Big Ten wasn't humiliated this bowl season...and went 2-5
I'd like to be able to offer some keen observations on the bowl-game play of Michigan, Northwestern, Purdue and Nebraska, but I was in a car from Memphis to Cedar Rapids on Tuesday.
So for those keeping score, I've been in more U.S. states (four) than you have in 2013. Unless you were one of the thousands -- yes, thousands -- of Iowans who also motored from I-240 to I-55 to I-270 to I-70 to U.S. Highway 61 to U.S. Highway 218 to I-380 on Tuesday.
That said, I saw the second-half of Wisconsin's 20-14 Rose Bowl loss to Stanford. Three points were scored after I joined the game. Interim coach Barry Alvarez would have gotten a $50,000 bonus from athletic director Alvarez had the Badgers won the game. Nice work, if you can give it to yourself.
OK, the executive committee of the University of Wisconsin's Board of Regents agreed to those terms after Alvarez temporarily took back the coaching reins following Bret Bielema's December departure. The board did agree to pay Alvarez $203,500 in December, which amounted to a one-time $118,500 increase in his monthly salary.
He also added a loss to his three Rose Bowl wins. But Wisconsin played tough, hung tough. It played pretty well, actually, for a team that was only 4-4 in its own conference.
The Big Ten went 2-5 this bowl season. Not good. But at least Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin, all underdogs, battled well against three excellent opponents who will all finish the season in the Top Ten. And slight underdogs Northwestern and Michigan State scored wins.
The Big Ten was 4-6 in last season's bowls, but had four losses ranging from 11 to 17 points. This year, only Purdue wasn't competitive.
As for the other six Big Ten bowl teams:
Minnesota: Lost 34-31 to Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Texas Tech showed superior talent, I thought, but certainly not superior discipline. That can happen when your head coach (Tommy Tuberville) has bailed for Cincinnati and you're in a bowl that doesn't stir the soul.
It was a year of clear improvement for Jerry Kill's program. But it is still a team that finished 2-6 in the Big Ten. (Yes, like Iowa. I know a couple of you chronic Hawkeye-bashers here would have noted that if I hadn't.)
The Gophers were 13-point underdogs or thereabout to the Red Raiders. They played with a lot of spirit. If Kill can stay healthy, I would expect Minnesota to be remain competitive.
Michigan State: Beat TCU 17-16 in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: TCU led 13-0 at halftime. And then Michigan State showed plenty of character and physicality. Le'Veon Bell was the same horse he was in Game 1, an MSU home win over Boise State.
The Spartans didn't have the quarterback play to be as good as they were the previous two seasons with Kirk Cousins. Freshman Connor Cook helped save the Spartans' bacon against the Horned Frogs. Which is the first time in the history of the world the words "bacon" and "frogs" have ever been used in the same sentence.
That was a good win for Michigan State. Lose that and go 6-7, and, well, ask Iowa State how that feels. Or ...
Purdue: Lost 58-14 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl to Oklahoma State: Memphis was a fun city for Iowa State fans. Dallas would have been a place for them to enjoy a victory. Iowa State would have disposed of a Purdue team with an interim head coach and no defensive answers for Mike Gundy's Cowboys.
Had Iowa beaten Purdue, the Boilermakers wouldn't have added to the Big Ten's unimpressive 2-5 bowl record.
Purdue got itself a good head coach for the future in Darrell Hazell, previously of Kent State. But for at least the next year, the Boilermakers are in the same division with Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State. Hazell will need to be a wizard for the Boilers to get to a bowl for a third-straight year.
Nebraska: Lost 45-31 to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl: Well, at least it wasn't a 70-31 game like the Cornhuskers' loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.
Switching between this and Michigan's game against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, I was thoroughly entertained.
But Georgia rang up 589 yards on the Huskers one game and one month after Wisconsin gained 640 yards against Nebraska.
Recap: Nebraska allowed 115 points and 1,229 yards in its last two games.
But the Huskers did go 7-1 in the Big Ten and won the Legends Division. That's got to count for something, though I'll have to ask my Nebraska friends if it really does.
Michigan: Lost 33-28 to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl: With 11 seconds left in the game, South Carolina got a 32-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Dylan Thompson to Bruce Ellington to win the game.
Ouch, eh, Wolverines?
I wish I could have seen this game. It was great fun just to visualize via satellite radio.
The five teams Michigan lost to this season have a combined record of 57-6. I bet we won't see the Wolverines have a record as pedestrian as 8-5 again for quite a while. But college football is fickle.