The 2022 Saturday Tradition all-Big Ten Bowl team
With only the CFP national championship remaining, bowl season is officially in the books for the Big Ten.
And though there’s an all-Big Ten team for the regular season, bowl season doesn’t get the same treatment. Until now, because we deem it so.
Here is your 2022 Saturday Tradition all-Big Ten Bowl team. In an attempt to keep with what a modern football lineup usually looks like, we’re using 3 wide receivers and 1 running back on this team as well as a 4-3 base defense.
Zach VanValkenburg, Iowa
The Hawkeyes senior had one of the best performances by any defensive lineman in the country this bowl season.
VanValkenburg record 8 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks against Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl.
— ✯✯✯✯✯ (@FTB_Vids_YT) January 1, 2022
Zach VanValkenburg with an incredible effort to stop Kentucky's 4D attempt!pic.twitter.com/lcpsofzD3G
— PFN Draft (@PFNDraft) January 1, 2022
Smith Vilbert, Penn State
Facing Arkansas’ well-respected offensive line, Vilbert more than held his own. In fact, he did much of the pushing around.
Vilbert finished with 4 tackles and 3 sacks. It was truly a breakout performance for Vilbert, who hadn’t recorded a sack all season. This is the upside to players opting out of bowl games — we see what guys like Vilbert might bring next year.
— SKYBOAT (@TheSkyBoat) January 1, 2022
Nick Tarburton, Penn State
Another Nittany Lion defensive end makes the list following the Outback Bowl trench battle with Arkansas.
Tarburton had a sack among his 2 tackles for loss as well as 7 total tackles.
Unfortunately, Tarburton and Vilbert received little-to-no help from Penn State’s offense in the 24-10 loss.
Esezi Otomewo, Minnesota
The Golden Gophers completely dominated West Virginia up front with Otomewo doing much of the damage.
Otomewo had 2 sacks among his 3 tackles, and Minnesota held the Mountaineers to 66 rushing yards in the 18-6 Guaranteed Rate Bowl win.
Cal Halladay, Michigan State
If the Peach Bowl ended with Halladay simply getting 11 tackles, he’d still be on this list. But when some would end their sentence with a period, Halladay chose an exclamation point. His 79-yard pick-6 in the final minute clinched Michigan State’s 31-21 win over Pitt.
Cal Halladay called game.
Michigan State cliches a Peach Bowl Win on this Pick Six 🍑 pic.twitter.com/2uopR6ctXb
— The Dylan & Dylan Show (@DylanDylanShow) December 31, 2021
Jaylan Alexander, Purdue
I know what you’re thinking.
“Did you even watch the Music City Bowl? How is a guy who played defense in that game on the all-bowl team?”
Well, someone was out there making tackles. And in Purdue’s case, No. 36 was the one making virtually all of them. Alexander had a career-high 19 tackles, including 10 solos, in the Boilermakers’ 48-45 overtime win over Tennessee.
Alexander declared for the NFL Draft following that outstanding performance.
Nick Herbig, Wisconsin
The thing about Wisconsin’s linebacking corps is you very well could have placed any of them in this position after their performance in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Leo Chenal led the team in tackles, as he always does. Jack Sanborn was disruptive in the backfield, as is often the case.
But I’m giving the edge to Herbig, who had a team-high 5 solo stops in addition to 2.5 TFL, 2 of which were sacks.
Ji’Ayir Brown, Penn State
It wasn’t just the front end of the Penn State defense doing work in the Outback Bowl.
Brown picked off a pair of Razorbacks passes to go along with 6 tackles.
Jermari Harris, Iowa
Harris was absolutely fantastic in the Citrus Bowl, finishing with 6 tackles, 2 pass breakups and an interception.
Harris’ third INT of the season could have been the game-clincher had Kirk Ferentz elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 with the ability to run out the clock if Iowa gained a first down on the ensuing possession. The Hawkeyes punted, and Kentucky came back downfield for the 20-17 win.
— ✯✯✯✯✯ (@FTB_Vids_YT) January 1, 2022
John Torchio, Wisconsin
The Badgers safety was all over the field in the Vegas Bowl.
Torchio had 5 tackles, including 1 for loss, to go along with an interception on the game’s opening possession. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t a starter until the bowl game.
— ✯✯✯✯✯ (@FTB_Vids_YT) December 31, 2021
Tyler Nubin, Minnesota
Nubin was the face of a dominating performance from Minnesota’s secondary.
The safety finished the Guaranteed Rate Bowl with a team-high 8 tackles, including 7 solos and a sack. He also had a pass breakup as the Gophers limited West Virginia to 140 passing yards.
Sorry. We don’t have the all-22 from every bowl game to break this down position-by-position. This is a unit award.
And no B1G offensive line looked better than Minnesota’s this bowl season, which adds up when 4 of those Gophers will at the very least be in NFL training camps next fall.
Minnesota’s beefy front 5 paved the way for a pair of 100-yard rushers against a stout West Virginia defense. Ky Thomas rushed for 144 yards on 21 carries, while Mar’Keise Irving gained 129 on 19 attempts.
And to make matters more fun, right tackle Daniel Faalele got to score a touchdown as a fullback.
We quite possibly just had the largest touchdown EVER scored.
6-foot-9, 380-pound Daniel Faalele rumbled in for the Gophers TD 😂🙌 pic.twitter.com/lel9AJIyDS
— WeAreBigGuys (@WeAreBigGuys) December 29, 2021
CJ Stroud, Ohio State
As it was during the regular season, it was during bowl season — no Big Ten quarterback came close to touching CJ Stroud.
The freshman returned to his home state and put on a Rose Bowl performance for the ages, completing 37 of 46 attempts for 573 yards and 6 touchdowns. Stroud set a single-game school record for passing yardage and tied the program mark for most touchdowns. And he likely would have had another if Jaxon Smith-Njigba had not been stripped on the way to the end zone during a wild, back-and-forth second quarter.
Stroud proved he’s far more than a product of his talented receiving corps in one of the all-time great Rose Bowl showings.
Braelon Allen, Wisconsin
Another “just like the regular season” scenario, at least with Kenneth Walker III opting out of bowl season.
Allen was the Big Ten’s second-best running back in his freshman year, and kept up that form with 159 yards on 29 carries against Arizona State.
The 17-year-old will be on Heisman watch lists next year, though he’s also an underdog to be the player of the year within his own conference.
Sam LaPorta, Iowa
Regardless of year, Iowa’s tight end is a pretty solid bet for an all-Big Ten Bowl team. “TE Hawkeyes” is every bit as effective as “QB Eagles” was in Tecmo Super Bowl.
LaPorta was Iowa’s leading receiver by 95(!) yards, finishing with 122 yards and a touchdown on 7 receptions. And believe us when we say the touchdown was all LaPorta (plus some sick downfield blocking).
TOUCHDOWN IOWA 🐤
Sam LaPorta gives the Hawkeyes the leadpic.twitter.com/1LOrZDqXIm
— On Iowa Sports (@GazetteOnIowa) January 1, 2022
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
You’re never going to see a better performance by a wide receiver in any bowl game. Or at least you’re unlikely to, because before Smith-Njigba’s Rose Bowl explosion there never had been a better performance by a wide receiver in a bowl game.
With Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave opting out, Smith-Njigba picked up the slack with a bowl-record 347 receiving yards on 15 catches. He scored 3 touchdowns.
JAXON SMITH-NJIGBA IS DIFFERENT @OhioStateFB
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) January 2, 2022
Broc Thompson, Purdue
The Boilermakers were in a heck of a bind without Big Ten Receiver of the Year David Bell, who opted out for the NFL Draft.
Enter Broc Thompson.
Thompson had 7 catches for 217 yards and 2 touchdowns — a 75-yarder and a 70-yarder — in leading the shorthanded Boilermakers to the 48-45 Music City Bowl win. This looked like it would surely be the best individual performance of the Big Ten bowl season until Stroud and Smith-Njigba showed up on the scene.
YOU GET A SCORE, YOU GET A SCORE, EVERYONE IS GETTING A SCORE!!!! BROC THOMPSON AGAIN!! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/fNICXUwj6s
— The Transfer Portal CFB (@TPortalCFB) December 31, 2021
Darryl Jones, Maryland
Jones was a monument to efficiency in the Pinstripe Bowl.
He only had 4 catches, but turned them into 111 yards and 2 scores as Maryland won a bowl game for the first time in 11 years. Jones hadn’t scored a touchdown all season before breaking the ice on a 70-yard connection with Taulia Tagovailoa.
The Terps destroyed former ACC rival Virginia Tech 54-10 at Yankee Stadium.
What a moment for @DarrylJones_
His first TD in the biggest game of our season. pic.twitter.com/lSnuaGQi9u
— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) January 1, 2022
Tarheeb Still, Maryland
Home-run plays were kind of Maryland’s thing at Yankee Stadium.
Still was the first Terrapin to touch the ball against Virginia Tech, and promptly returned that punt 92 yards for a touchdown. It was the first Big Ten punt return for a touchdown in a bowl game since 2004 — a full decade before Maryland even joined the conference.
TARHEEB STILL 92-YARD LEADOFF HOMER AT YANKEE STADIUM FOR THE TERPS pic.twitter.com/8TY8dT3m5e
— BetMGM 🦁 (@BetMGM) December 29, 2021
Mitchell Fineran, Purdue
Fineran was a perfect 4-for-4 on both field goals and extra points, with his walk-off 39-yarder in overtime providing the winning margin for the Boilermakers.
Because contrary to what you may have heard from some SEC-based broadcasters, Purdue did win the Music City Bowl.
Andy Vujnovich, Wisconsin
Like the Oscars, we’ve saved the best for last — top punter of the Big Ten bowl season.
This is, unsurprisingly, a pretty heated competition. And though he may have benefitted from punting indoors, or the thin Vegas air, Wisconsin’s Vujnovich stands out.
He averaged a whopping 55.3 yards per punt on his 3 kicks, including a long of 57 yards.