Year two of Penn State's bowl ban is now in progress, which means another long offseason for Nittany Lion fans. While Penn State faces another two years without going bowling, many believe that further sanctions will be lifted and the Nittany Lions will be bowl-eligible at this time next year. No one quite knows what they future may hold- so while we await Penn State's postseason fate, kick back and enjoy the bowl games of our B10 brethren.
Minnesota (8-4) vs. Syracuse (6-6)
Friday, December 27
ESPN 6 p.m.
Minnesota may have been the biggest surprise of the 2013 Big Ten season. The long-struggling Golden Gophers finally turned things around, finishing the season at 8-4 (4-4 in B10 play) that included wins against Nebraska and Penn State. The Gophers found success by playing traditional Big Ten football- staunch defense and a power running game that eats up clock. Syracuse bounced back after dropping its first two games against Penn State and Northwestern to become bowl eligible, but lacked anything close to an impressive win (or even a close loss against a solid team). Many Big Ten fans felt that Minnesota should have been positioned against a better team, and Syracuse will probably do little to change these sentiments.
Prediction: Minnesota- 30 Syracuse- 14
BUFFALO WILD WINGS BOWL
Michigan (7-5) vs. Kansas State (7-5)
Saturday, December 28
ESPN 10:15 p.m.
The big storyline for this game is the injury of Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, which will force the beginning of the Shane Morris era for the Wolverines. Morris is a very highly-touted true freshman, but has only thrown nine career passes in two appearances this season. Michigan's offense was a train wreck for much of the season, and usually adding an inexperienced quarterback to the mix only makes things worse. However, Gardener was inconsistent and often mistake-prone, so a change at the position could be just what the offense needs. Like Michigan, Kansas State is dealing with a disappointing season a year after nearly making it to the BCS Championship Game. This game looks to be an even match-up, but I'll take an always-disciplined Kansas State team led by Bill Snyder over a team with so much uncertainty on offense.
Prediction: Kansas State- 21 Michigan- 20
Nebraska (8-4) vs. (22)Georgia (8-4)
Wednesday, January 1
Both teams had breathtaking finishes throughout the season, so this game seems to be headed for a wild finish. Another similarity is that both squads would likely be playing in more prestigious bowl games had they not been hindered by injuries throughout the season. Neither Taylor Martinez or Aaron Murray will suit up for this game, but Georgia will have a fully-healthy Todd Gurley, who may be the best player in college football when he's playing at 100 percent. Nebraska will be able to keep it interesting, but probably doesn't have the horses to to pull off another improbable victory.
Prediction: Georgia- 31 Nebraska- 24
CAPITAL ONE BOWL
(19)Wisconsin (9-3) vs. (9)South Carolina (10-2)
Wednesday, January 1
ABC 1 p.m.
The Big Ten may be involved in the two most evenly-matched bowl games between the Capital One and Rose bowls. The Badgers and Gamecocks both run the ball very well, pass the ball effectively and make opposing offenses put together long drives to get points on the scoreboard. Wisconsin likely comes in with more motivation as they try to bounce back from a devastating Senior Day loss to Penn State (!!!!!!!!!!!), but South Carolina comes in hot on a five-game winning streak that includes wins against #5 Missouri and #6 Clemson. This one should be a battle to the very end.
Prediction: Wisconsin- 27 South Carolina- 24
Iowa (8-4) vs. (16)LSU (9-3)
Wednesday, January 1
ESPN 1 p.m.
On paper, this game doesn't look like much. However, the Hawkeyes have a few factors working in their favor. First off, freshman Anthony Jennings will be making his first career start at quarterback for LSU. While he is inexperienced, he played brilliantly in a game-winning drive in the regular season finale against Arkansas after Zach Mettenberger exited the game with a torn ACL. Jennings looks to be extremely talented and could end up having a coming-out party to build plenty of buzz for 2014. After a couple down seasons, Iowa will be very excited for a New Year's Day bowl. Will LSU, who are more accustomed to more prestigious bowl games, be able to match their enthusiasm? Iowa has the defense to keep the game close. They will need the bounces to go their way to pull this one off, and may have used up their luck the last time these teams played each other.
Prediction: LSU- 26 Iowa- 20
Michigan State (12-1) vs. Stanford (11-2)
Wednesday, January 1
ABC 5 p.m.
If I could only watch one bowl game this year, this would be it. These are the two most physical teams you will see all bowl season, and have the top two defenses in all of college football. If you're a fan of smash-mouth football, this will be a dream come true. Both teams will have to fight tooth-and-nail for every inch. I was ready to pull the trigger and predict a Michigan State victory, but the suspension of starting middle linebacker and captain Max Bullough may give the ever-so-slight edge back to Stanford. Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan has been mistake prone at times, so I could still see the Spartans phenomenal secondary coming up with a key interception to seal the victory.
Prediction: Michigan State- 17 Stanford- 16
(7)Ohio State (12-1) vs. (12)Clemson (11-2)
Friday, January 3
ESPN 8:30 p.m.
This game features two of the best offenses in the nation, led by multi-dimensional quarterbacks who are among the best players in all of the college game. While the offenses are explosive as you will find, the defenses are what prevented each team from achieving their national title inspirations. While both teams had bigger dreams for most of the season, they appear to be very evenly-matched and could end up playing in the most entertaining game of the bowl season. Expect lots of scoring in an exciting back-and-forth affair. Most teams whose national title hopes are dashed in the conference championship game have a hard time becoming motivated for a "lesser" bowl and ultimately lose to a team they have no business losing to. While I could see this happening with Ohio State, I think that Urban Meyer is too good of a coach to not have his players at full potential for a game like this.
Prediction: Ohio State- 49 Clemson- 47