NCF Nation: Capital One Bowl

Sean Lee began his career with a bowl win, getting on the field as a reserve linebacker as Penn State beat Florida State in the 2006 Orange Bowl.

Lee wants to end his career the same way. Penn State is known for winning bowl games, and Lee carries a 3-0 mark into Friday's Capital One Bowl matchup against No. 12 LSU (ESPN, 1 p.m. ET). Remember that Lee missed last year's Rose Bowl loss to USC with a knee injury, so he doesn't know what it feels like to be on the field for a postseason loss.

[+] EnlargeSean Lee
AP Photo/Carolyn KasterSean Lee hopes to finish his college career with a win in Friday's Capital One Bowl.
And he has no intention of starting now.

"I've told the guys it's good to have fun during the trip and experience the city, but you will remember the game," said Lee, a co-captain for the Nittany Lions. "You will remember winning the game, and it'll spoil everything if you don't work as hard as you can and try to win this game.

"We've had that attitude. We've come down here on a mission."

Penn State traveled to Florida earlier than teams usually do for bowl games, a strategy head coach Joe Paterno employs to get his players acclimated to the environment. The team spent the first five days in Daytona Beach, where it was "just straight football," Lee said

That meant two-a-day practices, 7:15 a.m. wake-up calls and a training camp-like atmosphere.

"We were on the beach in Daytona," Lee said, "but we barely got a chance to go partly because it was raining a little bit and secondly, because we were practicing so much and everyone was so tired."

Players have had a bit more fun in Orlando, going to Best Buy on Tuesday for a shopping spree. But Lee and his teammates are locking in on LSU, an opponent stocked with young talent and athleticism.

Lee sees similarities between LSU and the Tennessee squad he faced in the 2007 Outback Bowl, which Penn State won 20-10.

"They have a ton of athletes," he said. "When it comes to their wide receivers, [Trindon] Holliday they use in a ton of ways. And their quarterback, [Jordan] Jefferson, is a really good athlete. When he gets out of the pocket, he makes a lot of plays and gets the ball to their big, good, really athletic receivers. And their running back, [Stevan] Ridley, replaced [Charles] Scott as the year's gone on. He's been a big reason why they've had success."

Lee, who battled a knee injury early this season but surged down the stretch, feels as healthy as he's been since the summer. He leads a Penn State defense that owns sick stats -- fourth nationally in scoring (11.8 ppg), eighth in total defense (277.1 ypg), sixth in tackles for loss (8.25 per game) and eighth in sacks (2.92 per game) -- but lacks a signature victory.

LSU provides that opportunity.

"We didn't play as well as we would have liked in our two big games at home, against Ohio State and Iowa," Lee said. "This is just another chance to prove the type of football team we are, and to be able to play a team with a ton of tradition like LSU just adds to it."

Capital One Bowl

December, 6, 2009
Penn State (10-2) vs. LSU (9-3)

Jan. 1, 1 p.m., (ABC)

Penn State take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: Penn State's BCS bubble burst Sunday, but the Nittany Lions still have an excellent chance to notch a signature victory on New Year's Day.

Two of college football's most storied programs meet for just the second time at the Capital One Bowl. Penn State beat LSU in the 1974 Orange Bowl, which capped head coach Joe Paterno's eighth season at the helm. Paterno boasts 23 bowl victories, an NCAA record, and he aims for his 14th season of 11 or more wins against the Tigers.

Penn State's defense has been its calling card all season, as the Lions rank in the top eight nationally in yards allowed (277.1 ypg), points allowed (11.8), tackles for loss (8.25 per game) and sacks (2.9 per game). You can bet Big Ten defensive player of the year Jared Odrick and star linebackers Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee will be geared up to face an LSU offense that has endured its struggles this fall and will be without standout running back Charles Scott (fractured collarbone).

The Lions' Spread HD offense was both dominant at times this fall and dormant against elite defenses in both Ohio State and Iowa. LSU's defense provides another very tough test for Daryll Clark, Evan Royster and, most importantly, an offensive line that has taken some time to jell.

Penn State makes its fifth appearance in the Capital One/Citrus Bowl and its first since 2002. The Lions are 1-3 in the Orlando game.

LSU take by SEC blogger Chris Low: The wolves were howling in Baton Rouge following LSU’s 25-23 loss to Ole Miss on Nov. 21 when Les Miles and the Tigers’ offensive staff butchered the end of that game with their clock management. Miles was roasted by the fans and the media.

That next week, the Tigers were again on the ropes, but they showed their mettle by rallying in the final minute of regulation and beat Arkansas 33-30 in overtime to change the complexion of this season. A home loss to end the regular season, particularly coming off that Ole Miss debacle, would have made for a long offseason no matter what happened in the bowl game.

But, now, the Tigers have a chance to win a 1oth game and get one more chance to improve offensively. That’s been the sticking point, because John Chavis’ defense in his first year as LSU’s coordinator has played well enough to win every game the Tigers have played this season.

Injuries have decimated LSU’s running back stable, and the Tigers are down to Stevan Ridley. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Jefferson has struggled with his overall awareness, and LSU has also given up an SEC-high 35 sacks.

The Tigers are 11th in the SEC this season in total offense (309.7 yards per game). That’s 130 yards fewer per game than what they averaged in 2007 when they won the national championship.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The ACC recently made a change to its bowl lineup, swapping the Humanitarian Bowl for the much-closer GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala. The Big Ten is locked into its bowl agreements through the 2009 season, but the tie-ins will undoubtedly be discussed at next week's meeting of league coaches and athletic directors in Chicago. 

There's some mounting concern about two Big Ten bowl tie-ins, the Capital One Bowl and Champs Sports Bowl, both of which are held at Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando. At issue is the stadium and plans for renovations, which the Big Ten and SEC desperately want but might not get in the current economic climate. 

[Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan] said the SEC and Big Ten have grown tired of waiting for the renovation -- especially with other cities such as Dallas, with a new $1 billion stadium, looking to muscle in on Orlando's bowl positioning.

"The first thing the commissioners told me was 'I thought you guys had approved renovation of the stadium. I don't think you guys realize how important this is for us,'" Hogan said. " ... I didn't expect to be shocked as I was about how pointed and concerned our existing sponsors are right now."

It would be tough to see the Big Ten dump the Orlando games, especially the Capital One, considered by many to be the most prestigious non-BCS bowl. But it's always a good idea to evaluate the league's entire bowl lineup.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen thinks the Big Ten should make at least one change, swapping either the Insight or Motor City bowls for another game, or possibly adding a game. Asmussen argues that the Big Ten could benefit from a bowl game located closer to the league footprint, or perhaps a second bowl in tourist-friendly California. 

I doubt anyone has a major problem with the Outback or Alamo bowls. Those are solid games, so let's not waste time there.

The Big Ten's decision to trade the Sun and Music City bowls for the Champs Sports and Insight looked good at the time, and despite the stadium issues, the Champs Sports is a solid destination for mid-level Big Ten teams. I love the Sun Bowl and the Pac-10 matchup and would be thrilled if it came back, though El Paso is a tough place to travel to. The Insight Bowl is in a great location, but doesn't provide the exposure of other comparable bowl games.

The Motor City is an interesting dilemma for the Big Ten. Keep in mind the MAC-Big Ten relationship does help with nonconference scheduling, especially in this era of playing FCS teams. Playing a MAC team in the postseason helps this relationship. But few Big Ten fan bases like the idea of downtown Detroit in December.

On the other hand, it's rare when a Big Ten team actually plays in the Motor City Bowl. Only two teams have appeared in the game since the agreement began before the 2002 season.  

Final Big Ten power rankings

January, 14, 2009

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

As the only Big Ten team to win its bowl game, Iowa is the lone squad to make a significant move in the final edition of the power rankings. The gap narrowed between Penn State and Ohio State after the Buckeyes' solid effort in the Fiesta Bowl, but Penn State still gets the nod with a better body of work. Northwestern and Michigan State have been mirror images for much of the season and remain that way in the rankings.

  Scott A. Miller/US Presswire
  Shonn Greene rushed for 121 yards and 3 TDs in the Outback Bowl.

Here's the final rundown for 2008.

1. Penn State (11-2) -- The Nittany Lions looked out of sync in Pasadena, but they faced quite possibly the nation's best team in a virtual road game. It wasn't the way a stellar senior class intended to go out, but an 11-1 regular season highlighted by a road win against Ohio State keeps Penn State atop the rankings.

2. Ohio State (10-3) -- There aren't moral victories in Columbus, but Ohio State made a national statement, even in defeat, by outplaying Texas for most of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The Terrelle Pryor-led Buckeyes weren't the same team that had soiled itself against USC on Sept. 13. Ohio State played its best football down the stretch and was seconds away from a fairly substantial upset of Texas.

3. Iowa (9-4) -- Things fell into place perfectly for the Hawkeyes, who ended the season as the Big Ten's hottest team. Iowa rolled over an overmatched South Carolina team in the Outback Bowl to win six of its final seven games. Shonn Greene played a huge role, but so did a defense that led the Big Ten in takeaways (32).

T-4 Michigan State (9-4) -- The Spartans clearly peaked in late September/early October, but they continued to fight hard, especially on the defensive side. They outplayed Georgia for a half in the Capital One Bowl but couldn't capitalize on favorable field position. Though Michigan State beat Northwestern in a head-to-head matchup Oct. 11, the Wildcats played better football down the stretch. So it's a push between the teams.

T-4 Northwestern (9-4) -- Had the Wildcats finished off Missouri in the Alamo Bowl, they would have vaulted to No. 3 in the power rankings and possibly into the top 15 in the national polls. Despite being the biggest underdog in the 34 bowls, Northwestern outplayed Missouri but lost the game because of special-teams blunders. Along with Iowa and Ohio State, the Wildcats saved their best football for the end of the season.

6. Minnesota (7-6) -- The Gophers don't really deserve to move up the rankings after a 21-point loss in the Insight Bowl, but they turned in a better effort than Wisconsin, which self-destructed against Florida State. This team clearly needs some upgrades after losing five straight to close the season, but it was hard to imagine Tim Davis' power run attack clicking right away in the bowl game. There will be a lot of changes in 2009, but Minnesota returns its nucleus.

7. Wisconsin (7-6) -- Despite a win against Minnesota and a better regular-season finish, Wisconsin needed to pay the price for an embarrassing loss in the Champs Sports Bowl. An extremely disappointing season ended with a thud, as Wisconsin had three fumbles, two of which were returned for touchdowns. From coaching to quarterback play to intangibles, Wisconsin seemed to be missing something this fall.

8. Illinois (5-7) -- The Big Ten's bowl fortunes might have been better had the Illini found a way to sneak into the postseason. Then again, a big-play offense and loads of talent translated into only five victories this fall. Head coach Ron Zook seems intent on turning things around with some bold coaching hires. Illinois can't afford another bowl-less winter.

9. Purdue (4-8) -- The Boilermakers sent head coach Joe Tiller out on a high note with a 62-10 pasting of Indiana on Nov. 22. Head coach Danny Hope must restore Purdue's offensive swagger with a new quarterback in 2009, and the Boilers have several holes to fill on defense.

10. Michigan (3-9) -- The Big Ten sorely needs Michigan back in a bowl game in 2009, but Rich Rodriguez has another tough challenge ahead of him. Michigan must identify a capable quarterback, most likely freshman Tate Forcier, and fill gaps along the defensive line. If the offensive line improves and the running game surges behind Brandon Minor, Michigan should be in decent shape for a lower-tier bowl.

11. Indiana (3-9) -- After ending the Big Ten's longest bowl drought in 2007, Indiana slipped back to reality this fall. Head coach Bill Lynch enters 2009 on the hot seat, likely needing at least six victories to keep his job. Indiana has the talent, particularly at defensive end, and if it can stay healthy and improve on defense, a bowl run next fall isn't out of the question.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten probably wants to forget this postseason after going 1-6 in bowls. But several players stood out, even in defeat, and they deserve recognition. Let's hand out helmet stickers for the final time this season, beginning with the one Big Ten team (Iowa) that actually won its bowl.

Iowa running back Shonn Greene -- Playing in what would be his final collegiate game, the Hawkeyes' junior went out with a flourish, racking up 121 rushing yards and three touchdowns against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Greene eclipsed 100 rushing yards in all 13 games and set a single-season school rushing record with 1,850 yards.

Iowa strong safety Tyler Sash -- South Carolina was in a giving mood (five turnovers), and Sash capitalized with two interceptions, raising his season total to five. Sash, a redshirt freshman who became one of the team's top playmakers, picked off Stephen Garcia's first pass of the game and had interception returns of 45 and 29 yards.

Iowa cornerback Bradley Fletcher -- The senior recorded an interception and a forced fumble in his final game in a Hawkeyes uniform. With Iowa up 14-0, Fletcher squashed any chance of a South Carolina rally by intercepting a Garcia pass in the end zone for a touchback. He also forced a fumble on South Carolina's first play of the second half.

Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman -- He hadn't taken significant snaps since September but gave Ohio State a big lift in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against Texas. The offense was sputtering until Boeckman found Brian Robiskie for a 48-yard completion on the first play of the fourth quarter. Boeckman later threw a touchdown to fellow quarterback Terrelle Pryor and nearly helped Ohio State to a big upset.

Ohio State's defense -- Colt McCoy and Quan Cosby had the final word in Glendale, but Ohio State held the high-powered Texas offense well below its season scoring average. The Buckeyes racked up three sacks and nine tackles for loss and limited big plays until Cosby's 26-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left.

Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher -- Bacher ended an up-and-down senior season with arguably his best performance in the Valero Alamo Bowl. He threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns against Missouri in a 30-23 overtime loss. Bacher threw only one interception and spread the ball well to his veteran targets.

Northwestern's senior wide receivers -- Rasheed Ward, Ross Lane and Eric Peterman combined for 19 receptions, 261 yards and three touchdowns in the Alamo Bowl. All three had scoring receptions of 20 yards or longer, highlighted by Lane's circus catch in the back of the end zone late in the third quarter.

Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman -- The Rose Bowl was a rough one for Penn State's defense, but Bowman certainly did his part with five tackles for loss and a sack. Bowman finished the season with 106 tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss. Next season he'll form the Big Ten's top linebacker tandem with Sean Lee.

Michigan State safety Otis Wiley -- Wiley and his fellow defenders held Georgia to three first-half points in the Capital One Bowl and gave the Spartans offense a chance to create some distance on the scoreboard. Michigan State eventually caved against Matthew Stafford, but Wiley had a forced fumble and seven tackles to go along with 87 return yards in his final collegiate game.

Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker -- Decker returned from knee surgery and an ankle injury to boost the Gophers in the Insight Bowl with eight receptions for 149 yards and a touchdown. The junior set Minnesota bowl records for receptions and receiving yards and will return in 2009 as one of the Big Ten's top targets.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

So far, I'm 1-1 in bowl picks, though I should have had more faith in Northwestern and a lot less in Wisconsin. Despite an 0-2 start to the bowl season, the Big Ten can redeem itself in January. A BCS bowl win or two would go a long way toward repairing the league's national image, though it won't be easy at all.

Here's how I see the last four bowls shaping up.

OUTBACK BOWL -- Iowa 24, South Carolina 14

The Hawkeyes are the better team and ended the season strong, while South Carolina stumbled down the stretch. Both teams are solid on defense, ranking 12th (South Carolina) and 13th (Iowa) nationally. The difference is Iowa found an offensive identity toward the second half of the season, while South Carolina's search continues. Hawkeyes running back Shonn Greene has another big game on a national stage, and he'll get plenty of chances because South Carolina is so strong against the pass. Iowa defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul will stuff the run in their final collegiate game, forcing South Carolina to throw against a defense that generates a ton of turnovers. Unless quarterback Ricky Stanzi regresses, Iowa will get the Big Ten a bowl win.

CAPITAL ONE -- Georgia 37, Michigan State 21

Mark Dantonio and his staff did an amazing job to get everything they could out of their players this season. But looking at how Michigan State struggled against elite offensive teams, there's little to suggest the Spartans can slow down a Georgia offense stocked with future NFL players. If Spartans star running back Javon Ringer controls the clock and Michigan State's defensive line puts pressure on Matthew Stafford, an upset isn't out of the question. Georgia hasn't defended the run well at times this season, and the Bulldogs will get a heavy dose of Ringer. But the Bulldogs have too many weapons, and they'll pull away down the stretch to snap the Big Ten's Capital One Bowl win streak.


There's really no reason to pick against USC in a big game, especially one in Pasadena. But there's something special about this Penn State team: the way they overcame offseason turmoil, the way they blitzed through most of the season and the way they made improvement in every facet of the game. So after a lot of thought, I decided not to play it safe in the Rose Bowl Game. USC has to lose one of these games, and Penn State has what it takes to beat the Trojans, especially on defense. There won't be a lot of points, but special teams proves to be the difference for Penn State. Derrick Williams breaks off a big return and specialists Kevin Kelly and Jeremy Boone both step up as the Lions prevail in a defensive struggle.

TOSTITOS FIESTA -- Texas 30, Ohio State 21

Texas was supposed to be a year away, while Ohio State entered the season stocked with seniors and major contributors. But the Longhorns have evolved into the more complete team. Ohio State's identity, particularly on offense, took a long time to develop. The Buckeyes are definitely playing their best football, particularly along the defensive line, and freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor won't flinch in the national spotlight. If Ohio State's defensive front puts pressure on Colt McCoy and heralded linebacker James Laurinaitis makes a huge play, the Buckeyes could pull off the upset. But Ohio State's offense is too reliant on the big play, and an offensive line that struggled for most of the season won't hold down Brian Orakpo and a Texas defense that leads the nation in sacks.

Postseason record: 1-1 (50 percent)

Regular-season record: 71-17 (80.7 percent)

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The final 2008 edition of What to Watch examines the four remaining Big Ten bowl games: Outback, Capital One, Rose and Fiesta. The Big Ten is winless so far in the bowl season and is favored in only one bowl (Iowa, Outback).

Here are some subplots to watch as you watch the games (in order of kickoff time).

1. Iowa running back Shonn Greene -- Big Ten fans should be somewhat familiar with Greene, but most of the country will get its first glimpse of the Hawkeyes' superstar on Thursday against South Carolina. The Doak Walker Award winner has eclipsed 100 rushing yards in all 12 regular-season games but faces a stout South Carolina defense. This likely will be Greene's final collegiate game, so get a good look while you can.

2. The Hawkeyes' back seven vs. Stephen Garcia -- Garcia gets the start at quarterback for South Carolina and hopes to provide some stability under center. The redshirt freshman has six touchdown passes and five interceptions on the season, and he'll need to limit mistakes against an Iowa defense that forces plenty of them. Iowa led the Big Ten with 20 interceptions, with five players collecting multiple picks.

3. Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer -- His last bowl appearance was a disaster, as he committed five turnovers (4 INTs, fumble) in a loss to Boston College. Georgia undoubtedly will load up to stop Javon Ringer and make Hoyer win the game for Michigan State. Though Hoyer's numbers this season won't blow anyone away, he has made clutch throws and found ways to win games. If he can stretch the field with Blair White, rushing lanes should open for Ringer.

4. Michigan State's defensive line vs. Georgia's offensive line -- If the Spartans manage to slow down Georgia, it has to start up front. Michigan State's defensive line has more experience and must find ways to exploit Georgia's front five. Rush end Trevor Anderson finished the year with eight sacks andBrandon Long and Justin Kershaw combined for seven more. If Matthew Stafford has time in the pocket, Michigan State will be in big trouble.

5. Joe Paterno's whereabouts -- It doesn't really matter where Paterno watches the Rose Bowl, but his potential return to the sideline after seven consecutive games in the press box might give Penn State an emotional lift. Paterno admits he sees the field better from up top, but the 82-year-old is itching to get back to where he belongs. His location likely will be a game-time decision, and the officiating crew better be on its toes if JoePa returns to the sideline.

6. Quarterback Daryll Clark and Penn State's offensive strategy -- Clark got his swagger back in the regular-season finale against Michigan State and enters the Rose Bowl stocked with confidence. But he goes up against quite possibly the best defense in recent college history. Though Clark has been smart and efficient all season (four interceptions in 285 pass attempts), Penn State likely needs to challenge USC down the field. A passive approach simply won't work in this game, and play-callers Galen Hall and Jay Paterno need to go right at USC's strength.

7. Penn State's special teams -- These two defenses could easily cancel one another out -- Penn State can play some 'D', too -- and the Rose Bowl might come down to special teams. Penn State senior return man Derrick Williams has been outstanding this season and needs another huge performance against USC. If Williams can give Penn State short fields and Kevin Kelly converts his field goal attempts, the Lions could outlast the Trojans. Punter Jeremy Boone also could play a big role in this one, and Penn State must contain the Johnsons (Ronald and Stafon) on USC's returns.

8. Ohio State's Pryor-Wells backfield combo -- If the Buckeyes' much-maligned offensive line steps up to create rushing lanes and time in the pocket, Terrelle Pryor and Chris "Beanie" Wells should do some damage in the Fiesta Bowl. Pryor has shown beyond-his-years poise this season, but the national spotlight gets brighter for the true freshman quarterback Jan. 5. The game likely will be Wells' last in a Buckeyes' uniform, and he'll want to go out with a huge performance after a season that began with Heisman Trophy hopes.

9. Buckeyes senior stars vs. Colt McCoy -- Linebacker James Laurinaitis and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins will go down as two of the best ever to play their positions at Ohio State. They don't want to finish their careers with a third consecutive postseason loss, one that would only ramp up criticism of the Ohio State program. Texas quarterback Colt McCoy provides a formidable final challenge, but Ohio State's defense played its best football in the second half of the season. The Buckeyes need their senior stars to make game-changing plays, and Laurinaitis and Jenkins need a win to cement their legacy outside of Columbus and the Big Ten.

10. Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel -- He's about as far away from the hot seat as a FBS head coach can get, but Tressel and his program really could use a win in the desert. Ohio State hasn't won a national showcase game outside of the Big Ten since 2006 (Texas), and despite the team's obvious improvement in November, the USC disaster remains the lasting image of the Buckeyes' season. Tressel has drawn criticism for what some feel is a stale offense. If he pulls the right strings with some more creative play calling, Ohio State could pull off the upset.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Here's your post-Christmas reading list.

"Let me tell you this, I didn't flinch like the public flinched," Barry Alvarez said. "I know what this business entails. I know he does things the right way, conducts practices the right way, stays on top of his kids, makes his kids go to class. I know all the things that can happen. I didn't flinch like many people did."

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Happy hump day to all. Bowl season is right around the corner -- the first Big Ten bowl doesn't arrive until Dec. 27 -- and several teams are conducting media days this week. Exciting times.

Let's see what's happening around the league. 

"[Jim] Tressel said that six underclassmen had filed paperwork with the NFL to get a report of their likely draft status. The list: receiver Brian Hartline, safeties Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell, tight end Jake Ballard, guard Jim Cordle and cornerback Donald Washington.

And Wells?

'Beanie didn't need to fill out the paperwork,' Tressel said. 'I told him to save the transcript, save the paper.'"

"The bottom line is that Joe Paterno was Penn State football, Joe Paterno is Penn State football and Joe Paterno will be Penn State football until he gets tired of it."

Ranking the Big Ten bowls

December, 8, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten wants more respect after being skewered nationally for much of the season. An exciting bowl lineup gives the conference a chance to get its wish.

In addition to having two BCS entries for the fourth straight year, the Big Ten faces the preseason No. 1 (Georgia), a preseason national title contender (Missouri) and two of the more successful head coaches in the southeast (Bobby Bowden and Steve Spurrier).

To piggyback off Mark Schlabach's national list, it's time to rank the Big Ten bowls.

1. Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi
No. 8 Penn State vs. No. 5 USC, 4:30 p.m. ET, Jan. 1 (ABC): Two powerhouse programs, a legendary head coach (Joe Paterno) and another well on his way there (Pete Carroll), and one of college football's greatest settings make the Rose Bowl a must-see. Both of these teams easily could have been in Miami on Jan. 8, and a win will only strengthen their arguments. It will be fun to watch the Spread HD offense match up with a ferocious USC defense.
2. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
No. 10 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Texas, 8 p.m. ET, Jan. 5 (Fox): The teams clashed in 2005 and 2006 but have never met in the postseason. It will be fascinating to see how Texas responds from its BCS title game snub. Heisman Trophy candidate Colt McCoy will go against the best defense he's faced this season in Ohio State, which ranks seventh nationally in points allowed (13.1 ppg). The Buckeyes need a win to restore their national reputation and will need strong performances from quarterback Terrelle Pryor and running back Chris "Beanie" Wells.
3. Capital One Bowl
No. 15 Georgia vs. No. 18 Michigan State, 1 p.m. ET, Jan. 1 (ABC): Forget about those Big 12 quarterbacks and that Tebow fellow. This game is all about the running backs, as Doak Walker Award finalists Javon Ringer and Knowshon Moreno match up. Ringer has carried Michigan State to this point and could capitalize on a suspect Georgia defense, while Moreno is one of the nation's most exciting running backs and takes on a Michigan State defense that struggles to stop elite players.
4. Valero Alamo Bowl
No. 21 Missouri vs. No. 23 Northwestern, 8 p.m. ET, Dec. 29 (ESPN): An insane number of sports journalists will be tuning in for this one, and you should, too. Missouri boasts one of the nation's most dynamic passing combinations in quarterback Chase Daniel and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Northwestern counters with a sack-happy defense led by end Corey Wootton. If Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher discovers his 2007 form against a woeful Mizzou secondary, this could become a shootout.
5. Champs Sports Bowl
Wisconsin vs. Florida State, 4:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 27 (ESPN): Both of these teams underachieved to a certain degree this fall, but the bowl game will provide an interesting match-up of power (Wisconsin) vs. speed (Florida State). The Wisconsin rushing attack came together late in the season, but P.J. Hill and John Clay face a tough task in a Florida State defense led by superstar end Everette Brown and linebacker Derek Nicholson.
6. O
utback Bowl
South Carolina vs. Iowa, 11 a.m. ET, Jan. 1 (ESPN): I can't get enough of Shonn Greene, but aside from the powerful Iowa running back, this game doesn't provide many reasons to shake-off the New Year's Eve hangover. Iowa played excellent football down the stretch, and it will be interesting to see how the Hawkeyes match-up with an SEC team. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier returns to Florida amid increasing criticism. He needs to win this game.
7. Insight Bowl
Kansas vs. Minnesota, 5:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 31 (NFL Network): If Minnesota can get back to the disciplined and opportunistic play that spurred its 7-1 start, this game will be worth watching. But the Gophers didn't look like the same team down the stretch, and they'll need to make some major upgrades in the next few weeks to keep pace with a more experienced Kansas team led by quarterback Todd Reesing.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The bowl selections are in, and here's how Big Ten teams are reacting. 

"If it were me, it wouldn't be tough," Tressel said.

He should go?

"Shoot, yeah," Tressel said. "In my opinion he ought to be one of the first five guys picked. I know he is very focused, and this game [against Texas] is very important to him but we've always said if you're going to be a top-round pick, you ought to think about going."

Big Ten pre-bowl power rankings

December, 8, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten wrapped up its regular-season schedule 16 days ago -- feels like 1,600 -- so the power rankings have not changed. But some of you have demanded a fresh lineup before bowl season begins, so here it is.

1. Penn State (11-1) -- The Nittany Lions are clearly the Big Ten's best team, but will they be good enough to keep pace with USC? A Rose Bowl victory would go a long way toward restoring the Big Ten's national reputation, and Penn State could finally distinguish itself from its conference brethren who recently have stumbled on the big stage.

2. Ohio State (10-2) -- Fiesta Bowls have been good to the Buckeyes and head coach Jim Tressel, and a Jan. 5 matchup with Texas is absolutely huge for this program. Dominating Michigan and the rest of the Big Ten doesn't mean much when the league is struggling. Ohio State must re-establish itself as a national power by knocking off the Longhorns.

3. Michigan State (9-3) -- After struggling against elite competition during the regular season, the Spartans can take a big step by knocking off preseason No. 1 Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. A talent upgrade is on its way to East Lansing and the future is bright, but running back Javon Ringer and his fellow seniors want to finish their careers on a high note.

4. Northwestern (9-3) -- Respect remains hard to come by for the Wildcats, who got passed over by the Outback Bowl for the second time in nine seasons. An Alamo Bowl victory against a talented Missouri squad would generate the buzz Northwestern sorely needs heading into 2009. Northwestern needs to do a better job of filling its home stadium, and a 10-win season would certainly help.

5. Iowa (8-4) -- Shonn Greene and the Hawkeyes are playing on New Year's Day, and they have an excellent opportunity to climb the power rankings by beating a very average South Carolina team. Iowa's strong finish has made its early season struggles a distant memory. Now the Hawkeyes must capitalize on a golden opportunity.

6. Wisconsin (7-5) -- Bret Bielema has several things to fix during the offseason, but his team seemed to come together around quarterback Dustin Sherer down the stretch. A Champs Sports Bowl victory against Florida State would springboard the Badgers toward 2009, when they return a formidable rushing attack in P.J. Hill and John Clay.

7. Minnesota (7-5) -- Head coach Tim Brewster isn't afraid to talk titles and Rose Bowls, but this season resembled those of the past, as the Gophers started strong and faded fast. This is a young team that will only get better, and an Insight Bowl upset of Kansas would validate an impressive turnaround from a 1-11 campaign.

8. Illinois (5-7) -- Sustained success remains the goal for the Illini after a deflating Rose-Bowl-to-no-bowl tumble. Head coach Ron Zook is spending this time doing what he does best -- recruiting -- but the team leaders need to do a better job of building chemistry for 2009.

9. Purdue (4-8) -- The Danny Hope era officially begins Jan. 1, but the new head coach already is forming his staff for 2009 and hitting the recruiting trail hard.

10. Michigan (3-9) -- Roster attrition might not be as bad as some envisioned for Rich Rodriguez's team, but there's plenty to fix in the offseason. Rodriguez has to be counting the days until incoming quarterback recruits Shavodrick Beaver and Tate Forcier step on campus.

11. Indiana (3-9) -- Head coach Bill Lynch received a vote of confidence from his soon-to-be boss, Fred Glass, but Lynch is very much on the hot seat entering 2009.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten was dark this weekend, as regular-season play wrapped up Nov. 22, but the league's bowl picture appeared to get a whole lot brighter.

As Big Ten players, coaches and fans quacked at their TV sets on Saturday night, the Oregon Ducks proceeded to pound Oregon State in the Civil War. The Oregon State loss appears to clear a path for Ohio State to earn the final BCS at-large spot. USC still needs to beat rival UCLA and earn the Pac-10's BCS tiebreaker, which likely puts the Trojans in the Rose Bowl against Penn State.

Should the Trojans prevail, the final BCS at-large berth would come down to Ohio State and Boise State. Despite a worse record (10-2 vs. 12-0), the big-name Buckeyes likely would get the nod, giving the Big Ten two BCS entries for the fourth straight season. It also would move all the other Big Ten bowl-eligible teams up a notch. The Motor City wouldn't be filled by a Big Ten team for the fifth time in seven seasons.

To recap the Big Ten bowl landscape:

Bowl eligible (7): Penn State (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten), Ohio State (10-2, 7-1), Michigan State (9-3, 6-2), Northwestern (9-3, 5-3), Iowa (8-4, 5-3), Minnesota (7-5, 3-5), Wisconsin (7-5, 3-5)

Staying home (4): Illinois (5-7, 3-5), Michigan (3-8, 2-5), Purdue (3-8, 1-6), Indiana (3-8, 1-6)

Big Ten bowl tie-ins (in order): Rose/BCS, Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Champs Sports, Insight, Motor City

Now for the team-by-team projections:


The Nittany Lions didn't want a Rose Bowl rematch against Oregon State, and they likely won't get one. Penn State miniscule hopes for a trip to the BCS title game also vanished Saturday with victories by Oklahoma, Florida, Alabama and others. Head coach Joe Paterno and his team will head to Pasadena for the first time since Jan. 1, 1995.

Possibilities: Rose

Prediction: Rose


The Buckeyes were the biggest beneficiaries of Oregon State's loss, which should put them in a BCS bowl for the fourth consecutive season. The Fiesta Bowl is the likeliest destination, where a reunion with Texas most probably awaits Jim Tressel's crew. Should the BCS throw a curveball Sunday night and pick Boise State, Ohio State would head to the Capital One Bowl.

Possibilities: Fiesta, Sugar, Orange, Capital One

Prediction: Fiesta


Here's another team that cheered when Oregon beat Oregon State. Should the Big Ten get two BCS bowl entries, the Spartans are virtually assured of a New Year's Day trip to Florida. It would be hard to see the Capital One Bowl bypass Michigan State for Northwestern or Iowa, two teams the Spartans beat. If Ohio State somehow gets left out, Michigan State probably will head to the Outback Bowl.

Possibilities: Capital One, Outback, Alamo

Prediction: Capital One


Athletic director Jim Phillips is working hard to convince bowl representatives that Northwestern's history of traveling to bowl games trumps the school's lousy home attendance. If his pitch works, Northwestern could go to the Outback Bowl as long as Ohio State gets a BCS at-large berth. Despite a better record and a head-to-head victory, Northwestern will have a hard time beating out Iowa in the bowl selection order.

Possibilities: Outback, Alamo, Champs Sports

Prediction: Alamo


Oregon State's loss might put Iowa into the Outback Bowl, which would be an amazing end to a season that looked extremely shaky in early October. The Hawkeyes are a hot team with the nation's best running back (Shonn Greene) and a large, willing-to-travel fan base. Those factors should help bowl reps look past an 8-4 record.

Possibilities: Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Champs Sports

Prediction: Outback


The Badgers are probably least affected by Oregon State's loss. They seemed pegged for the Insight Bowl after four consecutive postseason trips to Florida. Wisconsin still could be ticketed for Tempe even if the Big Ten gets two BCS entries. But it will be hard for the Champs Sports Bowl to pass up the Badgers in favor of Minnesota, which lost four straight games to close the regular season. The Alamo Bowl isn't seriously considering Wisconsin.

Possibilities: Alamo, Champs Sports, Insight

Prediction: Champs Sports


Spending Christmas in Detroit with a matchup against undefeated Ball State team in the Motor City Bowl didn't seem too appealing for the Gophers, who likely were saved by Oregon State's loss. If the Big Ten gets two BCS entries, Minnesota will be heading to a much warmer climate, either Arizona or Florida. Should Ohio State get left out of the BCS bowl mix, the Gophers are going to Motown.

Possibilities: Champs Sports, Insight, Motor City

Prediction: Insight

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The celebration is on in Columbus and throughout the Big Ten footprint after Oregon State stumbled last night in the Civil War. The Beavers' defense evidently didn't care about reaching the Rose Bowl. Mercy.

Oregon State's loss likely will give Ohio State a BCS at-large berth, giving the Big Ten two teams in BCS bowls for the fourth consecutive year. The final at-large berth likely will come down to Ohio State and Boise State, and though the Broncos are undefeated, it'll be hard to see one of the big bowls turn down the Buckeyes, their enormous fan base and their famous backfield (Terrelle Pryor and Chris "Beanie" Wells). Ohio State would get a chance to redeem itself after back-to-back national title flops.

Penn State also celebrated Oregon State's loss, not wanting a Rose Bowl rematch after dismantling the Beavers on Sept. 6. An underappreciated Nittany Lions squad is out of the national title mix but should get a chance to make a national statement against USC in Pasadena. Be careful what you wish for. The Trojans are playing as well as any team in the country. It'll be a good one.

The Oregon State loss also moves Michigan State into the mix for the Capital One Bowl and sets up an interesting decision for the Outback Bowl between Northwestern and Iowa. Northwestern has the better overall record (9-3) and beat Iowa in Iowa City, but the Hawkeyes are hot and boast a sizable traveling fan base.

Minnesota also has to be thrilled. Oregon State's win likely saves the Gophers from a trip to Detroit for the Motor City Bowl and a matchup with undefeated Ball State. If the Big Ten gets two BCS entries, it won't fill its spot in Detroit (and most likely avoid an embarrassment against Ball State).

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten bowl picture is fairly clear with the regular season wrapped up. Barring a string of unlikely events, Penn State will be headed to the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. The other Big Ten teams -- and the Nittany Lions, for that matter -- all are hoping Oregon knocks off Oregon State, clearing a path for Ohio State to earn a BCS at-large berth. Should the Beavers fall, the rest of the Big Ten probably moves up. If the Beavers prevail, the Big Ten probably stays put.

Any questions?

I thought Oregon State would lose to Arizona, and if the Wildcats had bothered to, you know, play defense in the final two minutes, it would have come true. Now that the Beavers have survived, they appear in good shape to beat Oregon.

To recap the situation:

Bowl eligible (7): Penn State (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten), Ohio State (10-2, 7-1), Michigan State (9-3, 6-2), Northwestern (9-3, 5-3), Iowa (8-4, 5-3), Minnesota (7-5, 3-5), Wisconsin (7-5, 3-5)

Staying home (4): Illinois (5-7, 3-5), Michigan (3-8, 2-5), Purdue (3-8, 1-6), Indiana (3-8, 1-6)

Big Ten bowl tie-ins (in order): Rose/BCS, Capital One, Outback, Alamo, Champs Sports, Insight, Motor City

Here are the team-by-team projections:

(Read full post)