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Posted on Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

B1G Notes: Breaking down the Urban Meyer's a Hero/Traitor Bowl and the rest of the Big Ten's postseason games

By Nick Baumgardner

The college football bowl season is upon us, 70 teams in 35 games. Oh, what a time we'll have.

Or at least that's what the folks at Tostitos, Kraft, Beef 'O' Brady's, Little Caesars and Bell Helicopter would have us believe.

The Big Ten will be well represented this winter, with a league-record 10 participants. Will the conference have a strong showing? Or will it embarrass itself yet again?

Here's the rundown of each matchup, with a rating on the "watchable scale" (1 low, 10 high):


Coach Danny Hope and Purdue are Motor City-bound.

Melanie Maxwell |

The "Detroit Finally Gets a
Good Draw" Bowl

Purdue (6-6) vs. Western Michigan (7-5), Little Caesars Bowl (4:30 p.m., Dec. 27, ESPN)

Early line: Purdue -2 1/2

Lowdown: The last time a Big Ten team was in this game (formerly the Motor City Bowl), it was Purdue and it drew 60,624 fans. The Boilermakers aren't very good, and the Broncos have the potential to be very dangerous. Could actually be entertaining.

Watchable scale: 5 - At least it's an excuse to eat Crazy Bread.

The "I Almost Forgot This One" Bowl

Iowa (7-5) vs. Oklahoma (9-3), Insight Bowl (10 p.m., Dec. 30, ESPN)

Early line: Oklahoma -14

Lowdown: My heading says it all, doesn't it? I nearly forgot to add this one to the list. It's that exciting. Iowa can't play outside of Iowa City, and against Oklahoma, it likely stands little chance.

Watchable scale: 3 - A possible three-score blowout at 10 p.m. on a Friday? I wonder what Food Network's showing.


Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa will play his final college game in what should be an offensive shootout.

Melanie Maxwell |

The "Hope You've Got Four Hours to Kill" Bowl

Northwestern (6-6) vs. Texas A&M (6-6), Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas (Noon, Dec. 31, ESPN)

Early line: Texas A&M -9 1/2

Lowdown: An old-fashioned, Texas-style gun-fight that should start at lunch time and end by dinner. Not a lot of defense in this one, as the teams combined to average 69.1 points per game. The Aggies basically get a home game here, but will be sans its coach after Mike Sherman's firing.

Watchable scale: 3 - It's New Year's Eve. Surely you have better things to do?

The "Yep, We're Really Doing This" Bowl

Illinois (6-6) vs. UCLA (6-7), Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (3:30 p.m., Dec. 31, ESPN)

Early line: Illinois -3

Lowdown: Two teams without coaches, two teams who define the "not deserving of a reward" category. I'm not sure what else to say, this should be awful.

Watchable scale: 0 - The annual holiday "Rocky" marathon should be nearing Part IV by this time. Ivan Drago is more entertaining.


Jared McGaha and the Spartans had grander plans, but find themselves in one of the most interesting bowl games.

AP Photo

The "We Don't Want
to be Here" Bowl

Michigan State (10-3) vs. Georgia (10-3), Outback Bowl (1 p.m., Jan. 2, ABC)

Early line: Georgia -3

Lowdown: Both teams would rather be playing in a BCS game, no doubt. But, this should actually be a very good football game. The Spartans and Bulldogs are high-level clubs with something to prove. A rarity in pre-title game bowl tilts.

Watchable scale: 9 - Two good teams, game's not too early in the morning. Worth the time, I'd say.

The "Let's Get This Over With" Bowl

Penn State (9-3) vs. Houston (12-1), TicketCity Bowl (Noon, Jan. 2, ESPNU)

Early line: Houston -6

Lowdown: Penn State's season has been an absolute nightmare off the field, and Houston was one blown Conference USA title game away from breaking into the BCS. This is hardly a consolation prize. It's more like an extension of pain.

Watchable scale: 4 - Houston's offense vs. Penn State's defense could be interesting. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself.


Urban Meyer, above, is the antagonist and protagonist of this year's Gator Bowl.

AP Photo

The "Urban Meyer's a Hero/Traitor" Bowl

Ohio State (6-6) vs. Florida (6-6), Gator Bowl (1 p.m., Jan. 2, ESPN2)

Early line: Florida -2

Lowdown: Urban Meyer's new team (Ohio State) against Urban Meyer's jilted old team (Florida). Now this is good television. On the field, these programs are shells of their former selves. But as far as exterior stories go, this has it all.

Watchable scale: 7 - Over/under on mentions of Urban Meyer? 10,000? Heck, we're at four in this little writeup. If he walks into the ESPN television booth, all Buckeye-Gator message boards may explode.

The "Angry Coach" Bowl

Nebraska (9-3) vs. South Carolina (10-2), Capital One Bowl (1 p.m., Jan. 2, ESPN)

Early line: South Carolina -1

Lowdown: Bo Pelini screams at everyone and Steve Spurrier hasn't met a headset or visor he can't chuck into the ground. The game's played in the shadow of Disney World, but not even a visit from Mickey Mouse is likely to calm these two down.

Watchable scale: 5 - There's talent on the field, but Michigan State-Georgia is on at the same time. I'd watch that instead.


Oregon players celebrate their 49-31 win against UCLA in the Pac-12 title game.

AP Photo

The "Yes, We Really Deserve
to be Here" Bowl

Wisconsin (11-2) vs. Oregon (11-2), Rose Bowl (5 p.m., Jan. 2, ESPN)

Early line: Oregon -6 1/2

Lowdown: Both teams actually had to win something to advance here, a rarity, so you know you've got a pair of quality squads to watch. An added bonus, LaMichael James and Montee Ball are two of the more exciting players in college football.

Watchable scale: 10 - It's the Rose Bowl and, unlike in years past, this speed vs. strength battle might actually be a good one.

The "We're Not Apologizing for Getting Paid" Bowl

Michigan (10-2) vs. Virginia Tech (11-2), Sugar Bowl (8:30 p.m., Jan. 3, ESPN)

Early line: Michigan -1 1/2

Lowdown: Michigan backed its way in and Virginia Tech wasn't supposed to be here at all. But, hey, who's counting. The Wolverines and Hokies will no doubt pack the Superdome and draw solid television ratings. But will the game hold up? We'll see.

Watchable scale: 7 - Michigan's Denard Robinson and VIrginia Tech's David Wilson make this interesting. Also, it's the only game on that day.



Wisconsin's Montee Ball scores on a 6-yard touchdown run during a Big Ten championship game win over Michigan State.

AP Photo

Sky High: Wisconsin (11-2, 6-2)

The outright 2011 Big Ten Conference champions. We really don't have to say much else, there, do we?

I've been tough on the Badgers all season (and will continue to be), because they should have been pushing for a BCS Championship game rather than a Rose Bowl bid.

But, Pasadena is a pretty good consolation prize. And, on top of it all, Montee Ball is a Heisman Trophy finalist.

Life's pretty good in Madison right now.

Rock Bottom: Michigan State (10-3, 7-1)

The Spartans had a chance to go to the Rose Bowl for the first time in the personal computer era, but couldn't get the job done.

Instead, it's bloomin' onions for everyone. Bloomin' onions and a whole lot of heartache.

Michigan State had a fabulous season, but the Big Ten has a true championship game now. And like it's been for the Big 12, the old Pac-10 and the SEC in the past -- it can be an all-or-nothing affair.

No offense to the Outback Bowl, but Michigan State was left with nothing after a devastating three-point loss in Indianapolis.

Last week's heavy lifter: Montee Ball, Wisconsin Jr. RB

If Montee Ball's not scoring touchdowns, the Earth is probably on the verge of collapse.

Ball continued his chase of Barry Sanders' single-season NCAA touchdown record with four more scores in the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State.

Ball now has 38 touchdowns on the year, one away from Sanders' record.

Standout stats

Teams without coaches (Illinois and UCLA) in the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

Sacks racked up this season by the Michigan State defense, better than three per game.

Points per game this season by Wisconsin's nationally fourth-ranked scoring offense.

Attendance at the inaugural Big Ten Championship game. Lucas Oil Stadium lists its football capacity at 67,000.


"Michigan sat home tonight on the couch and watched us. We played our hearts out — you saw it. I don't see how you get punished for playing and someone else gets to sit on the couch and get what they want. If this is the way the system is, I guess it's a broken system." — Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins following a Big Ten Championship game loss to Wisconsin.

Off the cuff

It's December, the bowls have been announced, fans are in an uproar, schools have been jobbed, others have been unfairly rewarded.

And, frankly, I'm tired.

How many more years of ridiculousness are going to pass by before this "system" gets blown to bits? How many more schools with solid resumes are going to get left out in the cold because another program was a juggernaut 50 years ago?

How many more meaningless, sponsor-blitzed exhibition games are going to be forced before folks get the point that the only people taking joy in college football's postseason are odds makers and gamblers?

College football's 'good ol' boy' garbage is beyond played. The system's a disaster, everyone knows it, thousands talks about it, no one denies it.

I'm tired of it.

Call me when March Madness tips off.

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.



Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 9:24 p.m.

You need to remember that you write for ANN and your readership is primarily Michigan fans. Don't bite the hand that feeds you, man. Those of us who were smart enough to get into and graduate from Michigan know who that "50 years ago" inaccuracy was about.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 10:43 p.m.

Yeah, just write stories that tell us exactly what we want to hear!!!!!!


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 7:14 p.m.

Hahaha, too funny. I like the angry coach bowl comments. Bo is definitely wound a little too tight. That dude is brutal on referees also.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 4:56 p.m.

First off who was the "juggernaut 50 years ago?" Litte Brother- Was a juggernaut in the 50's and early 60's with 6 NC's in that time frame Michigan- was the juggernaut pre WWII (with 8 NC's) and from the 70's-08' with 1 NC and 21 big ten titles in that period and has a total of 42 conference championships. ohio- was the juggernaut from 50's-00's minus a couple of years here and there. Penn- State was the juggernaut from the 70's-02' Wisc- has never been a juggernaut. Minnesota- was the juggernaut in the 30's and 40's with 5 NC's during that time frame To put that in perspective the University of Chicago has the same amount of Big Ten championships that Little Brother does! Poor Kirt Cousans! What a baby but he is just like his coach! Little Bro you lost 3 games this year and dropped out of the top 14! It is your fault that you are not in the bowl game you want to be in not the BCS or systems fault! It is Michigans fault as well because they lost less games then you. If Michigan would have only lost one game to you and jumped you would you still be mad? This system is based on your win vs. loss record and Michigans is better than yours. There has only been one non automatic bid team that has had 3 losses and got in and that was Illinois in 07'-08' so I guess you should have lost to ND or Nebraska (who Michigan beat). Go Blue!!!


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 3:26 p.m.

Regarding the OSU/FL matchup - Will Urban Meyer actually be on OSUs sidelines? I was glad to see Wisconsin win and I am thrilled they are in the Rosebowl (especially given the alternative), but they will get rolled. It will be a whuppin' of epic proportions. Worse than the TCU debacle of last years' Rose Bowl. Bert Bulimia is a clown and for the life of me, I can't figure out how they continue to win with that buffoon at the helm. I can only figure Barry is on the other end of the head set.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 3:35 p.m.

I agree about Wisconsin, but I hope we're both wrong for the sake of the BigTen. Last years' Rose Bowl was 21-19 TCU, why is that a "debacle".


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 3:20 p.m.

Why are you taking shots at Urban Meyer.he's been a winner wherever he's been,You in Ann Arbor have to play him once a year,every year. Hokies in the Granulated Sugar Bowl.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 3:36 p.m.

You're right, Urban's a great coach (probably b/c of his initials). Are you implying there should be some worry about having "to play him once a year, every year"? Trust me, no one's worried.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:50 p.m. close, lol. (From the article) 64,152 Attendance at the inaugural Big Ten Championship game. Lucas Oil Stadium lists its football capacity at 67,000.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:44 p.m.

Maybe it's just that I live in Texas, but I think Northwestern-Texas A&M is more than a 3 on the watchability scale. Northwestern's recent bowl games have been exciting (remember when they nearly took Auburn two years ago?). A&M is a team that would be playing in the Title game if there were only two quarters played. Their confidence is shaky as ever, and this bowl primed for an upset by Northwestern. I'm hoping for a strong showing by the Wildcats and yet another second-half collapse by the Aggies. Nebraska-South Carolina is a 7 in my book, too, while Purdue-Western Michigan is no better than a 3. UCLA-Illinois is terrible, but a zero? If that's a zero, then what do you call Utah State-Ohio? -10??

Rod Johnson

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:36 p.m.

I am intrigued. Tell me more about the "exterior shorelines" in the Gator Bowl.

Nick Baumgardner

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 10:46 p.m.

My fault, Rod. I meant to give you a shout out earlier, but I forgot. Typo's fixed, I appreciate it. Nick

Rod Johnson

Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

Oh, sure, fix the typo and make me look incoherent. :)


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 1:35 p.m.

"How many more schools with solid resumes are going to get left out in the cold because another program was a juggernaut 50 years ago?" What exactly do you mean by that? What does "left out in the cold" mean -- that they didn't get into a "BCS" bowl? Or they didn't get into a bowl that pays a lot of money? Or they didn't get into a system that allows them to play for the championship? The most prevalent playoff scheme is a "seeded plus one" system -- the top 4 teams, then one extra game. Put that system in place right now and you have LSU, Alabama, OSU and Stanford. Which of those programs is undeserving because they were a "juggernaut 50 years ago?" Or maybe you're your complaint is a thinly veiled one about Michigan and Virginia Tech in the Sugar? Write an article with details of what you'd prefer ... let's see how you'd fix this. I promise that whatever you come up with will have an element of favoritism towards established programs, and will have an element of arbitrariness. But go ahead ... write the article. Lay it out here. What I'm tired of are empty complaints about things ... and angry fist-shaking about "doing something." Spell out exactly what YOU would do and let's see how solid an idea it is.


Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 7:54 p.m.

Wow, DonAZ, a little touchy? While I'm not the author, here's what I would do: -16 team playoff -11 FBS conferences, winners of each conference gets a birth -5 at large bids -Indepenent schools join a conference or swim forever in the at-large pool, nothing guaranteed (I'm looking at you Notre Dame!) -First round played at the higher seeds school (get some of those southern schools to travel north for once (cold weather schools always have to travel and that's a disadvantage currently) -Quarter finals, semi finals, and championship game played in the traditional bowl games, which rotate every year, like the current BCS format. Don't give me the excuse of "that's too many games". -8 of the 16 teams will play just as many as they do now. At large teams that don't reach their conference championship game will actually play FEWER games than the champions of the leagues. -4 teams will play one extra game, but no more than a plus one playoff would give -2 teams will play two extra games. -2 teams will play three etra games. Also, I don't want to hear, "they'll miss too much class time." Puh-leaze! -Basketball teams play more games and DURING THE WEEK. They miss far more class time, but no one cries foul over that. If 16 is too much, my alternative -8 team playoff -6 AQ conference champions automatic birth -2 at large bids -Independent schools (see above) -play in traditionalbowls and rotate like the current BCS