Big 10, Little 2? The Big Ten Conference lands record 10 bowl bids
The days of the Big Two and Little Eight died decades ago, but the Big Ten Conference hit a new level of parity on Sunday.
The conference also landed two teams -- Wisconsin (Rose Bowl) and Michigan (Sugar Bowl) -- in the Bowl Championship Series for the 10th time in 14 seasons.
Only Minnesota (3-9) and Indiana (1-10) will spend their holidays at home. Here's a look at where the other Big Ten team are headed, with excerpts of some early previews from The Associated Press:LITTLE CAESARS PIZZA BOWL
Purdue vs. Western Michigan
4:30 p.m., Dec. 27
DETROIT (AP) — The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl can welcome a Big Ten team for the first time in four years.
Purdue will play Western Michigan at Detroit's Ford Field. The bowl has a tie with the Big Ten, but it's not always clear whether enough Big Ten teams will be eligible.
"Both teams have significant fan bases and will no doubt bring that support with them to Detroit," said Ken Hoffman, the bowl's executive director. "We expect an outstanding game."
The last Big Ten team to play in this bowl was also Purdue, which beat Central Michigan 51-48 in 2007. The Boilermakers haven't played in a bowl since.
Iowa vs. Oklahoma
10 p.m., Dec. 30
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Insight Bowl passed on taking Penn State, instead going with two teams that had been to the desert recently.
Given the alleged sexual abuse of children by assistant coach Jerry Sandusky at Penn State, taking Oklahoma and Iowa seemed like the safest bet. The Insight Bowl became one of five bowls to pass on the Nittany Lions.
"We considered Iowa a great opponent and with what they (Penn State) had been through, this wasn't the best year," said Duane Woods, board chairman for the Fiesta Bowl, which operates the Insight Bowl.
The result pits two good teams who'll be playing in the desert for the second straight bowl season.
Iowa (7-5) beat Missouri 27-24 in last year's Insight Bowl for its school-record third straight bowl win. Oklahoma (9-3) also played in the Valley of the Sun last year, routing Connecticut 48-10 in the Fiesta Bowl.
This year, they'll meet at Arizona State's Sun Devil Stadium, hoping to turn around seasons that have fizzled at the end.
MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL
Northwestern vs. Texas A&M
Noon, Dec. 31
HOUSTON (AP) — Texas A&M will stay close to home for its final game before leaving the Big 12.
The Aggies will take on Northwestern in a matchup that pits a pair of .500 teams hoping to rebound from uneven seasons. Texas A&M even has a different coach -- Tim DeRuyter is leading the team on an interim basis after Mike Sherman was fired Thursday.
"There has been a little bit of a cloud," said DeRuyter, who had been the team's defensive coordinator. "I think our guys are excited to get back on the field."
Texas A&M (6-6), joining the Southeastern Conference next season, entered this season with a top-10 ranking and were expected to contend for the Big 12 championship. Instead they lost early games to Oklahoma State and Arkansas after holding double-digit halftime leads.
Northwestern (6-6) had its four-game winning streak snapped by Michigan State in its final Big Ten game of the season.
FIGHT HUNGER BOWL
Illinois vs. UCLA
3:30 p.m., Dec. 31
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Fight Hunger Bowl ought to be called the Interim Coach Bowl this season.
UCLA and Illinois accepted bids after disappointing seasons that led both schools to fire their head coaches. That creates a matchup between a team with a losing record against one entering the bowl game on a six-game losing streak.
The Bruins (6-7) fired coach Rick Neuheisel last week before losing the Pac-12 title game 49-31 to Oregon to fall below .500. UCLA played in the game only because USC was ineligible because of probation. The NCAA approved a waiver for the Bruins because they were bowl eligible before the conference championship game.
Illinois opened the season 6-0 and briefly surged into the Top 25. The Illini then lost six straight games, costing coach Ron Zook his job after a 27-7 loss to struggling Minnesota in the regular-season finale.
Two defensive coordinators -- Illinois' Vic Koenning and UCLA's Mike Johnson -- are serving as interim coaches.
Penn State vs. Houston
Noon, Jan. 2
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Despite the horror of the allegations against Jerry Sandusky, Penn State president Rodney Erickson said the team still deserved to play in a bowl game because the players had nothing to do with the scandal that has enveloped the school and its treasured football program.
The Ticket City Bowl, played at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, grabbed Penn State (9-3) with the seventh selection out of bowls with Big Ten tie-ins, after the BCS games.
Houston (12-1) fell from a potential berth in the Bowl Championship Series to the Ticket City after getting upset by Southern Mississippi, 49-28, on Saturday in its league title game.
Now the Ticket City Bowl gets a relatively high-profile matchup between the Nittany Lions, who usually draw large postseason crowds, and the Cougars and star quarterback Case Keenum playing in their home state.
Both schools have seemingly tentative coaching situations. Houston's Kevin Sumlin has been mentioned as a top candidate for high-profile openings. Penn State is searching for a replacement for legendary Joe Paterno, who was fired as part of the Sandusky scandal.
Ohio State vs. Florida
1 p.m., Jan. 2
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Urban Meyer's former and future teams will play in the Gator Bowl.
Florida (6-6) and Ohio State (6-6) will meet in a matchup of once-proud programs that slipped significantly this season. The teams last played in the 2006 national championship game, which Florida won 41-14.
Meyer's hiring earlier in the week in Columbus makes the rematch even more intriguing.
But both sides insist it won't be a distraction, even though Meyer already has lured highly regarded strength coach Mickey Marotti away from Florida.
Meyer won two national titles in six years with the Gators and left Gainesville after last season, citing health concerns and a desire to spend more time with his family. He was introduced as Ohio State's coach Monday.
Luke Fickell, retained by Meyer as an assistant coach, will lead the Buckeyes through the bowl.
Will Muschamp, a former defensive coordinator at Texas, replaced Meyer last December and has struggled to pick up the pieces. The Gators lost six of their last eight games, and had to rally to beat lower-division Furman last month.
Michigan State vs. Georgia
1 p.m., Jan. 2
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Conference championship game losers Georgia and Michigan State have landed in the same bowl. One of them will rebound. The other will end the season with consecutive losses.
The 18th-ranked Bulldogs (10-3) and 12th-ranked Spartans (10-3) is a matchup of 10-win teams that had a chance to earn berths in the Bowl Championship Series. Instead, they dropped below the Capital One Bowl.
The Capital One chose Nebraska over Michigan State, and picked South Carolina over Georgia.
"Our focus is on winning our last football game -- the bowl game," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "It's important for our seniors -- the winningest four-year class in Spartan history -- to add a bowl victory to its long list of accomplishments."
CAPITAL ONE BOWL
Nebraska vs. South Carolina
1 p.m., Jan. 2
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Capital One Bowl will feature one of college football's most respected offensive gurus matching wits with one of the sport's young defensive minds.
Steve Spurrier and No. 10 South Carolina will square off against Bo Pelini and No. 21 Nebraska. It will be the first meeting between the schools since 1987 and first-ever postseason matchup.
Nebraska (9-3) comes in having wrapped up its first year in the Big Ten and has a chance to post 10 wins for the third straight season. Despite some stumbles that kept them from making a BCS run, Pelini is making his fourth straight bowl appearance as coach. He also added to his defensive reputation with the 18th-best passing defense in the nation.
South Carolina (10-2) is also making its fourth straight bowl appearance, but hasn't won a bowl game since the 2006 Liberty Bowl. Spurrier is calling this a huge game for his team. A victory would give the Gamecocks 11 wins for the first time in more than 100 years of football, and end a disturbing run of three ugly bowl losses.
Wisconsin vs. Oregon
4:30 p.m., Jan. 2
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — The last two losers of the Rose Bowl have another chance to get it right.
The ninth-ranked Badgers (11-2) are headed to their second straight Rose Bowl after losing 21-19 to TCU last year. The No. 6 Ducks (11-2) lost to Ohio State in Pasadena two seasons ago.
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema is already motivated for a particularly compelling chapter of the Rose Bowl's traditional intersectional rivalry, with the wildly inventive Ducks pitted against the Badgers' old-school power football.
"The great thing about this bowl game matchup is it's the direct opposites of offensive philosophy," Bielema said. "You want to have unique matchups, and for us to play Oregon in one of the best environments for football anywhere, it's going to be so unique. It's going to draw a lot of attention."
Players from both teams knew their holiday destination well before the official announcement, celebrating with roses in their teeth after they won their conferences' first title games over the weekend. Oregon battered UCLA 49-31 at Autzen Stadium on Friday, and Wisconsin edged Michigan State 42-39 on Saturday.
Michigan vs. Virginia Tech
8:30 p.m., Jan. 3
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Michigan will face Virginia Tech in a showdown of storied programs that was patched together after the Sugar Bowl couldn't invite one of its traditional partners from the Southeastern Conference.
Top-ranked LSU and No. 2 Alabama will both be coming to the Big Easy, but they'll be playing six days later in the BCS championship game.
Going strictly on the rankings, the Sugar Bowl's next-best options were Boise State and Kansas State. The selection committee snubbed them both, going with schools that are likely bring more fans to the Superdome and drum up interest in a game that will surely be overshadowed in its own city.
Virginia Tech (11-2) claimed a BCS bid despite losing 38-10 to Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. The Orange Bowl-bound Tigers handed the Hokies their only two losses.
Led by quarterback Denard Robinson, Michigan (10-2) had a resurgent season under first-year coach Brady Hoke, capped by a 40-34 victory over Ohio State that ended a seven-year losing streak to the Wolverines' biggest rival.
The Sugar Bowl had targeted Michigan all along, though the spot wasn't assured until the Wolverines climbed past 14th the final BCS standings -- the cutoff line to be eligible as a team that didn't win its conference title.