Bowl season hasn’t been kind to the Big Ten in recent years, and with the conference struggling throughout the 2012 campaign, it will take some doing to reverse that trend. Still, some impressive offensive talents will get their chances to shine on the New Year’s Day stage.
This trio has the best prospects of earning some bowl-game pride for their beleaguered conference:
1. Venric Mark, Northwestern
By far the most evenly matched of the conference’s five New Year’s bowls pits No. 20 Northwestern against Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl. The Bulldogs aren’t the best defense in the mighty SEC, but they’ll give the Wildcats a tougher test than most of the opponents they’ve faced in a 9-3 season.
The offensive hero for NU has been tailback Venric Mark, who piled up more than 1,400 yards from scrimmage and led the nation with 20.1 yards per punt return. The MSU defense will need to contain the lightning-fast Mark at all costs. Even so, it’s a good bet that he’ll still get the 148 all-purpose yards he needs to eclipse Damien Anderson’s school record for a season.
2. Montee Ball, Wisconsin
FedEx Orange Bowl Preview And Where To Watch Online: BCS Busters No. 15 Northern Illinois Huskies Look To Upset No. 12 Florida State Seminoles
The Florida State Seminoles are no stranger to the Orange Bowl. They have had some epic games against some of college football’s powerhouse programs, playing the likes of Nebraska, Oklahoma, Penn State and Notre Dame.
This year, the Seminoles find themselves back in the Orange Bowl and will take on, well, not exactly another college football powerhouse. They’ll play the Northern Illinois Huskies.
Northern Illinois? How do you go from Nebraska to Oklahoma to Penn State to Notre Dame to…Northern Illinois? Something doesn’t add up. That’s BCS math for you.
How is that possible?
It’s all real simple. There is a BCS clause that states a team from a non-BCS league to be chosen if it finishes in the top 16 of the BCS standings and is higher than a BCS conference champion.
Despite many pundits screaming that these Huskies do not belong, here they are. And it’s not the Huskies fault. If you want to point fingers, blame the system. It’s been broken for years. It will undoubtedly get tweaked again this year but it will never be right until a true playoff system is put in place.
2013 Rose Bowl Preview And Where To Watch Online: Barry Alvarez Leads Wisconsin Badgers Against No. 6 Stanford Cardinals
Remember back in the day when football was not considered a track meet on grass. When teams didn’t try to score in less than one minute every time they touched the ball. When a physical running game and a tenacious defense was the key to being a consistent contender. When quarterbacks relied on their pocket presence, precision passing and ability to manage a game instead of their ability to read whether or not a defensive end squeezes on the zone read.
Those were the good ol’ days. And if everything is cyclical, then there is hope for anyone who appreciates the aforementioned style of football for it to return to popularity. Alabama and Notre Dame play that style and they are playing for the National Championship. I’m just saying.
If you are one of them, one of us, make sure you tune in for the 2013 Rose Bowl when the Wisconsin Badgers take on the Stanford Cardinal. It will be full of overgrown lineman, physical running games and attacking defenses. It will be a thing of beauty. Trust me.
There are is one major sub plot to go along with the game that adds a little something extra to the drama.
It’s little change from year to year. As the college football regular season winds down in late November, the coaching carousel starts to kick into high gear. Guys get fired, guys get hired. Some move up in status or conference level, some move out.
A month later, the pros get into the act. The NFL closes out its annual Week 17 and heads start to roll. It becomes all about play-for-pay X-and-O retreads being rolled out as the answer to some ailing organization’s woes, how that Sunday experience is so vital, so necessary.
Save for some against-the-grain shots by owners who are told “better,” it is pretty rare to see much crossover between the college and pro games despite each have an overlap at the same stage – the give-up, start-over one by so many of its participants.
In the waning hours of 2012, though, it is quite clear that is not the case this time around.
Oregon’s Chip Kelly has been rumored to be the hot coaching commodity among NFL execs in search of that next franchise savior just about all season. He’d been in the running for the Tampa Bay gig just about the same time a year ago before the Bucs settled on Rutgers’ Greg Schiano.
Monday night’s Chick-Fil-A Bowl is a match up of strength against strength: one of the nation's best offenses versus one of the top defenses when No. 14 Clemson and No. 9 LSU meet in Atlanta, Georgia at the Georgia Dome.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think this year’s contest was a love affair instead of a football game. I understand that coaches feel like they have an obligation to be cordial and not provide any bulletin board material for their opponents. But Les Miles and Dabo Swinney have taken cordiality to a whole new level.
Here is how their love affair has transpired.
Dabo Swinney, the head coach of the orange and purple Tigers from Clemson oozed with adoration in regards to the LSU team and, specifically, their defense.
"Our coaches, our players and our fans always look forward to playing against the best programs in the nation, and LSU certainly fits that description," Swinney said last week. "We are going to have the opportunity to compete against a top 10 team that played for it all last year."