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The comprehensive bowl season guide for Big Ten fans

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-Northwestern vs Utah Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Championship Saturday and Selection Sunday have passed, and we now have a 42-game bowl slate to look forward to. Since the ‘Cats are not involved in any postseason festivities this year, we’ve decided to approach bowl mania as fans of the entire conference. That mindset has led to the creation of a complete preview of the bowl season for Big Ten fans, featuring breakdowns of the all nine games that Big Ten teams are competing in. Let’s just get into it.

Guaranteed Rate Bowl

Matchup: Minnesota (8-4, 6-3 B1G) vs. West Virginia (6-6, 4-5 B12)

Viewing Info: Tuesday, Dec. 28, 9:15 p.m. CT, ESPN

Location: Chase Field, Phoenix, Ariz.

Spread: Minnesota -4 (Oddsshark)

Statistical Overview:

Stat Minnesota West Virginia
Stat Minnesota West Virginia
Points/Game 26.1 (84th) 26.8 (79th)
Points Allowed/Game 18.3 (10th) 24.3 (50th)
SP+ Rating 13.9 (20th) 1.3 (72nd)

Of all nine bowl-bound Big Ten teams, Minnesota seems to have drawn the most favorable matchup in West Virginia. Given the Gophers handily beat a Maryland team the Mountaineers lost to and the massive gap in SP+ ratings, PJ Fleck and Co. should win this game. Stylistically, Minnesota also matches up pretty well with WVU, as they have similar strengths — running the football and defense — but the Gophers do both of those things better. If West Virginia is able to neutralize the two-headed monster of running back’s Ky Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving, they could prevail in a tight affair, but that’s a big “if”, so Minny should have the edge in Phoenix.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Matchup: Maryland (6-6, 3-6 B1G) vs. Virginia Tech (6-6, 4-4 ACC)

Viewing Info: Wednesday, Dec. 29, 1:15 p.m. CT, ESPN

Location: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y.

Spread: Maryland +1 (Oddsshark)

Statistical Overview:

Stat Maryland Virginia Tech
Stat Maryland Virginia Tech
Points/Game 27.3 (75th) 24.8 (92nd)
Points Allowed/Game 32.4 (105th) 22.9 (42nd)
SP+ Rating 3.5 (68th) 5.8 (62nd)

After going four seasons straight without reaching a bowl, the Terrapins reached the bowl-eligible mark with a win over Rutgers during the last week of the season and have earned a trip to the Bronx as a result. Awaiting them are the Virginia Tech Hokies, who were also 5-6 entering rivalry week and got a win over Virginia to book their ticket to a 13th game. The decisive matchup in this game will likely be QB Taulia Tagovailoa and the Maryland offense against the VT defense. Tagovailoa has improved his ball-security and decision-making throughout the year, and if that culminates in a mistake-free bowl performance, the Terrapins will have just enough to win this game. However, with the problems Virginia Tech’s run-heavy offense will cause the Maryland defense, the Hokies are the slight favorite for a reason.

TransPerfect Music City Bowl

Matchup: Purdue (8-4, 6-3 B1G) vs. Tennessee (7-5, 4-4 SEC)

Viewing Info: Thursday, Dec. 30, 2:00 p.m. CT, ESPN

Location: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.

Spread: Purdue +3.5 (Oddsshark)

Statistical Overview:

Stat Purdue Tennessee
Stat Purdue Tennessee
Points/Game 27.5 (74th) 38.8 (9th)
Points Allowed/Game 20.5 (22nd) 27.5 (79th)
SP+ Rating 9.6 (40th) 18.8 (11th)

This game will be a lot of fun. There’s a lot of great quarterback play — Hendon Hooker for Tennessee, Aidan O’Connell for Purdue — and not a lot of pass defense, so it’s almost a guarantee that both teams will get into the 30-point range. Purdue’s defense will be the X-factor in this matchup, and it’s paramount that they don’t let the Volunteers get into a rhythm offensively. As good as O’Connell and Co. have been this year, Tennessee has the advantage if this game turns into a shootout. It’s been a great year for Jeff Brohm and Purdue, but they’ve been given a very tough matchup here.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Matchup: No. 10 Michigan State (10-2, 7-2 B1G) vs. No. 12 Pittsburgh (11-2, 7-1 ACC)

Viewing Info: Thursday, Dec. 30, 6:00 p.m. CT, ESPN

Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga.

Spread: Michigan State +2.5 (Oddsshark)

Statistical Overview:

Stat Michigan State Pittsburgh
Stat Michigan State Pittsburgh
Points/Game 31.9 (40th) 43.0 (3rd)
Points Allowed/Game 25.7 (61st) 23.1 (43rd)
SP+ Rating 10.9 (35th) 19.2 (10th)

I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that, in terms of yards per game, Michigan State has the worst pass defense in college football. Sparty now travels to Atlanta to face the ACC champion Pittsburgh, who is led by QB and Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett. You know who else is a Heisman finalist? CJ Stroud — and I’m sure no one needs a reminder of what happened when MSU’s defense faced him. Additionally, Pitt boasts a top 10 rush defense in the nation, so running back Kenneth Walker III has a mammoth task ahead of him in trying to keep up with the offense on the opposite sideline. Bottom line, this is a nightmare matchup for the Spartans in almost every way imaginable.

SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl

Matchup: Wisconsin (8-4, 6-3 B1G) vs. Arizona State (8-4, 6-3 Pac-12)

Viewing Info: Thursday, Dec. 30, 9:30 p.m. CT, ESPN

Location: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, Nev.

Spread: Wisconsin -7 (Oddsshark)

Statistical Overview:

Stat Wisconsin Arizona State
Stat Wisconsin Arizona State
Points/Game 25.8 (86th) 29.7 (55th)
Points Allowed/Game 16.4 (6th) 20.9 (25th)
SP+ Rating 19.4 (9th) 13.1 (23rd)

This is an interesting battle between two very similar, but also very different teams. While both the Badgers and Sun Devils rely on a strong running game, they achieve that in two wildly different ways. Wisconsin, with freshman sensation Braelon Allen in the backfield, employs a traditional power run scheme, whereas Arizona State actively gets QB Jayden Daniels involved in their rushing attack. Neither of these offenses are prolific, and with the talent both sides have on the defensive side of the ball, this game will be low-scoring, which likely favors the Badgers.

Capital One Orange Bowl

Matchup: No. 2 Michigan (12-1, 8-1 B1G) vs. No. 3 Georgia (12-1, 8-0 SEC)

Viewing Info: Friday, December 31, 6:30 p.m. CT, ESPN

Location: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL

Spread: Michigan +7.5 (Oddsshark)

Statistical Overview:

Stat Michigan Georgia
Stat Michigan Georgia
Points/Game 37.7 (13th) 39.4 (7th)
Points Allowed/Game 16.1 (5th) 9.5 (1st)
SP+ Rating 25.9 (4th) 31.7 (1st)

The Orange Bowl will be decided in the trenches. It’s cliché, but cliché implies that it’s true, and it’s the most fitting way to sum up this showdown. Michigan has relied on its running game all year, and they now come up against the best front seven in the country. Will they be able to control the line of scrimmage and have an effective rushing attack? Georgia also likes to run the ball, and with their recent troubles at quarterback, specifically Stetson Bennett and interceptions, can Michigan slow down the Bulldogs’ ground game enough and force whoever Georgia starts at QB to beat them? As much as I want to answer “yes” to both of those questions and pick the Wolverines to win here, Georgia just has too much talent and matches up too well for Michigan to be able to exorcise their Hard Rock Stadium demons.

Outback Bowl

Matchup: Penn State (7-5, 4-5 B1G) vs. No. 21 Arkansas (8-4, 4-4 SEC)

Viewing Info: Saturday, January 1, 11:00 a.m. CT, ESPN2

Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

Spread: Penn State -2.5 (Oddsshark)

Statistical Overview:

Stat Penn State Arkansas
Stat Penn State Arkansas
Points/Game 26.3 (83rd) 31.5 (43rd)
Points Allowed/Game 16.8 (8th) 24.0 (46th)
SP+ Rating 15.7 (16th) 13.3 (22nd)

Penn State and Arkansas have had pretty similar seasons, featuring a hot start and an AP Top 10 ranking before they fell at the hands of some elite teams and finished the year with above average records. It will be interesting to see how the stout Nittany Lion defense deals with Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson’s dual threat ability, and also how each team’s first round draft pick-caliber wideout — Treylon Burks for the Hogs, Jahan Dotson for PSU — impacts the game. This has all of the makings of a hard-fought, gritty clash, and if it’s not raining in Tampa by the time the second quarter starts, consider it a disappointment.

Vrbo Citrus Bowl

Matchup: No. 15 Iowa (10-3, 7-2 B1G) vs. No. 22 Kentucky (9-3, 5-3 SEC)

Viewing Info: Saturday, January 1, 12:00 p.m. CT, ABC

Location: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla.

Spread: Iowa +2.5 (Oddsshark)

Statistical Overview:

Stat Iowa Kentucky
Stat Iowa Kentucky
Points/Game 23.9 (96th) 33.3 (30th)
Points Allowed/Game 19.2 (15th) 22.1 (32nd)
SP+ Rating 11.3 (32nd) 13.7 (21st)

If there’s any player on either team that will really want to win this game, it’s Kentucky wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson. After two years with Iowa’s rival Nebraska, Robinson transferred from Lincoln to Lexington this past offseason and led the Wildcats in all relevant receiving categories. His performance, along with the rest of the UK offense, will be crucial to the outcome of this game. It’s been proven that the Hawkeye offense really struggles to drive the length of the field and put points on the board, so if Kentucky can take care of the football, they’ll win this game pretty easily. However, Wildcat QB Will Levis has been somewhat turnover prone, which bodes well for Iowa, but even in a scenario where Levis throws two or three interceptions, Kentucky has the talent to overcome that and win a bowl for the fourth consecutive season.

Rose Bowl Game Presented by Capital One Venture X

Matchup: No. 6 Ohio State (10-2, 8-1 B1G) vs. No. 11 Utah (10-3, 8-1 Pac-12)

Viewing Info: Saturday, January 1, 4:00 p.m. CT, ESPN

Location: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

Spread: Ohio State -6.5 (Oddsshark)

Statistical Overview:

Stat Ohio State Utah
Stat Ohio State Utah
Points/Game 45.5 (1st) 35.5 (20th)
Points Allowed/Game 20.9 (26th) 20.6 (24th)
SP+ Rating 29.3 (2nd) 16.6 (14th)

While the stats and talent point in the Buckeyes’ favor, other factors, like motivation, could play a much bigger role in the outcome of this game. Ohio State, although it is supremely talented and possesses one of the best offenses in the country, was supposed to be preparing for a Playoff semifinal at this point of the year, not the Rose Bowl. Instead, a loss to the Buckeyes’ arch-rival Michigan derailed that expectation, which begs the question: How much will the Buckeyes care about winning this game? With a motivated opponent like Utah, who is playing some of the best football in the country at the moment and coming off of a conference championship win, this could be a rough afternoon in Pasadena for OSU if it isn’t ready to go. If Ohio State wants to win this game, it will, but it seems primed for a letdown and the Utes will be able to capitalize on that.