Big Ten

Ranking the Big Ten bowl schedule from 1 to 10


Ranking the Big Ten bowl schedule from 1 to 10

A record-matching 10 Big Ten teams will play in the postseason this winter.

There's quite a bit of variety, with some teams playing on the biggest of stages and others only reluctantly invited to bowls with sub-.500 records.

Michigan State highlights the bowl-bound teams, with the Spartans playing in the College Football Playoff with a chance to go to the national title game. Two other Big Ten teams are playing in prestigious New Year's Six bowl games.

Two Big Ten teams, Nebraska and Minnesota, are heading out to bowl destinations despite finishing the regular season with 5-7 records.

All in all, it's an even 10 squads suiting up this December and January.

Here's a look at the matchups, ranked from best to worst.

1. Cotton Bowl: Michigan State vs. Alabama

How could this not be No. 1?

The storylines are abundant, what with Michigan State going up against one of its former coaches in Nick Saban. Mark Dantonio was Saban’s defensive backs coach in East Lansing before eventually returning as head coach and turning the Spartans into a national power. Plus, it’s the Big Ten vs. SEC, it’s the College Football Playoff and there’s a spot in the national championship game on the line.

The Tide are big favorites, but surely the Spartans have had the more-impressive season, beating four top-15 teams, including two teams ranked in the top seven, while the Tide have no wins over any team ranked higher than No. 19. Of course Alabama is a very good team, but brand bias might be driving its No. 2 ranking and its status as favorite. Time for Dantonio and Michigan State to do what they always do: prove people wrong. Dantonio’s 6-1 in his last seven games against top-10 teams.

[MORE BIG TEN: Though Playoff awaits, Spartans can count mission at least partly accomplished]

2. Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs. Notre Dame

You couldn’t have asked for a more intriguing matchup outside of the College Football Playoff, as this rematch of the 2006 Fiesta Bowl ought to be mighty entertaining.

Both teams are good on both sides of the ball and have the offensive star power to match. Irish running back C.J. Prosise has been great, as has freshman quarterback DeShone Kizer and wide receiver Will Fuller. But of course the Buckeyes have a Heisman candidate at running back in Ezekiel Elliott and playmakers at quarterback in J.T. Barrett and receiver in Michael Thomas.

The edge for the Buckeyes could come on the ground, as the Irish have put up mediocre rush-defense numbers and Elliott is one of the best backs in the country. Plus, will the Notre Dame offensive line be able to prevent Joey Bosa from wreaking havoc? The Irish have allowed 22 sacks this season.

3. Rose Bowl: Iowa vs. Stanford

While both teams are probably disappointed they didn’t reach the College Football Playoff, the Rose Bowl is a mighty fine consolation prize. Iowa’s undefeated season was ended in the Big Ten Championship Game loss to Michigan State, while Stanford couldn’t reach the final four despite a win over USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

This game features one of the country’s best players in do-it-all Stanford star Christian McCaffery. But the matchup could favor Iowa, which could get back to running the ball after it was shut down by Michigan State. The Hawkeyes have plenty of capable backs but were held to just 52 rushing yards by the Spartans. Stanford ranks just 50th when it comes to total defense and 44th in rush defense.

The Hawkeyes might not be able to entirely slow down McCaffery, but they boast the No. 20 defense in the country and have played and beat two teams that rank higher in total offense than the Cardinal in Indiana and Nebraska.

[MORE BIG TEN: Even in defeat, Hawkeyes prove they belong with college football's best]

4. Outback Bowl: Northwestern vs. Tennessee

The Cats play great defense and have a shot at program history in the Outback Bowl, where a win over Tennessee would give them the first 11-win season by a Northwestern team ever. The SEC has provided good matches for Northwestern, too. It was in the 2010 Outback Bowl where Mike Kafka threw for more than 500 yards in a wild overtime loss to Auburn. And the 10-win 2012 campaign was capped with a win over Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl. Tennessee’s a good team — ranked No. 23 in the final College Football Playoff rankings — that counts among its four razor-thin losses defeats at the hands of Big 12 champion Oklahoma and SEC champion Alabama. Prediction: This should be a close game.

5. Citrus Bowl: Michigan vs. Florida

There’s a good chance that a field goal could win this one, meaning a 3-0 score wouldn’t be out of the question. Michigan and Florida might not provide the offensive fireworks of some of these other games, but they are two of the top defensive teams in college football. Michigan ranks fourth in the country in total defense. Florida is right behind at sixth. It’s a battle between the last two D.J. Durkin defenses, as the new Maryland head coach served as the Wolverines’ defensive coordinator this season after working as the Gators’ defensive coordinator in 2014.

6. Pinstripe Bowl: Indiana vs. Duke

Do you like offense? Then any game featuring the Hoosiers should suffice, but this one could be a super-fun shootout at Yankee Stadium. Indiana was once again one of the Big Ten’s most explosive offenses, one of the most explosive offenses in the country. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard will be looking to boost their NFL Draft stocks in this one, so expect an avalanche of points. And though Indiana’s defense generally makes any opponent look like an offensive juggernaut, Duke can pour on the points, too. The Blue Devils scored at least 34 points six times this season and are one of the nations top 40 passing teams.

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Spartans gear right here]

7. Foster Farms Bowl: Nebraska vs. UCLA

Sub-.500 Nebraska might not “deserve” to be in a bowl game in the eyes of many, but math dictated that some 5-7 teams had to play postseason football this season. And the Huskers’ inclusion could give us a good game in the Foster Farms Bowl. You might not think much of Nebraska, and it’s true that they played poor defense much of the season, negating the excuse of close margins in its bevy of losses. But the Huskers can score. Tommy Armstrong isn’t the most-accurate quarterback — 16 interceptions this season — but he also threw for more than 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns. Both Nebraska and UCLA rank in the top 30 in the country in passing and both give up a lot of points.

8. Holiday Bowl: Wisconsin vs. USC

These two teams haven’t played since the 1960s, so it’ll be cool to see them on the same field again. USC lost five games this season, but four of those losses came against teams currently ranked in the top 15. Same goes for Wisconsin, which lost just three times but to three top-15 teams. The Badgers undoubtedly have the edge in defense, the No. 3 such unit in the country, where the Trojans rank much farther down the list. That being said, there’s no doubt USC has the offensive advantage, with good passing numbers behind Cody Kessler. Wisconsin’s offense, meanwhile, has done little to inspire much confidence, with injuries ravaging that side of the ball and Joel Stave prone to turnovers. If Corey Clement is healthy enough to play come Dec. 30, it could be a different story, though.

9. TaxSlayer Bowl: Penn State vs. Georgia

Similar to the Citrus Bowl between Michigan and Florida, this Big Ten-SEC matchup features two more of the top defenses in the country. Georgia ranks eighth in the nation in total defense, and Penn State ranks 14th. Despite firing Mark Richt, the Bulldogs weren’t far off from a dream-type season, losing just three times to Alabama, Florida and Tennessee. While the Bulldogs will be without star running back Nick Chubb, who was knocked out for the year with a midseason injury, there’ll still be plenty of star power, as this figures to be the last college game for Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg.

10. Quick Lane Bowl: Minnesota vs. Central Michigan

The lone bowl game to feature a Big Ten team and an opponent from outside the Power 5 conferences, there shouldn’t be too much excitement over the Quick Lane Bowl. Minnesota improved its offensive capabilities as the season went on, though it did part ways with offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover. Running the ball always seems to be the Gophers’ best bet, but Central Michigan has the No. 30 rush defense in the country.

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings


See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 12 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (10-1)

Still the team with the best resume in the country, no one can compete with OU’s wins over TCU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the latter two coming away from Norman. Baker Mayfield might not be a choir boy, but he’s the best player in the nation.

2. Miami (10-0)

You might think that being down 28-14 to Virginia in the second half was cringe-worthy, but the Canes made up for things by storming back with 30 unanswered points. Now they finally have to go away from South Florida for the first time since almost losing to North Carolina last month.

3. Alabama (11-0)

Tide gonna roll. But this Cupcake Weekend in the SEC has got to stop. While teams in other conferences are slugging it out against rivals, Bama gets to take a day off against Mercer? It’s just not fair. Also, Bama’s schedule is so soft, there’s no way it deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country.

4. Georgia (10-1)

The Dawgs should wrap an 11-1 regular season this weekend against Georgia Tech. But the SEC title game presents a kind of no-win scenario: undefeated Alabama or Auburn, who throttled Georgia earlier this month.

5. Wisconsin (11-0)

You didn’t need Wisconsin to do what it did to Iowa and Michigan to prove it had one of the best defenses in the country — but that sure didn’t help. Stockpiling national love with those two wins, a win in the Big Ten title game figures to make the Badgers a Playoff lock.

6. Clemson (10-1)

Why’d Kelly Bryant have to go and get hurt for that Syracuse game? The Tigers would be No. 1 and the undisputed best team in the country. Still, though, a win over Miami in the ACC title game ought to get the champs back into the Playoff.

7. Auburn (9-2)

Great job pounding Louisiana-Monroe, Tigers. You shall not escape the wrath over Cupcake Weekend in the SEC. That dumb game aside, Auburn and Alabama will meet in a titanic Iron Bowl this weekend with a trip to the SEC title game on the line — and perhaps a Playoff spot, as well.

8. Ohio State (9-2)

Not that pummeling Illinois is any big deal, but the Buckeyes are still alive in this thing and look like a team capable of making some Playoff noise. First, Ohio State has to win The Game and then the Big Ten title game to knock out undefeated Wisconsin.

9. Notre Dame (9-2)

Out of the Playoff chase thanks to that loss at Miami, Notre Dame squeaked by Navy this past weekend. Hope a New Year’s Six bowl game is enough for the Irish. We know it’s not enough for those ND fans. So maybe join a conference? Just saying.

10. TCU (9-2)

The Frogs can still make their mark on the Playoff race, even if they can’t get in themselves. The Big 12 title game will almost surely be TCU’s attempt at revenge on Oklahoma. Unfortunately, if revenge does come, it will probably cannibalize the conference’s Playoff hopes, too.

11. Penn State (9-2)

Why Penn State gave up 44 points to Nebraska, I do not know. What I do know is that probably no one cared because Penn State is going to go down as the most inconsequential 10-2 team of all-time. Such a bummer considering the preseason expectations for both the team and Saquon Barkley.

12. USC (10-2)

Yeah, I guess there’s still a way for USC to make the Playoff, but it’s hard to imagine that madness unfolding, even in the oft-mad college football. The Trojans get the winner of the Apple Cup in the Pac-12 title game.

13. UCF (10-0)

Finally we get our much-anticipated UCF-USF showdown this weekend. Make it count, Knights. This is probably gonna be Scott Frost’s last regular-season game in Orlando.

14. Washington (9-2)

It’s hard to say who has the edge in the Apple Cup, but certainly the stakes are high, with the winner going off to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. Can either team make the Playoff? Well, probably not, no.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Is this it for Mike Leach on The Palouse? He could be a hot candidate this offseason and leave for perceived greener pastures. Winning the Apple Cup would go a long way toward making that happen.

16. Mississippi State (8-3)

A win in the Egg Bowl means a 9-3 regular season for the Bulldogs with their three losses coming against three top-10 teams.

17. Oklahoma State (8-3)

Poor Okie State has been so good all year and had two losses to the two best teams in its conference, and then it went and lost to K-State for some ridiculous reason. The Mullet deserved better in 2017.

18. Northwestern (8-3)

The Cats are the fourth-best team in the Big Ten, simple as that, with wins over Michigan State and Iowa and conference losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. As commendable an effort as you’ll find in a highly competitive league. Plus, Fitz’s team is on a six-game win streak that could end up extending to eight.

19. Stanford (8-3)

Already with a win over Washington, Stanford could close the regular season with two wins over top-10 teams in its final three games. Also Bryce Love is back in the groove after back-to-back 100-yard games.

20. Memphis (9-1)

The Tigers have lost just one game all season, to the best Group of Five team out there. Heck of a season by Memphis.

21. Michigan State (8-3)

A 17-7 win over Maryland couldn't have been the most exciting way for anyone to spend their weekend. Sparty's had a mighty fine season, though, considering how badly things went in 2016.

22. LSU (8-3)

The SEC has seemingly gotten increasingly better as the year has progressed, with LSU and Mississippi State making for a solid-enough middle tier. But remember when LSU lost to Troy? That wasn’t good.

23. South Florida (9-1)

If not for that loss to Houston, USF’s showdown with UCF this weekend would be for Group of Five supremacy. Even without that, though, this should be a highly entertaining affair.

24. Virginia Tech (8-3)

The Hokies have a chance to salvage their tumble at the close of the season with a win at Virginia. But given how well the Cavs played at Miami this past weekend, a VT win is no sure thing.

25. Iowa State (7-4)

I understand the math and all, but can't the Big 12 just suspend its rules and send Iowa State to the title game? We all want to see the OU-ISU rematch. Why are you preventing us from being happy, Big 12?

See how they stack up: Week 11 college football top 25 rankings


See how they stack up: Week 11 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 11 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (9-1)

The Sooners probably won’t be No. 1 in the Playoff rankings, as the committee will almost surely move Bama up a notch. But OU has an incredible resume, one much better than the Tide’s, with wins over Ohio State, TCU and Okie State. No one in the country can compete with those wins.

2. Miami (9-0)

The Canes are too legit to quit after pulverizing Notre Dame on Saturday night. That signature win teamed with the prior week’s win over Virginia Tech makes that near loss to lowly North Carolina seem like forever ago. Welcome to Miami, indeed.

3. Alabama (10-0)

A great win on Saturday night by the Tide in what seemed like their first actual game of the season. The schedule has been soft as silk, but now Auburn’s status as an SEC juggernaut makes the Iron Bowl a colossal clash.

4. Georgia (9-1)

Knocked off the top of the college football mountain, the Dawgs still deserve to be in the Playoff field, just a one-loss team with that one loss coming to another top team and that still-excellent win at Notre Dame. The resume’s still there, but now the SEC title game will be for all the marbles.

5. Wisconsin (10-0)

Bucky’s sitting pretty after making Iowa look like an FCS team on Saturday — especially impressive considering what Iowa did the week prior. Expect Michigan and Minnesota to provide decent enough challenges, but it seems like Wisconsin’s set up for a Big Ten title-game date with Ohio State.

6. Clemson (9-1)

Miami is the king of the ACC, but thankfully the ACC title game looks to be a Playoff play-in game between the Tigers and Canes. The champs still have as good a shot at this thing as anyone.

7. Auburn (8-2)

Two-loss Auburn in the Playoff? It’s not crazy at all after what the Tigers did to Georgia on Saturday, destroying the No. 1 team in the country and setting up what will be another titanic Iron Bowl meeting with Bama.

8. Notre Dame (8-2)

The Irish’s Playoff hopes sank like a ship in Biscayne Bay thanks to the demolition Miami dolled out on Saturday night. ND’s resume is still fine — two losses to two Playoff-caliber teams. But with no conference title to play for, a two-loss ND team might as well be a six-loss ND team.

9. Ohio State (8-2)

Guess who's still lurking in the Playoff race? It seemed Brutus was dead as could be after getting woodshedded by Iowa last weekend, but then Ohio State put a whooping on Michigan State and everyone’s ears perked up again. Appearing destined for the Big Ten title game, things could get interesting.

10. TCU (8-2)

The Frogs will most likely still get a crack at a Big 12 title — and revenge on the Sooners, who picked em apart on Saturday — but the Playoff might be out of the cards now.

11. Oklahoma State (8-2)

You know who’s still really good despite having losses to the two top teams in the Big 12? Okie State. That was some game between the Pokes and the ‘Clones on Saturday. If only the Mullet could be unleashed on the Playoff. Alas.

12. USC (9-2)

Dramatically overrated in the last batch of Playoff rankings, the Trojans now seem to be the cream of the unimpressive Pac-12 after Washington’s loss. All sorts of madness would have to occur in order for USC — or any Pac-12 team — to land in the final four.

13. Penn State (8-2)

Great job beating up on Rutgers this weekend, Penn State. Now what? With games against Nebraska and Maryland left, will any preseason favorite (outside Florida State, of course) get less attention down the stretch than the Lions?

14. UCF (9-0)

Central Florida is that Group of Five team this year. If it beats USF in the regular-season finale, people you know will be like, “Why shouldn’t UCF be in the Playoff?” And you’ll just have to give them a look and walk away.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Wazzu has to win one game and it’ll play USC for a Pac-12 title. Despite the lack of Playoff stakes, the Cougs winning a conference championship would be a pretty big deal.

16. Washington (8-2)

Of course, standing in Wazzu’s way is Washington, which tripped up against Stanford and could follow up last year’s Playoff appearance with absolutely nothing.

17. NC State (7-3)

The ACC and SEC seemed to have flipped roles overnight. The once-mediocre SEC now has three playoff-caliber teams and a couple other decent ones. The once-awesome ACC now has two of the best teams in the country and then … NC State.

18. Mississippi State (7-3)

The Bulldogs put up one heck of a fight against Bama on Saturday, and if it wasn’t for that ridiculous sequence of play-calling following Bama’s missed field goal, they might have won. Oh well.

19. LSU (7-3)

LSU beat Arkansas on Saturday, which isn’t a terribly difficult thing to do. 2017 will go down as a “what if” year for the Bayou Bengals. As in, what if they hadn’t lost to Troy?

20. Stanford (7-3)

Two of Stanford’s losses have come against ranked teams. It’s now beaten Washington and could beat Notre Dame in two weeks. It has one of the best running backs in America. So shouldn’t Stanford be better?

21. Memphis (8-1)

Since losing at UCF, Memphis has rolled everyone, winning five straight by an average of 47.8-27.2. Good job, Memphis.

22. Arizona (7-3)

The Wildcats are 7-3 this season and have scored at least 45 points in every one of those wins. That includes last weekend’s win over Oregon State, in which Khalil Tate ran for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Dude's good.

23. Northwestern (7-3)

Meow. The Cats are winners of five straight, even if their overtime streak came to an end. The quest for a 9-3 finish is on, with only Minnesota and lowly Illinois left on the regular-season schedule.

24. Michigan State (7-3)

Two losses in three weeks for Sparty, who got absolutely steamrolled by Ohio State this past weekend. Michigan State will likely be rooting for Michigan in The Game as it would figure to wrap its regular season with wins over Maryland and Rutgers.

25. West Virginia (7-3)

The ‘Neers have only lost to Virginia Tech, TCU and Okie State, which is not too bad. But that’s a couple losses too many in the high-flying Big 12.

Others receiving votes:

Virginia Tech (7-3)

Things have bottomed out for the Hokies, who have lost back-to-back road games to Miami and Georgia Tech after a 7-1 start. Without the loss to the Jackets, Virginia Tech’s resume would look real nice. But alas.

Iowa State (6-4)

There was almost another Attack of the ‘Clones this past weekend in a thriller with Okie State. But the Pokes came out on top, sending Iowa State to its fourth loss. That dream Big 12 title game featuring the ‘Clones? A fantasy. Sigh.

Michigan (8-2)

Michigan only has two losses, which means it has to be kinda good, right? Well, it’s lost its only two games against ranked teams and its best win is Florida, so … no, I guess not.

South Florida (8-1)

Way to beat UConn, South Florida.