Wizards

Big Ten teams all underdogs in bowl season

201212180321120944747-p2.jpeg

Big Ten teams all underdogs in bowl season

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) The Big Ten spent much of the year as a national punch line.

It might get worse during bowl season.

The Big Ten could only fill seven of its eight predetermined bowl slots - and each of those bowl-bound teams is currently an underdog.

From the five-loss Wisconsin team that still wound up in the Rose Bowl to the 6-6 Purdue squad that fired its coach, the beleaguered Big Ten isn't expected to do much of anything in the postseason.

The league went just 1-6 in bowl games in 2008. According to odds makers, things could go even worse in 2012.

``I'm not apologizing for us to go to the Rose Bowl with five losses,'' Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said during his press conference to announce he would coach the Badgers in that game. ``I didn't have anything to do with two teams being ineligible in our division. That allowed us to play in that championship game, and we soundly defeated the champion from the other side.''

That they did, thumping Nebraska 70-31.

Still, the current symbol for the league's plight has to be Badgers (8-5, 4-4 Big Ten).

They finished four games behind Ohio State and one behind Penn State in the Leaders Division. But the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions weren't eligible for the Big Ten title game, and the Badgers made the most of their lucky break.

Wisconsin is currently in upheaval after Bret Bielema stunned nearly everyone by bolting for Arkansas a few weeks ago. Alvarez will lead the Badgers in their third straight Rose Bowl, where they're about a touchdown underdog to 11-2 Stanford. Afterward, he'll resume his search for a new coach.

``It will be a great challenge for us, but I think it's a good matchup. I think it's a great bowl matchup. The game hasn't changed,'' Alvarez said.

The way Wisconsin manhandled the Huskers also took some buzz out of the Capital One Bowl.

Nebraska (10-3, 7-1) fell to the game in Orlando following their loss to the Badgers. The Huskers face Georgia (11-2) in a matchup that would have looked like good on paper - in mid-November.

While the Bulldogs were within about 5 yards of beating Alabama and earning a shot at Notre Dame in the BCS national championship, the Huskers were embarrassed by the five-loss Badgers a few hours later.

Georgia is a 10-point favorite over the seemingly reeling Huskers.

``They're resilient,'' Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. ``They look forward to going out and playing again. They were hurting, but you know what, they are grown men. You move on. That's what you have to do. We'll be ready to go.''

Perhaps no bowl matchup epitomizes the current gap between the Big Ten and the powerhouse Big 12 and SEC more than Purdue-Oklahoma State in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Even though the Boilermakers fired coach Danny Hope, they're still on a three-game winning streak. Yet the Cowboys, who at 7-5 are just a game better than Purdue, are an 18-point favorite.

That's the biggest line of the postseason - bigger than even Florida State over MAC champs Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl.

Minnesota (6-6, 2-6) is also a heavy underdog in its matchup with Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, even though the Red Raiders (7-5) lost coach Tommy Tuberville to Cincinnati.

Even with all those apparent mismatches, going 0-7 is probably a long shot for the Big Ten.

Michigan (8-4, 6-2) and South Carolina should make for an entertaining Outback Bowl. Few would be surprised if the Wolverines won their second straight bowl game under coach Brady Hoke.

Northwestern (9-3, 5-3) can reach the 10-win plateau for just the third time with a win over Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl.

The Wildcats, who were perhaps the only Big Ten team that can claim they were underrated in 2012, are just a 2-point underdog.

``Our guys are hungry. This is an opportunity for 10 wins for this ball club and to potentially be ranked in the top 15 in the country. That's an unbelievable foundation of success that this senior class will have laid. Ten wins makes a good season great,'' Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

Michigan State and TCU are also a virtual toss-up in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

The Spartans were one of the nation's most disappointing teams, but five of their six losses were by four points or less.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio is hoping his team can finally catch a few break.

His Big Ten colleagues might be thinking along those same lines.

``One play here, one play there, we're a different football team. But you have to play what you've got. We want to point our compass north. I believe the glass is half full, not half empty,'' Dantonio said.

---

Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP

Quick Links

Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

dwight_injury.jpg
NBCSW

Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

Dwight Howard may play in the Wizards' regular-season opener on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, but the team will not know until the day of the game and likely won't announce the decision either way until head coach Scott Brooks addresses the media about two hours before tipoff.

Howard only has three practices under his belt but has made significant progress throughout this week after missing all five of the team's preseason games due to a strain in his piriformis muscle.

Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard has looked good in those three practices but has a lot of missed time to make up for.

"I think he's definitely winded at times, but that's part of it," Brooks said.

Brooks added that Howard is not getting the same lift when jumping that he's used to. Howard, 32, is used to playing above the rim and his vertical leap is an important part of his game.

The Wizards play their first two games at home, the second on Saturday against the Raptors. They then embark on a Western Conference road trip beginning with the Blazers on Monday.

Brooks said Howard will "definitely" make that trip with the team, which gives a good indication of how close he is to returning to game action. When Howard is ready to play will be left up to the team's medical staff.

If Howard does miss time, the Wizards are expected to rely on his backup Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Jason Smith would then become the No. 2 center on the depth chart, though they could use forwards like Markieff Morris or Jeff Green at the five-spot.

Howard signed a two-year free-agent deal worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS:

Quick Links

Capitals vs. Rangers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Capitals vs. Rangers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Capitals (2-2-1) were dealt a herky-jerky schedule for the first month of the NHL season, already having logged two back-to-backs and two extended breaks.  But Washington finally gets a semblance of normalcy when they host the New York Rangers (2-4) on Wednesday night in the first of two home games before heading out west to end the month.

The Caps enter the Wednesday Night Hockey tilt with their longtime regional foes having dropped a thrilling weekend showdown against the Toronto Maple Leafs and their high-powered attack. The Rangers have long been a thorn in the side of the Capitals and fans alike. But the team that will hit the ice at Capital One Arena on Oct. 17 will be one that Capitals need to dispatch of with ease.

The team's first foray into defending a championship has been a wild ride with ceremonies, openers, rematches and a lot of time off. After dropping the first three games of the season, New York has won two of its last three,  with both games needing extra time.

Here is everything you need to know about Capitals vs. Rangers which takes place at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.

CAPITALS vs. RANGERs HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers, Game 6 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: Wednesday, October 17 at 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals vs. Rangers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network. (NBC Sports Washington Channel Finder)

Live Stream: Watch Capitals vs. Rangers on  the NBC Sports Washington live stream page and  the NBC Sports MyTeams App.

Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS vs. RANGERS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:00 PM: Capitals vs. Rangers on NBC Sports Network
9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live
10:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live

CAPITALS vs. RANGERS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Braden Holtby, G. Capitals: Holtby has started four of the Capitals' first five games. He's allowed just two goals in the Capitals' two wins, but has given up 11 in the two losses. That being said, the Rangers do not have the caliber of fire-power possessed by the Penguins and Maple Leafs. Expect a big game from "The HoltBeast."

Mats Zuccarello, Rangers: The Rangers savvy veteran leads the team in assists (5) and points (50 through the first six games. While he's not the most dangerous threat on offense, he's the table setter and crafty elder statesman. 

CAPITALS vs. RANGERS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 273

All-Time Series Record: Capitals lead series 131–117–18–7

Regular Season Record: Capitals lead series 103–90–18–7

Playoff Record: Capitals lead series 28-27

Last Meeting: Capitals beat Rangers 3-2 OT (3/28/2018)

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: