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Around the Big Ten, Bowl Season: Postseason Preview

All eyes are on the College Football Playoffs with two Big Ten representatives in the four-team field.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

After a few weeks off from college football, bowl season is in full force, and several Big Ten teams have crucial postseason matchups. Both Ohio State and Michigan are vying for a national title, while other teams are looking to end the season with a win. So even with Northwestern sidelined from a bowl, there is plenty of excitement for ‘Cats fans to watch.

Wisconsin vs. Oklahoma State — Guaranteed Rate Bowl

When: Dec. 27 at 9:15 p.m. CST

The Badgers will cap off their tumultuous season that saw longtime head coach Paul Chryst get fired with a matchup against Oklahoma State. This is one of the strangest matchups of bowl season. Both teams will be without their starting quarterbacks after Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz and Oklahoma State’s Spencer Sanders entered the transfer portal. Furthermore, this will be interim coach Jim Leonhard’s final game on the sideline before former Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell takes over for the Badgers next fall. Wisconsin is the slight favorite in this one, but it should be a competitive bout.

Minnesota vs. Syracuse — Pinstripe Bowl

When: Dec. 29 at 1:00 p.m. CST

Minnesota and Syracuse will meet after having completely opposite regular seasons. Syracuse won each of its first six games before flailing down the stretch and finishing 7-5. Minnesota, on the other hand, rebounded from a midseason losing streak and won four of its final five, in large part to the stout Gopher defense. The running game will be key in this one as this game looked to feature two of the nation’s best runners in Mohamed Ibrahim and Sean Tucker. Minnesota should have the advantage with Tucker opting out of the game after declaring for the NFL Draft.

Maryland vs. North Carolina State — Duke’s Mayo Bowl

When: Dec. 30 at 11:00 a.m. CST

IT’S MAYO TIME! Bless the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, a game where the greatest intrigue is seeing which winning head coach will have mayonnaise dumped on his head. This game should be a close one as both sides will be undermanned. NC State has dealt with a slew of injuries and coaching upheaval. The Terrapins are without several of their top pass-catching options as they prepare for the pros. A win for Maryland would complete a stellar 8-5 season for a team that was amongst the bottom of the conference only a few years ago.

Iowa vs. Kentucky — Music City Bowl

When: Dec. 31 at 11:00 a.m. CST

Neither of these midwestern teams will have to travel too far for the Music City Bowl in Nashville, which is also a rematch from last year’s Citrus Bowl! This is yet another game in which both teams will be without their starting passers. For Kentucky, Will Levis is forgoing the game as he prepares to be an early pick in April’s draft, while Joe Labas will start for Iowa after Spencer Petras underwent shoulder surgery and Alex Padilla entered the transfer portal. Iowa will look for the defense to carry it and try and make the game an ugly, low-scoring affair.

Michigan vs. TCU — Fiesta Bowl (College Football Playoff)

When: Dec. 31 at 3:00 p.m. CST

With a trip to the national championship on the line, the Wolverines and Horned Frogs will face off in the first ever Big Ten-Big 12 CFP matchup. Michigan returns to the playoff field after an appearance a year ago while TCU is a newcomer to the bracket. This game is loaded with elite talent. The fantastic Michigan defense will have their hands full with Sonny Dykes’ offense that features Max Duggan and Quentin Johnston, two of the best offensive players in college football. For the Wolverines, the offense has been soaring even without running back Blake Corum, in large part due to the breakout of J.J. McCarthy. TCU is looking to bounce back after losing to Kansas State in the conference championship while Michigan is hoping to maintain its undefeated record.

Ohio State vs. Georgia — Peach Bowl (College Football Playoff)

When: Dec. 31 at 7:00 p.m. CST

Despite not playing on conference championship weekend, Ohio State snuck into the playoff field as a one-loss team. Making the championship game will be a tall task as the Buckeyes will have to get through No. 1 ranked Georgia. The reigning kings of college football have been stellar again this season, blowing out opponents en route to a perfect record. C.J. Stroud vs. Stetson Bennett is a fantastic QB matchup and both are surrounded by excellent supporting casts. As impressive as the Bulldogs are, the gap in talent between these teams is marginal. Georgia is favored, so the Buckeyes will need a lot to pull off the upset and keep the dream of a Michigan-Ohio State championship game alive.

Illinois vs. Mississippi State — ReliaQuest Bowl

When: Jan. 2 at 11:00 a.m. CST

Illinois was without a doubt one of the most pleasant surprises in the Big Ten this season, and will have the opportunity to finish the season strong with a win against Mississippi State. It will be a challenge for Illinois, who will be without two top players in running back Chase Brown and defensive back Devon Witherspoon, both opting out to pursue NFL careers. On the other sideline, this will be an emotional game for the Bulldogs after the passing of legendary coach Mike Leach. Zach Arnett will take over and attempt to keep Illinois from winning its first bowl game since 2011.

Purdue vs. LSU — Citrus Bowl

When: Jan. 2 at 12:00 p.m. CST

The Tigers and Boilermakers will clash after losing in their respective conference championship games, both looking to right the ship and take a win into the offseason. Assistant coach Drew Brees (yes, you read that right) and the Boilermakers will look to upset Brian Kelly and the Tigers without Aidan O’Connell, Charlie Jones and Payne Durham, arguably the three post important pieces on the offense. With Jeff Brohm accepting the Louisville head coach job, this is an end of an era for Purdue.

Penn State vs. Utah — Rose Bowl

When: Jan. 2 at 4:00 p.m. CST

Penn State gets the chance to play in the iconic Rose Bowl and will take on Utah in one of the best matchups of the bowl slate. Utah is fresh off an inspired Pac-12 championship win that booted USC from the playoff picture. Penn State is riding a four game win streak and has only two losses on the season, both of which came to top four teams in the country. Utah is playing in a second consecutive Rose Bowl after a shootout against Ohio State a year ago and will look to put up a similarly high offensive output against a Penn State defense missing Joey Porter Jr. Sean Clifford will be playing his final game as a Nittany Lion, looking to end his illustrious Penn State career with a victory.

Not Bowling: Michigan State, Nebraska, Indiana, Rutgers, Northwestern