(Photo courtesy Bleacher Report, bowl schedule courtesy Big Ten, team information courtesy wwwcfbstasts.com)
The 2016-2017 bowl season is nigh upon us and the Big Ten has 10 teams participating. Whether it will work out for the Conference (lots of ‘wins’) is TBD. I plan to give very brief previews of each of the games that have B1G participants; five in this article and five in the follow up article. Today I’ll look at the following games: The Quick Lane Bowl, the National Funding Holiday Bowl, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, the Foster Farms Bowl and the Franklin American Music City Bowl.
These games should help to fill your week between Christmas and New Year’s. All kickoff times are Eastern. Here we go…
Quick Lane Bowl
- Maryland (6-6), 5th in B1G East vs Boston College (6-6), 6th in ACC Atlantic
- December 26, ESPN, 2:30 PM
- Ford Field, Detroit, MI
We start the B1G bowl season with a match up of two .500 teams. This should be an interesting game in that each team’s weakness play’s against the opponent’s weakness. Maryland gives up 29 points per game, 11th in the B1G, T-71st nationally. Boston College scores 19 points per game, 14th (last) in the ACC, 123rd (of 128 teams) nationally.
Why Maryland will win
If QB Perry Hills (66% completion, 7.6 YPA, 10 TD, 3 INT) has even a somewhat productive gain to complement their running game, they should squeeze out a win. Boston College allows 25 PPG, which is about what Maryland scores. If the Terps can score to their average, they should take this game.
Why they won’t
If the Terps don’t take care of the ball (statistically there is a net 1 turnover per game in favor of BC) and/or if they can’t sustain their offense, they’ll give the Eagles ample opportunity to pull this game out.
At press time, Maryland is a 2 point favorite.
National Funding Holiday Bowl
- Minnesota (8-4), 4th in B1G West vs Washington State (8-4), 2nd in PAC-12 North
- December 27, ESPN, 7:00 PM
- Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
Next up, from the sunny climes of San Diego, we have a match up of two 8-4 teams. However, not all 8-4 teams may be the same, since Wazzu is installed as an early (almost) touchdown favorite.
This might actually be an entertaining game to watch. Coach Mike Leach has his Cougars running at a 40 ppg clip, which is about a 2 TD margin over what their defense allows (27 ppg). Tracy Claeys’ Golden Gophers have a narrower margin of victory, at scoring 30 ppg and allowing 23 ppg.
Why Minnesota will win
A solid running game (186 YPG) will determine ball/clock control to keep the ball out of the hands of the WSU offense. Minny’s front seven also bring some heat, 3 sacks per game, to disrupt Wazzu’s passing attack.
Why they won’t
WSU averages 370 yards per game, which is about 75% of their total yardage. Unfortunately, UM’s pass defense allows 228 YPG, next to last in the B1G. The Gopher secondary could get overwhelmed. And in Minny gets behind early, QB Mitch Leidner isn’t able to lead a comeback.
At press time, Minnesota is a 6.5 point underdog.
New Era Pinstripe
- Northwestern (6-6), 5th in B1G West vs #23 Pittsburgh (8-4), 4th ACC Coastal
- December 28, ESPN, 2:00 PM
- Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY
This game may be my favorite “December” bowl games for a couple of reasons. First, the game is sponsored by New Era Cap Company, a local (Buffalo, NY) company. It’s a “northern” bowl game played outdoors in venerable Yankee Stadium. Old school…
This should be interesting to see what kind of game plan Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald puts together to take down the Pitt
Giant Killers Panthers, winners over Penn State and Clemson.
Why Northwestern will win
The Wildcats will maintain some sense of balance in their offense to chew clock, wear down Pitt’s defense (on field 75 plays per game) and keep the Panther offense (42 ppg) off the field.
Why they won’t
Although Pitt’s 36 PPG defense is terrible (13th in ACC, 109th nationally), they can make Northwestern’s running game (3.9 YPC) pretty miserable. At that average, NU is a “volume” running attack, not an efficient one.
Further, Pitt’s offense is rolling right now. In their last three games, all wins, the Panthers are averaging 58 points per game. My god…
At press time, Northwestern is a 4.5 point underdog.
Foster Farms Bowl
- Indiana (6-6), 4th in B1G East vs #19 Utah (8-4), 3rd in PAC-12 South
- December 28, FOX, 8:30 PM
- Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA
The 2nd game of Wednesday’s B1G “doubleheader” would appear to be a bit of a mis-match. Despite the margins of victory (+4 for Utah, -1 for Indiana) this is a game that doesn’t feel that close, although statistically it is. The low MoV’s for the teams indicate they both play a lot of close games.
Why Indiana will win
This will be a “get one for the new guy” since this is Indiana coach Tom Allen’s first game as head coach. What a way to start… Since this will be an emotional game for the Hoosiers, the (already pretty decent ) run defense will shine. Their run defense allows an average of 153 YPG, 3.6 YPA. For context, that is better than Iowa and better than Penn State. They’ll shorten Utah’s rushing average (216 YPG) by quite a bit.
Hoosier QB Richard Lagow will be efficient and not turn the ball over. As mentioned above, these teams are accustomed to play in close games. Not turning the ball over will help Indiana immensely.
Why they won’t
Indiana will turn the ball over; they can’t help it. The net turnover differential is +1 in favor of Utah. That may be enough to win this game for the Utes. Further, if this game comes down to a field goal, Utah (17-21, 80.1%) has a clear advantage over Indiana (15-24, 62.5%).
At press time, Indiana is an 8 point underdog.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
- Nebraska (9-3), 2nd in B1G West vs #21 Tennessee (8-4), 2nd in SEC East
- December 30, ESPN, 3:30 PM
- Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN
The B1G continues to take on CFP ranked teams. This Friday afternoon game is a nice way to roll into the weekend. Nebraska is the highest ranked B1G team to play to-date, so of course, they get a rationally ranked opponent in Tennessee.
Why Nebraska will win
The Huskers will not give up cheap points, since they turn the ball over way less than the Volunteers, 13 vs 25. They also take far fewer drive-disrupting sacks, 11 vs 25. The Nebraska will just stay ahead of the chains so that QB Tommy Armstrong doesn’t have to flail-fling the ball around the field. By being more efficient offensively, they’ll eke out a narrow win.
Why they won’t
Nebraska gets into a position where they have to rely upon Armstrong (51% completion rate) to pass their way back into the game. It’s a de facto home game for the Volunteers. And we know how those Tennessee home games end.
At press time, Nebraska is a 3 point underdog.