Friday, December 30, 2011
Predictions: Big Ten BCS games
By Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg
On Monday, we gave you our picks for the eight non-BCS bowls involving Big Ten teams. Now it's time to turn our attention to the big ones.
Our picks for the Rose and Sugar bowls will also serve as our final game predictions for the 2011 season. Season bragging rights between the bloggers are on the line.
Without further ado ...
Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO
No. 10 Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Oregon (Jan. 2)
Brian Bennett: A tantalizing matchup that frankly could go either way. I think Wisconsin will find a lot of success in the ground game with Montee Ball, but I question the Badgers' ability to slow down the Ducks' hyper-speed offense. Teams that have stopped Oregon usually have dominant linemen on defense, and Wisconsin is good but not great in that area. We saw in the Big Ten championship game that you can exploit the Badgers out in space. It's a thriller, but Oregon makes fewer mistakes and capitalizes one more time on a clinching fourth-quarter touchdown run by LaMichael James. ... Oregon 35, Wisconsin 30.
Adam Rittenberg: I need this one to have any chance to catch Mr. Bennett in the overall standings, and I'm going with the underdog. Wisconsin has the ability to not only control the clock but attack Oregon in multiple ways. Ball should be able to move the ball, but quarterback Russell Wilson will be the difference as he attacks the nation's 82nd-rated pass defense. Wisconsin will use the USC blueprint to beat Oregon: great quarterback play, a big game from a wide receiver (Jared Abbrederis) and just enough defense to survive. Although the Badgers' defense didn't impress me in the Big Ten championship game, the unit should benefit from the extra prep time for Oregon. Wilson throws three touchdown passes and runs in another in the fourth quarter. ... Wisconsin 38, Oregon 35
Allstate Sugar Bowl
No. 13 Michigan vs. No. 11 Virginia Tech (Jan. 3)
Adam Rittenberg: Virginia Tech won't be as bad as it was in the ACC title game, but Michigan has the edge in several areas. Denard Robinson put it all together late in the regular season, and he'll be tough to contain for four quarters if he doesn't turn over the ball. Virginia Tech really struggled with Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, and "Shoelace" might be even more dangerous. Michigan's defensive front should be able to contain the Hokies' ground game. Brady Hoke completes a strong first season with a BCS bowl victory. ... Michigan 27, Virginia Tech 21
Brian Bennett: I still don't know why Virginia Tech is in this game, but Michigan should be thankful. This is a very advantageous matchup for the Wolverines, whose strength on defense aligns with their biggest need: stopping Hokies running back David Wilson. Virginia Tech has the speed on defense to protect the edge but not the size to fight off David Molk and an excellent Michigan offensive line. Robinson gets loose a couple times on the Superdome carpet, and the Wolverines frustrate the Virginia Tech offense to post a double-digit victory. ... Michigan 24, Virginia Tech 13.