Now that we know who's skipping bowl games, here are the 3 B1G teams I'm most confident in
Say what you want about players sitting out bowl games.
You like it, you don’t like it, you don’t care, you’re wondering how long this sentence will run, whatever. It’s happening, so regardless of how you feel about it, we’re going to have to adjust our expectations for some of these matchups.
While there could still be more players who announce they’re sitting, the list of skippers looks pretty close to final. That means we have an even better idea of what these matchups look like.
So with that in mind, I decided to look at which B1G teams I have the most confidence in.
Here are the 3 that I rolled with:
1. Ohio State vs. Washington
Full disclaimer here. I had Washington as a preseason Playoff team, and not Ohio State. I loved what the Huskies returned in Myles Gaskin and Jake Browning, and I thought that amount of defensive production would help them reach their second Playoff berth in the last 3 seasons.
But as for this matchup, yeah, I’m not betting against Ohio State. It’s hard to imagine Urban Meyer going out with a loss. That will provide plenty of motivation in that locker room, as will the Buckeyes’ desire to show the selection committee it made a mistake by leaving the 1-loss B1G champs out of the Playoff.
There’s also the likely possibility that this is Dwayne Haskins’ last collegiate game. He’ll want to go out on a high note and improve his rising draft stock.
It’s ironic that both of these teams, in a way, fell short of high preseason expectations and are loaded with NFL draft prospects, yet Nick Bosa is technically the only one who is “skipping” the Rose Bowl (as of this writing).
There’s a reason Ohio State is nearly a touchdown favorite. I’d bet on the Buckeyes to win, and win convincingly against a Washington squad that hasn’t faced an offense quite like what they’ll see on New Year’s Day.
2. Penn State vs. Kentucky
Kentucky’s story has been one of the best in college football all year. In the program’s best season in decades, they proved plenty of doubters wrong along the way.
But on New Year’s Day, give me Penn State to roll.
I think the Lions’ balance will prove to be too much for a Kentucky defense that feasted on 1-dimensional offenses. As great as Josh Allen and that Wildcat defense has been, they struggle against teams that have formidable running games and quarterbacks who can stretch the field. The last 3 years told us all that Trace McSorley can do that by himself.
With Miles Sanders and KJ Hamler, McSorley will have plenty of help. That creates too big of a hole for a Kentucky offense that’s not build to rally back from a multi-score deficit.
And while it’s Penn State offense against Kentucky’s defense that’s the obvious matchup to watch, let’s not forget the Lions surrendered an average of 7 points per contest in their final 3 games. I wouldn’t be surprised if that continued in Orlando.
3. Wisconsin vs. Miami (FL)
Um, wait. Haven’t I seen this movie before? Oh, this is the sequel? Ok. I’ll bet on the sequel having an eerily similar ending as the original.
I know, I know. What about Alex Hornibrook being injured? Won’t that impact the Badgers’ chances after what he did in lighting up the vaunted Canes defense last year? Possibly. But I like Jack Coan’s chances, with a month to prepare, of playing the best game of his young career.
Miami (FL) is a much, much different program than it was at this time a year ago. The Hurricanes are no longer the college football darling they were for most of 2017. They’ve since gone 4-8 against Power 5 teams dating back to last year’s Pitt loss. And in what figures to be Wisconsin weather in New York, I don’t like Miami’s chances of flipping that trend.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will be there, but he got the Temple job after Miami’s season ended. He’ll be without second-team All-American defensive tackle Gerald Willis III, who will miss the game due to injury (hello, Jonathan Taylor).
Miami (FL) also lost top receiver Jeff Thomas after he was kicked off the team (he transferred to Illinois). And even if they had Thomas, there’s no guarantee he’d have anyone to get him the ball. Malik Rosier, who lost his last 7 starts against Power 5 teams including last year’s Orange Bowl against Wisconsin, will try to end that skid.
As bad as Wisconsin was down the stretch, I think the Badgers defense that was banged up throughout 2018 gets a little healthier thanks to the long layoff. That can happen even without the injured Ryan Connelly.
Thanks to some forced turnovers and Taylor doing Taylor things, Wisconsin gives Miami (FL) some Orange Bowl flashbacks.