As we all know, how a conference's teams fare in bowls determines in large part how the conference is deemed in the coming season (being "up" - strong - or "down" - weak). As PSU fans, we've heard for years it seems, that the Big 10 has been "down" - although the strong showing last year in the bowls made for a 2010 season where the Big 10 was thought of as more "up" than "down". The Big 10 out of conference games at the beginning of the 2010 season were somewhat inconsistant. PSU lost to Alabama, Iowa lost to Arizona, tOSU beat Miami (which looked less and less impressive as the season played out), Minnesota lost to just about everyone, Wisconsin took care of business against Arizona State, Illinois lost to Missouri, Purdue lost to Notre Dame, Indiana beat all OOC opponents (but they were all weak), Northwestern beat Vandy which now looks less than impressive, Michigan State beat Notre Dame, and Michigan beat Notre Dame and UCONN. Overall a Meh performance for the conference so it could be argued that the conference needs a solid showing in the bowls to maintain the perception of being "up" or at least on the way "up" (if you care at all what the perception of the conference is which many do).
Right now Stewart Mandel of SI is thinking this is the most likely lineup for the Big 10 (Mark Schlabach of ESPN guesses are in parenthesis for the bowls' matchups - only Iowa and Michigan flip-flop bowls and the competition in each bowl remains the same):
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin v TCU (same)
Sugar Bowl: tOSU v Arkansas (same)
Gator Bowl: Michigan v Florida (Iowa v Florida)
Outback Bowl: PSU v South Carolina (Same)
Capitol One: Michigan State v LSU (same)
TicketCity: Northwestern v Texas Tech (Same)
Texas Bowl: Illinois v Baylor (same)
Insight Bowl: Iowa v Missouri (Michigan v Missouri)
Based on the lineup and what I think is an honest assessment, I think the Big 10 might have a little trouble and may end up with a middling bowl performance. I think Wisconsin should beat TCU, Northwestern has a good shot against Texas Tech, and Illinois can beat Baylor. That should be three wins. I think Iowa matches up better for a win against Florida than Michigan does, so I hope Iowa ends up with the Gator Bowl. I think Michigan's D has a better chance against Missouri's offense than against Florida (even though Florida isn't as prolific on offense this year minus Tebow). I'm afraid South Carolina might be too much for PSU's defense even though I think the PSU offense could put up some points on South Carolina. Arkansas is going to be tough for tOSU...Arkansas is one of the most under appreciated teams this year. I think Michigan State can beat LSU - especially if Les Miles makes some bone-headed clock management choices again - although it could be a really tough game. So, I can see the Big 10 winning 4 or 5 of the 8 bowls and maybe 2 or 3 of the 5 more important bowls. What do you think?