How should B1G fans feel after bowl season?
The Big Ten went 5-4 in bowl season, which means it was an up-and-down bowl season for the nine conference teams involved. College football jolts fans into emotional states like few other sports and the bowls — after which we enter a very long offseason — always bring out those feelings.
Here is our look at how Big Ten fans should feel after the league’s involvement in bowl season has ended.
FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. Every Big Ten athletic director, coach and fan should be feeling this because the league missed out on the College Football Playoff for the second year in a row. Fans in other parts of the country, especially down south, gleefully point out that the B1G has not scored a point in a CFP game in four years — Ohio State was shut out in a 2016 semifinal, as was Michigan State in 2015. When B1G teams get a shot at other Power 5 leagues, especially the SEC, early in a season they simply cannot afford to flub their lines. That should be the lesson going forward.
Surprise: Iowa provided the nicest surprise for the Big Ten in bowl season, beating Mississippi State’s rugged defense 27-22 at the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla. The Bulldogs never game up 30 points all season and, for what it’s worth, even Alabama only scored 24 on MSU. A three-game winning streak gives the Hawkeyes some nice feelings to end what was otherwise a disappointing season.
Regret: Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State. These are supposed to be three of the league’s flagship programs but they all fell flat in their bowls. Then there are programs like Indiana and Maryland who will spend the spring and summer kicking themselves for squandering opportunities to join the postseason party.
Envy: Always, it comes back to the B1G trying to catch the SEC. This season didn’t help the B1G’s case. As we mentioned, Iowa held up its end of the bargain by defeating Mississippi State. But overall the SEC went 3-1 in bowls against the B1G and two of those games were blowouts. Purdue perhaps could be forgiven for getting whomped by an Auburn team that was clearly better than the Boilermakers. But Penn State’s loss to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl — in which the Nittany Lions trailed big before rallying — and Michigan getting routed by Florida in the Peach Bowl is harder to explain away.
Relief: This is reserved for Ohio State, which took a 28-3 lead over Washington in the Rose Bowl and almost watched it all evaporate in a 28-23 victory. It also has to be somewhat of a relief that the whole Urban Meyer saga which clouded the 2018 season is over and now the program can move forward with Ryan Day as the new coach. Has a 13-1 season ever felt so weird?
Optimism: Minnesota and Northwestern. The Golden Gophers blasted Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl, providing a memorable moment for coach P.J. Fleck’s team in his second season. Minnesota could have packed it in after a midseason four-game skid but kept fighting and it paid off in two huge wins, over rival Wisconsin then the Yellow Jackets. As for the Wildcats, they have both fight and talent and demonstrated both again when they rallied to beat Utah in the Holiday Bowl. These are two programs clearly moving in the right direction.
Ennui: Wisconsin. How else can Badgers fans feel after a season of monumental disappointment followed by a thrashing of Miami in the Pinstripe Bowl? The Hurricanes seemed like they were well past giving a darn about their bowl and Mark Richt’s stunning retirement as coach cements that perception. But does that win make up for a season in which Wisconsin lost its grip on both the B1G West Division and, for the first time in 15 years, Paul Bunyan’s Axe? Hardly.
Grief mixed with inspiration: Tyler Trent. All of college football was touched by the story of Trent, a cancer-stricken Purdue student and superfan whose only wish was to see his beloved Boilermakers beat heavily favored Ohio State. They did, then they knocked off rival Indiana to become bowl eligible. Thanks to Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, Trent got to make a bowl trip to Nashville to see Purdue face Auburn. That trip became all the more poignant this week when Trent died of bone cancer at age 20. Tyler Trent’s tenacity and personality in the face of his fatal disease was an inspiration to all. His legacy includes the Tyler Trent Cancer Research Endowment for Riley Hospital in Indiana. According to the hospital’s website, the funds raised will help cover the cost of genetic testing for families.