Normally, I'd talk a lot more about the PAC-10 than any other conference. With only four bowl-eligible teams, however, pickings are slim. Hard to see anyone but Stanford in the win column.
- Washington (6-6, 5-4) v. Nebraska (10-3, 6-2) - The Huskies get a rematch against a Nebraska team that dismantled them 56-21 in September. On paper, this might be the most lopsided bowl match up of the year. A sharper Jake Locker will be worth about two more TD's for the Huskies. It will take a miracle to do anything more. One can only hope. Pick: Nebraska.
- Arizona (7-5, 4-5) v. Oklahoma State (10-2, 6-2) - Arizona lost its last four games. Oklahoma State was picked for fifth and tied for the division title. One team going up, the other going down. Oklahoma State will score a ton of points on a weak Arizona defense. Arizona should get some points, but not nearly enough. Oh, yeah, one more thing. Arizona coach Mike Stoops is a dickhead. Look for him to rupture an aneurysm with his antics in the first quarter. Pick: Oklahoma State.
- Oregon (12-0, 9-0) v. Auburn (13-0, 8-0) - As posted earlier, I just can't see Oregon taking Auburn. Pick: Auburn.
- Stanford (11-1, 8-1) v. Virginia Tech (11-2, 8-0) - I keep coming to the same conclusions on this one. Stanford's potent offense will score 40 points. Virginia Tech will get some points, but it will not be enough to stay close. Pick: Stanford in a rout.
At first glance, I'm hard pressed to see the Big Ten winning any of their eight - yes, eight - bowl games. I'm serious here. The second glance isn't much better. The Big Ten subscribes to the "bowl eligible" plan whereby you play just eight conference games and schedule out-of-conference patsies. Whenever they play other major conference schools, they lose (Penn State to 'Bama, Iowa to Arizona, Illinois to Missouri, Minnesota to USC). OK, Wisconsin beat non-bowl eligible Arizona State...by one point....at home. The remaining five (oops, six: 6 + 5 = (Big) 10) conference teams played a total of zero quality non-conference games. Despite the early season assessment that the Big Ten was weak, three teams (Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin) rose in the rankings because they had good records against mediocre or worse competition. Voila, the Big Ten is a strong conference. Well, it's not. The only bowl wins possible for the Big Ten come in favorable match ups in which they face even less-deserving opponents. If then. Here's the bowl breakdown:
- Iowa (7-5, 4-4) v. Missouri (10-2, 6-2) - Iowa lost last their last three games. Missouri beat San Diego State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M; lost to Nebraska and Texas Tech (when Mizzou's QB had an exceptionally bad day). Iowa also has two players (their top receiver and top running back) out on legal/discipline issues. The game will be over by the half. Pick: Missouri, no contest.
- Illinois (6-6, 4-4) v. Baylor (7-5, 4-4) - Illinois beat Penn State (apparently Penn State had a lot of injuries, which is the only way short of an act of god that could make that possible.) Baylor has only one (debatable) quality win over Texas. Neither team is particularly interesting. Baylor is somewhat overrated, losing to every quality team it played, including its last three versus Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. Illinois is worse. Pick: Baylor in a close one.
- Northwestern (7-5, 3-5) v. Texas Tech (7-5, 3-5) - Tech caught Missouri on a bad day for its only quality win and also beat Baylor. Northwestern upset Iowa, it's one somewhat "quality" win, but that came during the Hawkeyes' end-of-season El Foldo. This game is a poster child for bowls run amok. Winning just three conference games should qualify you for watching the games on TV, not playing in them. Northwestern is without QB Dan Persa, otherwise, they'd be the favorite. Pick: Texas Tech.
- Penn State (7-5, 4-4) v. Florida (7-5, 4-4) - Penn State's refrain is familiar: play a quality opponent and you lose (Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan State). No quality wins. None. And Florida? Uh, same story (losses to Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina). Florida gets the nod because they lost to MORE quality opponents. Pick: Florida.
- Michigan State (11-1, 7-1) v. Alabama (9-3, 5-3) - Alabama was competitive in all its big games this year but came up a bit short in each (South Carolina, LSU, Auburn). Michigan State, on the other hand, is probably the single most overrated team in the nation. Michigan State's only hope for staving off disaster? Coach Mark Dantonio assisted under Alabama's Saban and has some familiarity with his system. Pick: Alabama will still crush them.
- Michigan (7-5, 3-5) v. Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4) - Michigan benefits from scheduling: fatten up early on patsies, play one decent team and lose, win just three conference games. They score a lot of points but give up just as many. Mississippi State is young but their coach has them playing within themselves on offense. They're on an upward trajectory. Michigan is going nowhere. Pick: Mississippi State easily.
- Wisconsin (11-1, 7-1) v. TCU (12-0, 8-0) - This is a tough one. Wisconsin coasted on an easy end-of-season schedule (Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Northwestern) and earned style points for blowouts. Arizona State should have beaten them in September at Camp Randall. I can't help but think these guys have been untested all year. TCU, on the other hand, has that ever suspect Mountain West schedule. The non-BCS chip on their shoulder means TCU really wants this one. Overall, its a wonderfully classic match up of TCU's speed v. Wisconsin's brawn. I think TCU is tough enough, so I'm going with speed. Pick: TCU.
- Ohio State (11-1, 7-1) v. Arkansas (10-2, 6-2) - Ohio State has really only played - and lost to - one quality team all year (Wisconsin). I'm not sure their win over Miami (FL) counts for much. Arkansas, on the other hand, lost to 'Bama and Auburn, but beat Texas A&M, South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU. Gotta go with that pedigree. Fortunately for the Buckeye faithful, Terrell Pryor and their other budding capitalists will get to play. OSU's defense may keep it close, but it's not enough. Pick: Arkansas.
More Big Ten
I read a week ago about the names for the Big Ten's two divisions: Legends and Leaders. Oh...my...gawd. Where do you even start? Dumb? (Certainly.) Meaningless? (Oh yeah.) Self-congratulatory? (Definitely.) A total joke. My money says they change the names.