A wild year in college football saw a resurgence by many of the blue-bloods, including Notre Dame, Army, Michigan, and Texas. But when all was said and done, Alabama and Clemson enter the playoff heavy favorites to meet for the fourth year in a row, in what would be their third title-game matchup in that time. The Big Ten has 9 teams competing, but is favored in only 3 (Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State). A year after going 7-1 (thanks Harbaugh), this year should be a little tougher for the conference. Below are PSU Zone’s picks for Big Ten bowl winners, with bonus picks for the New Year’s 6 games and CFP playoff results.
BIG TEN BOWL GAMES
Quick Lane: Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech – Minnesota never seems to be able to break out of the middle tier of the Big Ten. They finally won back Paul Bunyan’s Axe after beating Wisconsin for the first time since 2003. Georgia Tech will be playing on emotions in Paul Johnson’s final game running the triple option with the Rambling Wreck after 11 seasons. Georgia Tech, 27-21.
Pinstripe: Wisconsin vs. Miami (FL) – Nothing says college football like Yankee Stadium (we kid, we kid). The Badgers had an uncharacteristically bad year, after opening as AP Preseason #4. Miami is favored, coming off of an impressive win in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech and smashing of Pitt. But the Hurricanes have struggled in the second half of the season the past two years, and Wisconsin has won their prior two bowl matchups, the Champs Sports Bowl in 2009 and the Orange Bowl last year. Both of those games were in Florida (the Orange Bowl is on Miami’s home field. Jack Coan, who was horrible against Penn State, gets the start for the Badgers to void his redshirt. It is worrisome for the Badgers that he is a better option than Alex Hornibrook. However, the nation’s [quietly] leading rusher, Jonathan Taylor, will eclipse 2,000 yards in the first quarter. I’ll take the cold-weather team in a cold-weather game. Wisconsin, 24-21.
Music City: Purdue vs. Auburn – Purdue, like Iowa last year, is an unranked team that destroyed Ohio State on its home field, eliminating the Buckeyes’ chances for the CFP (and Penn State’s bid for its first Peach Bowl, as a result). Though the OSU win headlines a season with good wins over Iowa and Boston College, puzzling losses against Eastern Michigan and a 31-point annihilation at the hands of Minnesota have again rendered the season forgettable for the Boilermaker fans. Auburn, while underperforming over the course of the year, boasted wins over Washington and Texas A&M, while narrowly losing to LSU. They’re better than their bowl draw, and will take care of Purdue. Auburn, 38-20.
Peach: Michigan vs. Florida – All things considered, this season by Michigan was not a success. While most teams would be happy with 10 wins and a NY6 bowl, the Wolverines were poised for a playoff run, and to finally beat the rival Buckeyes to complete the Revenge Tour. But despite its second-consecutive home-field throttling of the Nittany Lions (easily its best win), this season was another horseshoes and hand grenades story for Michigan. A 7-point opening weekend loss in South Bend was bookended by a 23-point bombing in Columbus to dash the hopes of a dream season. Michigan is a good team with a great defense, though. The Wolverines draw Florida, who had three double-digit conference losses. Big-Ten SEC matchups are always important for the Big Ten, and Michigan screwed up a perfect bowl season last year with a loss against South Carolina. I don’t believe Florida is as good as 10th, and Michigan should be able to cap the year with a win in a NY6 game. Michigan, 23-17.
Redbox: Michigan State vs. Oregon – Formerly the Foster Farms Bowl, the draw this year pits the Spartans against Oregon. The Ducks have beaten Washington and Cal, but were smoked at Arizona. Michigan State had a clunky season, winning at Penn State, but losing to rival Michigan and Ohio State to go with a stupid 9-6 loss at Nebraska. The Spartans are too inconsistent on offense, and Brad Lewerke hasn’t played since mid-November. Oregon should take them down in The City. Oregon, 27-19.
Holiday: Northwestern vs. Utah – The only team other than Wisconsin to with the Big Ten West finished with 5 losses, leading to loud calls for outright removal of the conference divisional model so the conference’s two best teams can play in the conference title game. While Northwestern’s season didn’t warrant a shot to play in the Rose Bowl, the Wildcats did take a step forward this year to capitalize on the Badgers’ struggles. A loss in Pullman against Washington State kept Utah from having a much better season, and they have enough to stop Northwestern, who will struggle to score. Utah, 23-16.
Outback: Iowa vs. Mississippi State – Joe Morehead was a great hire for Mississippi State, leading the Bulldogs to an 8-4 season in his first year. Iowa was also 8-4, but in a very weak Big Ten West. Dual-thread QB Nick Fitzgerald should lead Miss St to beat Iowa at its own game in a low-scoring slugfest. Mississippi State, 13-9.
Citrus: Penn State vs. Kentucky – A roller coaster season for Penn State ends with a somewhat deflating bid to the Citrus Bowl, though I don’t think they really wanted to play Georgia in the Sugar or Peach. A season destined for the NY6 was initially derailed with two heartbreaking losses to Ohio State and Michigan State, began to again look promising as the Nittany Lions headed into Ann Arbor. Yet another thrashing in the Big House at the hands of the Wolverines left the Lions thinking the Outback Bowl would be its postseason destination. Had Michigan beaten Ohio State, all of a sudden the Lions were poised for the NY6. After Michigan got Harbaugh’d, the Lions will face Kentucky in Orlando. Trace McSorley’s last game in the Blue and White will surely be one Penn State wants to win for its QB. With several players possibly looking at early declarations to the draft, including RB Miles Sanders, DE Shareef Miller, and OL Ryan Bates and Connor McGovern, the Nittany Lions will deliver a third-straight 10-win season to HC James Franklin over an overachieving Kentucky squad that boasts impressive wins over Florida and Mississippi State. Penn State, 31-20.
Rose: Ohio State vs. Washington – Ohio State, to me, is the hard-luck team of 2018. Snubbed for the CFP after winning the Big Ten title two consecutive years. The Buckeyes smashed Michigan, but were left out of the playoff when Oklahoma avenged its loss to Texas in the Red River Rivalry. Washington has underachieved all year, losing to Auburn, Oregon, and Cal. In what could be QB Dwayne Haskins’ last game, Ohio State should win big in Pasadena. Ohio State, 42-35.
Fiesta: LSU vs. UCF – UCF is a legitimate team. As the NY6 representative from the Group of 5, odds are usually against the smaller school. But with its 21-game winning streak, the Knights have navigated adversity. Not enough offense for LSU. UCF, 24-20.
Sugar: Georgia vs. Texas – Texas has no business being in this game. Yes, they beat Oklahoma. But losses to Maryland and Oklahoma State a double-digit loss in the Big XII title game should have kept the Longhorns out of the NY6. I do have one theory as to why they got in (apologies to Richard Nixon), but Texas is ranked 15th. No sale. Georgia will roll. Georgia, 24-7.
Orange (CFP semi #1): Alabama vs. Oklahoma – Alabama has been the best team from the outset of the year. The Crimson Tide’s second team could beat Oklahoma, and the first team will just overwhelm the Sooners. Roll Tide. Alabama, 31-17.
Cotton Bowl (CFP semi #2): Clemson vs. Notre Dame – Notre Dame goes undefeated, Notre Dame gets into the CFP. That’s the unwritten agreement the Irish received when college football moved to a playoff system, despite the lack of a conference schedule, and a conference title game. So, the universe gives them a conference title game to play before they get a crack at the title. They should have lost to both Pitt and Vanderbilt, and they are totally outclassed in this matchup. Clemson, 38-10.
CFP Championship: Alabama vs. Clemson – It’s getting monotonous. Clemson is a good team, but Alabama is in a separate class this year. Reloading every year from a stock of 5-star recruits, the Crimson Tide should have been crowned before any games were even played. This team will be considered among the best of all time. Georgia is the second-best team in the sport, but they came up short again this year. Alabama, 28-23.
About the Author:
Adam Kimmel is the founder and Principal at ASK Consulting Solutions, a technical writing firm specializing in engineering content writing. A 2003 graduate and avid fan of Penn State, Adam has followed Penn State football for over 25 years, attending nearly 50 games and researching historical players and teams. He is also a Manager of R&D, and can be found on LinkedIn