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Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Poll: Who most needs a bowl win?

By Brian Bennett

We must remember this season that, outside of the national title game and the other BCS games, postseason results are forgotten quickly.

Yes, overall bowl performance can certainly help or harm a league's image, and the Big Ten could use a positive showing this year. But most people will have a hard time remembering who won the Outback or Heart of Dallas bowls a few months from now, and wins or losses in the postseason don't necessarily have an effect on the following season. See Michigan State, which scored the Big Ten's best bowl win last year, over Georgia, but didn't do much to continue that momentum with a 6-6 season in 2012.

Still, bowl wins can lead to better perception and set up higher preseason rankings for the following year. With that in mind, we thought we'd take a look at which Big Ten teams could most use a bowl victory this year. Our top five candidates:

Northwestern (vs. Mississippi State in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl): Beating an SEC team would be a nice cap to a strong season for the Wildcats. But who are we kidding? Just beating anybody in a bowl game would be a thrill, and a relief, for a program that is tired of talking about not having won one since 1949. Shedding that albatross would help Pat Fitzgerald and everyone else in purple move forward. A win would also mean a 10-3 season, and for a team that brings nearly everybody back, that should equate into a preseason ranking in 2013.

Wisconsin (vs. Stanford in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio): Hey, it's the Rose Bowl, so of course a victory would be meaningful. The Badgers are eager to avoid a third straight loss in Pasadena, and they have a chance to get Barry Alvarez his fourth Rose Bowl title. Things are going to change immensely after the game with a new head coach regardless of the outcome, but some positive vibes sure couldn't hurt.

Nebraska (vs. Georgia in the Capital One Bowl): The Cornhuskers have to be disappointed to be back in Orlando and not in the Rose Bowl. But a victory over a highly ranked SEC team would erase some of the sting of that Big Ten title game disaster. Beating Georgia would also remove some of the criticism surrounding Bo Pelini as fans couldn't complain too much about an 11-win season.

Michigan (vs. South Carolina in the Outback Bowl): The Wolverines lost every one of their high-profile games this season (Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Nebraska) to finish 8-4. Beating the Gamecocks would reverse that trend and end the year on a positive note. If Devin Gardner has a big game against a nasty South Carolina defense, it could be a good sign of things to come for '13.

Minnesota (vs. Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas): Just advancing to a bowl game in Year 2 under Jerry Kill was a strong accomplishment, and the Gophers are heavy underdogs against the Red Raiders. An upset win wouldn't suddenly turn Minnesota into a 2013 Legends Division favorite, but it would register as probably the biggest victory to date of the Kill era and send this young team into winter conditioning with a serious bounce in its step. Playing well in Texas could also aid recruiting efforts.

Which of these five teams would benefit the most from a bowl win? Vote now in our poll.