Some excellent notes and nuggets from ESPN Stats & Info to get you ready for a five-pack of Big Ten bowls today.
TicketCity Bowl: Penn State vs. Houston
Penn State will be playing in its first bowl game without Joe Paterno as head coach since the 1962 Gator Bowl. It's the first time the Nittany Lions have played a bowl game without Paterno on the staff since the 1948 Cotton Bowl, which is where the TicketCity Bowl is played. Penn State has previously only played two bowl games in its history without Paterno on staff -- the 1948 Cotton Bowl and the 1923 Rose Bowl.
Houston had 29 touchdown passes of 20 or more yards this season, most in the FBS. Penn State has allowed just two such touchdown passes all season -- tied for fewest in the FBS (Alabama, LSU, Texas).
Penn State surrendered 89 points in three losses to ranked opponents (Alabama, Nebraska and Wisconsin). The Nittany Lions allowed 99 points in their other nine games.
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: Ohio State vs. Florida
The loser of this game will finish with seven losses. Florida hasn't done that since an 0-10-1 season in 1979. Ohio State hasn't had that many defeats in a season since 1897 (1-7-1). The Buckeyes have the longest stretch without a 7-loss season in the FBS -- by 78 years! The next-longest stretch is Florida State (1975).
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller has recorded 100 rush yards or more in three of his past five games, with the majority coming on designed running plays. During that time period, Miller has averaged 85 yards per game on designed runs, after averaging 21.3 yards per game in his first six career contests. Miller averages 13.3 yards on draw plays and 7.9 yards on scrambles.
Buckeyes senior running back Dan Herron has rushed for 593 yards this season in six games since returning from suspension, 321 of which have come after contact. Herron has gained at least 34 yards after contact in every game this season. Yet he might not even be the toughest running back to bring down in the game. Florida's Chris Rainey has gained 446 of his 790 rushing yards this season after contact, a slightly higher percentage than Herron's.
Outback Bowl: Michigan State vs. Georgia
This is the third matchup between these two teams in a bowl, with both of the previous matchups also coming in Florida. Georgia won the 1989 Gator Bowl and the 2009 Capital One Bowl.
The teams' top-five defenses are very similar statistically. Michigan State allows 104.3 rush yards a game, while Georgia allows 103.4 rush yards per game. Georgia allows 165.1 pass yards per game, while Michigan State allows 168.4 pass yards per game. The Spartans allow 17.5 points per game, while Georgia allows 19.6 points per game.
Michigan State senior wide receiver B.J. Cunningham has nine touchdown catches in his past four games, including three in the Big Ten championship game against Wisconsin. He has 25 touchdown catches in his career, second in school history behind Charles Rogers.
Capital One Bowl: Nebraska vs. South Carolina
Under Bo Pelini, Nebraska’s defenses have been suffocating in bowl games. In four bowls with Pelini functioning as either the interim or full-time head coach, the Blackshirts have allowed just 10.8 points and 88.3 rush yards per game.
Nebraska is 12-5 all-time in bowl games against current members of the SEC. However, the Cornhuskers have lost their past two bowls against SEC teams (2002 Independence Bowl vs. Ole Miss and 2007 Cotton Bowl vs. Auburn). Nebraska is 3-0 all-time against South Carolina, with the two most recent meetings coming in 1986 and 1987.
Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio: Wisconsin vs. Oregon
Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas and Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson both have been accurate throwing the ball 15 yards or more downfield. Thomas completes 49.2 percent of such throws with 12 touchdowns and only one interception, connecting for touchdowns on 20.3 percent of his attempts. Wilson completes 52.4 percent of such throws with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions, connecting for touchdowns on 11.9 percent of his attempts. Last season with NC State, Wilson completed just 33.6 percent of such throws with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Since Wisconsin won back-to-back Rose Bowls in 1999 and 2000, the Big Ten is just 1-7 in the game, with the only victory coming two years ago, when Ohio State knocked off Oregon. Big Ten teams are allowing 32.1 points per game during the eight-game span and scoring 22.4.