(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 Capital One Orange Bowl, the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, the Outback Bowl, the Goodyear Cotton Bowl and the Rose Bowl.
These games pick up from end of December into early January. Anything to help with bringing in the New Year. All kickoff times are Eastern. Here we go…
Capital One Orange Bowl
- #6 Michigan (10-2), 3rd B1G East vs #11 Florida State (9-3), 3rd ACC Atlantic
- December 30, ESPN, 1:00 PM
- Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
This should be an entertaining game to fill your Friday afternoon as you gear up for New Year’s celebrations. Florida State enters the game on a 4-game winning streak while Michigan has lost tow of its last three games. These losses were last second FG by Iowa and the OT loss to Ohio State, so I guess these would be “good” losses.
Why Michigan will win
Michigan plays 4 quarters against FSU like they did the first 3 quarters against Ohio State, minus the turnovers. The UM defense, ranked #2 in the nation at 12.5 PPG is suffocating. The Wolverine WR’s can make plays, and when they can’t, punter Kenny Allen can flip the field.
Why they won’t
They’ll “Harbaugh” themselves. Jim will be more concerned about ‘working the refs’ than ‘coaching the team’. In a continued effort to hype Jabril Peppers for the Heisman, he’ll be played at several position, doing poorly at most of them. Both the game and the trophy will be lost.
At press time, Michigan is a 6.5 point favorite.
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
- #3 Ohio State (11-10), 1st B1G East vs #2 Clemson (12-1), 1st ACC Atlantic
- December 31, ESPN, 7:00 PM
- University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
This is the game we’ve been waiting to see. Too bad it’s on the evening of the 31st. I’ll probably watch the first half before we go out to ring in the new year; cell phones will get us through the evening and DVRs the next day.
Why Ohio State will win
Ohio State will attack with a ‘varied’ (more than one ball carrier, they have three) running game. Clemson’s pass defense is very good and Ohio State’s passing offense is very not that good. Runs by Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel will set up a successful play action passing game. (Here’s a tip for Tim/Ed: running your QB a lot does not set up play action. You’re welcome).
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson has 15 INT on the season, so he can be prone to throw the ball haphazardly. The opportunistic OSU back 7 will take advantage of that trait.
Ohio State’s kicking game could make a difference. Their net punting average of 42 yards is a good bit better than Clemson’s 35 yards. The Buckeyes are also more successful with field goals; 17-20 (85%) vs Clemson’s 13-17 (76%). So, if it comes down to it, edge to OSU.
Why they won’t
First, the Silver Bullets will not be able to contain Deshaun Watson’s scrambling. More critically, JT Barrett will have only a so-so game because he’ll be asked to do too many things because Beck/Warinner forget that Curtis Samuel is on the team.
At press time, Ohio State is a 3 point favorite.
- Iowa (8-4), 3rd B1G West vs #17 Florida (8-4), 1st SEC East
- January 2, ABC, 1:00 PM
- Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
This game is played the same time as the Cotton Bowl (below). Make sure that your remote control has fresh batteries, there may be a good bit of channel switching. These teams are, statistically, fairly even. One difference is that although total offenses are with 12 yards per game of one another, Florida will rely more on the passing game (215 yd vs 161 yd) than Iowa.
One key difference is Red Zone efficiency. Florida scores 70% of the time it’s in the RZ, 50% being TD’s. Iowa scores 92% of the time in the RZ, 71% being TD’s. This sort of makes sense when you consider Iowa’s emphasis on running the football.
Why Iowa will win
The Hawkeyes control the line of scrimmage and stay aggressive in their offensive play calling. Quarterback CJ Beathard doesn’t turn the ball over. His ball security is pretty good with only 7 INT on the season.
Why they won’t
UF’s WR Antonio Callaway (4 rec/60 yd per game) runs loose through the Iowa secondary. More significantly, if Coach Ferentz “turtles” his offense. If he plays ‘not to lose’ in this game, he will.
At press time, Iowa is a 2.5 point underdog.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic
- #8 Wisconsin (10-3), 1st B1G West vs #15 Western Michigan (13-0), 1st MAC West
- January 2, ESPN, 1:00 PM
- AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
When you’re not watching Iowa-Florida (above) you’ll be watching this game. All three of Wiscy’s losses (Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State) have been 7 by points. Against UM, the offense was completely throttled (scored 7 points), against OSU the defense got bruised (allowed 30 points) and against PSU (allowed 38 points) their secondary failed to cover anyone.
Against Western Michigan, all Wisconsin unis better bring their “A” game. WMU is undefeated (13-0) and the MAC champion.
Why Wisconsin will win
Wisconsin will play “Badger Ball” and bludgeon WMU with its running game. Although averaging only 4.3 YPC (80th in nation), the Badgers run for an average of 205 ypg. They’ll kill you with volume.
Their secondary will have had a good month of practice and bring it to the game.
Why they won’t
The Badgers are in a post-Penn State funk and their secondary still can’t figure out what the concept of “coverage” is. The Broncos play “Bronco Ball” by forcing UW into uncharacteristic turnovers. WMU is the 2nd rated team in the nation in turnover margin, 1.84 per game; so hawk the ball they will.
The Broncos average 43 points per game; powered by 237 YPG rushing and 260 YPG passing. I don’t care who you play – that is a prolific offense. WMU only gives up 19 points per game as well.
At press time, Wisconsin is a 7.5 point favorite.
- #5 Penn State (11-2), 2nd B1G East vs #21 #9 USC (9-3), 2nd PAC-12 North
- January 2, ESPN, 5:10 PM
- Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena, CA
This is going to be a challenge for the Nits.Actually, it will be a challenge for the Trojans, too.Both teams are “hot” right now. In their 8 game win streak, USC’s average score is 38-18. In their 9 game streak, PSU’s is 40-19. Not much difference.
Why Penn State will win
The Penn State line play is top-notch. They’ll play just good enough to let Saquon Barkley get his yards which should open up their play-action passing to move the chains. This will be a game of ‘keep away’ from the USC offense. And, this may come down t o a special teams play.
Why they won’t
USC will shut down the Penn State running game and force them one dimensional. Granted, the PSU passing ‘dimension’ is pretty good, but it won’t be good enough. As good as PSU’s McSorely has played this season, USC’s Sam Darnold has stats that are nearly identical. USC’s running game is a bit better than PSUs and a bit more diversified. USC has running backs Ron Jones II and Justin Davis. PSU has Saquon Barkley and ???
At press time, Penn State is a 7 point underdog.