Big Ten bowl winners do it with defense


In today's college football, offense sells. I get that. Players love offense, sports writers love offense, TV broadcasters love offense, fans love offense. Heck, I love offense, too.

And particularly when the offense uses a gimmicky, er, innovative scheme, it will attract a ton of attention.

Did anyone else get tired of hearing about Oregon's high-powered zone read spread or Georgia Tech's unstoppable triple option?

In the end, Big Ten defenses made those offenses look pedestrian. All four Big Ten bowl winners faced teams boasting high-powered offenses and/or supposedly superior skill players. And all four bowl winners played lock-down defense.

While the Big Ten received surprisingly strong quarterback play in the bowls -- more on that later -- it regained some national respect because of its defensive performance. Sound fundamentals and strong preparation trumped tricky systems.

Here's a look at how Big Ten defenses stepped up to win bowls:


Result: 20-14 win against No. 15 Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl

Opposing QB: Jacory Harris completed 16 of 29 passes for 188 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He had nine rushes for minus-1 yard.

Defensive superlatives:

  • Recorded five sacks and nine tackles for loss as seven players contributed TFLs

  • Allowed only 249 yards (Miami came in averaging 412.5)

  • Allowed only 61 rush yards on 23 carries (Miami came in averaging 144.4 rush yards)

  • After Miami scored on its first play from scrimmage, the Badgers blanked the Hurricanes for the next 58 minutes

  • Held Miami to six drives of nine yards or fewer


Result: 19-17 win against No. 12 LSU in the Capital One Bowl

Opposing QB: Jordan Jefferson completed 13 of 24 passes for 202 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He had eight carries for 11 yards.

Defensive superlatives:

  • Allowed only three points, 67 yards and two first downs in the first half. LSU gained 54 of those yards on just two plays, as Jefferson twice found wideout Brandon LaFell

  • Held LSU to 41 yards rushing and a season-low nine first downs in the game

  • Kept LSU out of the end zone for the first 44:47

  • Recorded two sacks and six tackles for loss to go along with two takeaways


Result: 26-17 win against No. 7 Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi

Opposing QB: Jeremiah Masoli completed only 9 of 20 passes for 81 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He had just six carries for nine yards and a touchdown.

Defensive superlatives:

  • Held Oregon well below its season averages in points (17 vs. 37.7), total yards (260 vs. 424.7), offensive plays (53 vs. 69.3), 20-yard plays (3 vs. 6) and possession time (18:23 vs. 28.12)

  • Held Oregon to season lows in passing yards (81). Oregon's total yards total was its second lowest of the season, and its 12 first downs marked a low for a Ducks bowl game.

  • Held Oregon to just 2 of 11 on third down

  • Forced two turnovers, giving Ohio State 35 takeaways for the season


Result: 24-14 win against No. 9 Georgia Tech

Opposing QB: Josh Nesbitt completed 2 of 9 passes for 12 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He had 20 rushes for 46 yards

Defensive superlatives:

  • Georgia Tech had season lows in points (14), total yards (156) and first downs (9)

  • Iowa forced Yellow Jackets punts on their first six possessions after Tech had gone 22 consecutive possessions without a punt

  • The Hawkeyes held Georgia Tech to 32 yards of total offense in the first half, marking Tech's lowest first-half total in at least 20 years

  • Georgia Tech's scoreless second quarter marked just the eighth time in 55 quarters that the Yellow Jackets failed to score

  • Iowa recorded three sacks, five tackles for loss and an interception