.
Fiesta Bowl (CFP semifinal)
No. 2 Michigan (13-0) vs. No. 3 TCU (12-1)
When: Dec. 31, 4 p.m. ET
Where: State Farm Stadium (Glendale, Ariz.)
Prediction: Michigan 35, TCU 24
Somehow the matchup between Iowa and Kentucky segues into a game that will determine who plays for the national championship. Only in college football.
TCU is getting garden variety brand-name disrespect here, but the Horned Frogs are better than some folks want to give them credit for. Unfortunately for them, Michigan isn’t a very good draw.
The Wolverines control the clock as well as anybody and will keep TCU’s explosive offense on the sidelines. Michigan’s defense also excels at minimizing the explosive plays that are the Horned Frogs’ lifeblood.
Even without Blake Corum available, the Wolverines will put points on the board.
Peach Bowl (CFP semifinal)
No. 4 Ohio State (11-1) vs. No. 1 Georgia (13-0)
When: Dec. 31, 8 p.m.
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)
Prediction: Georgia 34, Ohio State 31
I don’t see the Buckeyes getting steamrolled a second straight time. Ohio State will be playing with a nothing-to-lose attitude, which clearly was not the case against Michigan.
If I had to guess, this game will be closer than a presumptive national title game showdown between Georgia and Michigan. Ohio State has the rare passing attack that can do damage against the Bulldogs’ defense.
But the defending national champs aren’t going to be fazed. Whether it’s on offense or defense, Georgia will make a big play late in the fourth quarter to seal the deal.
Illinois (8-4) vs. Mississippi State (8-4)
When: Jan. 2, noon ET
Where: Raymond James Stadium (Tampa)
Prediction: Mississippi State 26, Illinois 10
It’s impossible to know what to expect from the Bulldogs following Mike Leach’s death. One presumes Mississippi State will be highly motivated, and this could turn ugly quickly. Illinois has the nation’s top scoring defense, but there might not be the same oomph without defensive coordinator Ryan Walters.
And with Chase Brown opting out for the Illini, I don’t see where the scoring will come from for Illinois. I don’t have the guts to predict it, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Mississippi State won by 30 or more.
Purdue (8-5) vs. No. 17 LSU (9-4)
When: Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET
Where: Camping World Stadium (Orlando)
Prediction: LSU 45, Purdue 20
Aidan O’Connell, Charlie Jones and Payne Durham are all opting out. Jeff Brohm is gone. What was a very interesting theoretical matchup is very likely going to be a pile of junk.
I don’t have the guts to predict it, but it wouldn’t shock me if LSU won by 40 points or more.
No. 11 Penn State (10-2) vs. No. 8 Utah (10-3)
When: Jan. 2, 5 p.m.
Where: Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.)
Prediction: Utah 35, Penn State 34
Pour one out for what may be the last Rose Bowl as we know it.
Next year’s Rose Bowl is a CFP semifinal, and after that the Playoff expands to 12 teams with an unknown structure of how each bowl game fits into the picture. And even if the Big Ten and Pac-12 send future representatives to the Rose Bowl, it’ll be pretty watered down since neither will be in the top 12.
So, let’s see the Grandaddy of Them All go out with a bang. The Utes came close against Ohio State last year, and this time they’ll cross the finish line against a Penn State team that did not look good in its 2 showings against top 10 opponents this season.
Predicted B1G bowl record: 3-6