What we learned in the Big Ten bowls

January, 12, 2011
1/12/11
9:00
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Five lessons from the 2010-11 Big Ten bowl season.

1. The Big Ten lacks depth. Not a real revelation here, but the Big Ten lacked the depth it displayed in the previous postseason. Although both Ohio State and Wisconsin held their own in BCS games, the Michigan schools melted down against the SEC and neither Penn State nor Northwestern could beat so-so opponents. If not for mini upsets by both Iowa and Illinois, the bowls would have been a total disaster.

2. The new bowl lineup might be tougher. The Big Ten does itself no favors in the bowls, and the new lineup isn't helping matters. Big Ten teams went 1-2 in the new bowls, winning the Texas Bowl but falling in both the Gator and the TicketCity. Placing two teams in BCS games every season means everyone moves up a slot, so it's unrealistic to expect the Big Ten to post too many winning records in postseason play.

3. Terrelle Pryor is a big-time bowl performer. It's certainly debatable whether Pryor and four Ohio State teammates should have been allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl, but Pryor stepped up his game for the second consecutive season. The Buckeyes junior quarterback blocked out the distractions and turned in an impressive performance, passing for 221 yards and two touchdowns and adding 115 rush yards. He earned MVP honors in a BCS bowl for the second straight year.

4. Michigan State isn't there yet. These aren't your same old Spartans. They proved otherwise during an unforgettable regular season. But with a chance to "measure up" against defending national champ Alabama, Michigan State crumbled in a humbling Capital One Bowl defeat. Although 'Bama wasn't your typical 9-3 squad this season, Michigan State learned it still has some steps to take to become an elite program.

5. Iowa's run game will be just fine. Adam Robinson's suspension and subsequent dismissal appeared to be the latest blow for Iowa's depth-deprived run game. But true freshman Marcus Coker made the concerns disappear and, in the process, raised hope for next season with a historic performance in the Insight Bowl. Coker rushed for 219 yards and two touchdowns -- the second-highest total by a Big Ten freshman in a bowl behind Wisconsin's Ron Dayne in the 1996 Copper Bowl -- as Iowa rallied past Missouri. The Hawkeyes know who they want carrying the load in 2011.

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