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Ranking every 2018 bowl game for the Big Ten

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The postseason is upon us, well by us I mean the nine teams from the Big Ten that will play in bowl games. 

For the rest of the conference it is all about national signing day and reflecting on a season that failed to even get to .500. 

But, we’re here to focus on those teams still playing and there are nine bowl games for the Big Ten stretching across all of six days too. 

Let’s face it for the vast majority of these games, only the diehards are really going to care. But which ones are must see? Which can you get away with peaking in on and which ones are smart times to schedule family time around the holidays? 

We’ve got you covered, so let’s start the rankings. 

Holiday Family Time Games

9. Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech (QuickLane Bowl)

The last time we saw the Gophers they were chopping down goalposts in Camp Randall Stadium — winning Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time in 15 years. It also qualified them for a bowl game in year two of the P.J. Fleck era. 

But, the reward may not be so sweet. That’s because Georgia Tech and its triple-option offense awaits. 

It’ll be the last time we see the triple-option out of the Yellow Jackets as well, with head coach Paul Johnson out and Temple’s head coach Geoff Collins expected to be named the head man. So, how much will the players play for an interim head coach and can they run the triple-option to success against a Gophers defense that has coalesced over the last month? 

Yes, I tried hard to get in to this matchup, but this feels like the biggest dud of them all across the Big Ten. I’ll be watching…so you don’t have to.  

8. Michigan State vs. Oregon (Redbox Bowl)

Look, there’s nothing fun about watching Michigan State’s offense this year. Period. So, what would make this matchup worth tuning in to for a casual fan? Maybe it is Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert vs. MSU’s defense? 

But, does that get the juices going? Not really for me and if it won’t for a guy like me, it’s at least worth planning some family time with this game maybe on in the background. 

7. Northwestern vs. Utah (Holiday Bowl) 

Congratulations, you lost in your conference title game and did not get to go to the Rose Bowl. Your consolation prize is a trip to San Diego to play each other in the “what could’ve been” bowl game. 

That smells of a bowl game that could be horrendous to watch. So does the fact that only one team has gotten over the 30-point mark on the Utes defense and Northwestern’s offense has gone over that mark just four times all year. 

Normally I’m jazzed up for the Holiday Bowl, because history suggests this thing is going to be wild. Other than the name Wildcats, there’s nothing really wild about this matchup. 

Worth Taking a Peak At

6. Wisconsin vs. Miami (FL) (Pinstripe Bowl)

If there’s any game that tells us more about how two teams season’s went than this one, I’d like to have a conversation with you. Just last season, the Badgers and Hurricanes were meeting in the Orange Bowl, just having missed out on a College Football Playoff berth. 

This season, the two are traveling to New York City for the Pinstripe Bowl. Talk about a quick fall from grace. 

Despite that fact, this game is still a quality matchup because the styles of these two teams are so very different. Can UW quarterback Alex Hornibrook pull out the magic he did last season in this matchup and lead the Badgers to victory or will Miami’s still stout defense rise to the occasion? 

While this bowl game doesn’t have the star power of last season’s affair, it’s still a quality matchup worth tuning in to. 

5. Purdue vs. Auburn (Music City Bowl) 

This one is simple….it involves the most electrifying player in the Big Ten this season in Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore taking on an SEC defense. Oh, and Purdue fans get to celebrate hanging on to Jeff Brohm for at least one (if not more) season. 

Auburn is a team in crisis off of the field, with rumors about Guz Malzhan’s job security and coaching staff changes swirling around. It’s what happens when you go from national title hopes to 7-5 (sound familiar Wisconsin). Still, any chance for the Big Ten to take out the SEC head-to-head matters. 

Plus, Purdue’s offense in general is just fun to watch and that’s kind of what bowl season is all about — fun. 

4. Michigan vs. Florida (Peach Bowl) 

Two brand names in college football…what’s not to like about this matchup? Well, for starters, this is about as stale a matchup as possible. It’s the third time in four years that the Wolverines and Gators have met and both are here because they couldn’t beat their rivals. 

In fact, neither team was really competitive in losses to Ohio State or Georgia. Those losses prevented either team from playing for a conference title as well. While there are really good players to watch on both squads, we’ve seen so much of this matchup that it’s less intriguing and fun to watch. 

Mus See TV

3. Iowa vs. Mississippi State (Outback Bowl) 

Folks, I’m calling it right now — take the under. No seriously, I don’t care what it is set at…take it. 

If you love defense (and I do), then this is the matchup in bowl season for you. Iowa and Mississippi State have played quality defense all season long, with the Bulldogs ranking 3rd in the country in total defense and Hawkeyes just a shade worse at 9th. 

Iowa’s offense has shown an ability to be explosive, but without star tight end Noah Fant, who declared for the NFL Draft and won’t play in the bowl game, can the Hawkeyes be as explosive? 

Like I said, buckle up for a defensive slugfest between two of the best conferences in the country. 

2. Penn State vs. Kentucky (Citrus Bowl) 

It seems like the Nittany Lions were the forgotten team in the Big Ten this season. But, they get one of the most watchable and fun matchups for the conference in the Kentucky Wildcats. 

This isn’t a fluke Kentucky program either, as they proved a competitive bunch in the SEC. 

On paper, these two teams are pretty even and that always makes for an interesting game. It’s also the only matchup of running backs who managed to go over the 1,200-yard mark in Kentucky’s Benny Snell Jr. (1,305 yards, 14 TDs) and Penn State’s Miles Sanders (1,223 yards). 

Defense may win the day and both of these teams are more than capable of quality play on that side of the ball as well. 

1. Ohio State vs. Washington (Rose Bowl) 

While Ohio State is no doubt upset at missing the College Football Playoff for the second straight year, this is one heck of a way to make up for it. 

I mean, the Grandaddy of Them All has one of the longest-standing traditional matchups in college football and we get that in a big way on Jan. 1, 2019 once again. 

All the drama is there, as this will be the final game coached by OSU’s Urban Meyer after his announcement of retirement following the Big Ten title game. Washington, while having a disappointing 10-3 season is still a very quality side. 

It’ll be speed vs. speed in this one and that makes for a potentially insane matchup. Can OSU’s size help give it an advantage against the undersized Huskies? 

Will Chris Peterson have a few tricks up his sleeve like he is want to do in these big time bowl games? It is Washington’s return to the big time national stage as well, so you can bet the Huskies will bring everything they have to this one. 

Sit back and enjoy the tradition while it still is available. 

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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