In slightly remarkable fashion, the Big Ten Conference managed to alter a few expectations in the first week of football. One team was almost upset by an FCS opponent, one team's game was delayed by 17 hours, one team used a 'Madden' move to score, and one team's quarterback was sacked 10 times! All in all it was quite an interesting start to the season. How will the performance of the 14 Big Ten teams effect our bowl projections?
Cotton Bowl (Dec 31st) Arlington, TX ~ Ohio State Buckeyes vs Baylor Bears
Last week, Trevone Boykin proved he was capable of running the ball in open space. His throwing, however, was less than stellar, earning him a 67.6 passer rating for the game. With the uncertainty of the Frog's passing attack, we've moved the other Texas team into the top spot. Baylor looked promising against an easier SMU opponent, and were able to integrate a balanced attack through quarterback Seth Russell. Ohio State remains on top of the college football world, as they defeated the Virginia Tech Hokies in impressive fashion on the road. Braxton Miller looks to be a player the Buckeyes can use just about anywhere offensively, and Cardale Jones may be the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. Keep an eye out for Ezekiel Elliott too, he's an impressive runner looking to earn some Heisman attention of his own.
Rose Bowl (Jan 1st) Pasadena, CA ~ Michigan State Spartans vs Oregon Ducks
For whatever reason, this matchup is too good to pass up. The Spartans looked relatively composed on the road last week, and Connor Cook provided the numbers we were expecting in his season debut. If we're being honest, it's all on the Ducks to make this game happen. Offense was not an issue for Oregon as they racked up 61 points, but their defense surrendered a whopping 42 points to an FCS team. Numbers like that will surely be cause for concern if the Ducks are pushing for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Citrus Bowl (Jan 1st) Orlando, FL ~ Wisconsin Badgers vs LSU Tigers
Due to weather, the LSU Tigers did not play in week one. This circumstance makes it tough to judge a team that was inconsistent last season. As for the Badgers, they were able to compete with an overall better Alabama Crimson Tide squad. According to reports, Michael Caputo and Corey Clement will be playing this week against the Miami-Ohio RedHawks, which is a great sign for Bucky fans. Even though the Big Ten West is up for grabs, Wisconsin still seems to be the front runner in the division (so far).
Outback Bowl (Jan 1st) Tampa, FL ~ Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Ole Miss Rebels
Jerry Kill and the Gophers looked impressive last week, holding a Heisman hopeful to a mere 67.6 quarterback rating. With a defense that only gave up 24 points to one of the best offenses last season, there's no telling how good the Gophers can be if Mitch Leidner can be successful throwing the football. It was good to see Minnesota utilizing Rodney Smith as their new go-to running back, but Leidner needs to be steady in the pass game to open up more runs. As for Ole Miss, they need to continue to ride the arm of Chad Kelly as they put up video game numbers last weekend.
Holiday Bowl (Dec 30th) San Diego, CA ~ Iowa Hawkeyes vs Utah Utes
C.J. Beathard is the real deal. In his first career start for the Hawkeyes, he racked up over 200 yards of offense and found the endzone three times against Illinois State (2 rushing, 1 passing). If Iowa can continue to use him as a dual-threat player, they may sneak their way near the top of the Big Ten West. As for Utah, a few key turnovers helped defeat Michigan on Thursday night. In order for them to be as successful in the PAC12 as last season, they need to help their defense with more production offensively. Travis Wilson was decent, but he will need to spark the Ute offense if they want to compete for a conference title.
Gator Bowl (Jan 2nd) Jacksonville, FL -OR-
Music City Bowl (Dec 30th) Nashville, TN ~ Michigan Wolverines vs Missouri Tigers
Jake Rudock did not look good on Thursday night, throwing 3 interceptions with one returned for a touchdown. Everything else about the Wolverines in Jim Harbaugh's debut really was solid, but they need to limit those costly turnovers on offense if they want to return to the postseason.
Foster Farms Bowl (Dec 26th) Santa Clara, CA ~ Nebraska Cornhuskers vs Arizona State Sun Devils
Until the Huskers utilize Tommy Armstrong Jr's ability to run the football, Nebraska looks beatable. Aside from the blown Hail Mary play, Mike Riley's pro style offense showed blemishes as they we not able to run the ball successfully against the BYU Cougars. That will need to improve if the Huskers want to return to Indianapolis.
Pinstripe Bowl (Dec 26th) New York, NY ~ Northwestern Wildcats vs Syracuse Orange
I'll admit it. Northwestern's win over the ranked Stanford Cardinal was not only a great win for their program, it showed us that their defense has improved from last season. Winning a game 16-6 isn't the most attractive of victories, but holding a ranked team to 6 points when your defense averaged almost 26 a game is something to cheer about. If they can stay healthy, the Cats pose a threat to a WIDE open West Division.
Quick Lane Bowl (Dec 28th) Detroit, MI ~ Illinois Fighting Illini vs N.C. State Wolfpack
After holding the Kent State Golden Flashes to only 3 points all game, it looks like the Illini may have ironed a few wrinkles out defensively. As easy as it is to say "It was only Kent State," Illinois was aggressive throughout the game. With a seemingly sound defense (for the time being) and Wes Lunt adapting comfortably into his offense, Illinois looks to be a solid bowl contender this season. It is still early though...
Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dec 26th) Dallas, TX ~ Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs Rice Owls
Between the Maryland Terrapins and Rutgers, the battle for bowl contention on the east coast favors the Scarlet Knights. With two quarterbacks proving they're ready to roll, Rutgers could easily rack up six wins if Chris Laviano and/or Hayden Rettig perform as well as they did last weekend.