2019 Big Ten Bowls Preview

It is the most wonderful time of the year! It’s time for the College Football bowl season! There are 40 bowl games (plus the National Championship game) to look forward to. In this series, I will be looking at all 80 teams who qualified for the postseason and breaking down their matchups. Each installment will focus on teams from a respective conference. This year, two teams will be making their bowl debut, one bowl-eligible team was left home, and there are 14 instances where the teams are facing for the first time in history! Let’s take a look at the 2019 Big Ten Bowls. 

2019 Big Ten Bowls Preview  

New Era Pinstripe Bowl 
Michigan State vs Wake Forest 

The first of the 2019 Big Ten bowls feature Michigan State and Wake Forest in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Spartans made the news last offseason as they decided to not fire any of their offensive staff. Instead, they just reassigned everyone. After a 6-6 season that featured a run of five consecutive losses, change may be coming. It sure looked like MSU was having the same issues and it was evident in their first loss to Arizona State at home. If they want to beat Wake Forest in the first matchup of the two programs, they will have to get something going. 

22 points per game, good for 107th in the nation, will not win you many games. For the third year, Brian Lewerke is the quarterback. The senior improved from his junior year. Despite throwing 12 interceptions, Lewerke accounted for 2,759 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. The killer was his performance during that five-game losing streak. Contrary to the past few years, the Spartans had a rough time getting the run game situated. Their rushing leader is redshirt freshman Elijah Collins. Though he is questionable with an ankle injury, Collins ran for 892 yards and only five touchdowns. Their average of 362 yards per game might not be enough to beat the Demon Deacons. 

Where they falter on offense, they make up for it on defense. Well, kind of. In their first four matchups, their opponents failed to score more than 17 points. In the following six games, the Spartan defense was gashed for 35 points a game. Look for Antjuan Simmons and Kenny Willekes to make their presence known early and often. As I stated in the ACC piece, I expect Wake Forest to take this game. The Michigan State offense is just not good enough to win this game. It might be ugly.  

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl 
Iowa vs USC 

In a classic Rose Bowl-type pairing of B1G and PAC 12 teams, the Holiday Bowl pits Iowa against USC. The Hawkeyes could be the quietest, most underrated 9-3 team in the nation. Even though they dropped three contests, they were by seven, five, and two points. The 19th-ranked team in the nation was very, very close to another B1G Championship Game berth At the same time, they were very close to not even qualifying for postseason play. Will they be able to improve on their 2-7 all-time mark against the Trojans? 

These Hawkeyes are the Michigan State of the B1G West. They were able to win nine games in spite of their offense. Senior Nate Stanley will suit up for the last time after leading Iowa for three years. His touchdowns fell to 14 this year, but his 2,738 passing yards are par for the course. His job was not made any easier by the fact that they did not have a 1,000-yard rusher. I mean, the Hawkeyes had two guys who accounted for 500 yards each in Mekhi Sargent and Tyler Goodson, but it’s not the same. The nation’s 99th-best scoring offense has its work cut out for them. 

As is the Kirk Ferentz way, the Hawkeyes are 5th in the nation in scoring defense. Opponents are averaging less than two touchdowns against this team. In their three crossover matchups against B1G East foes, they gave up a total of 27 points. This defense operates thanks to plenty of no-name athletes. That is, of course, outside of stud edge rusher AJ Epenesa. The Junior is expected to leave for the NFL draft, so let’s see if he chooses to participate in this game. After it’s all said and done, I am actually siding with this Iowa team. USC has been playing very well as of late, but they haven’t played a stifling defense quite like Iowa. This could very well be a classic in the making. 

CPF Semifinal at the Playstation Fiesta Bowl 
Ohio State vs Clemson 

The primetime CFP semifinal matchup will be Ohio State and Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. The 13-0 Buckeyes have been solidifying themselves as one of the greatest Ohio State squads in history, which is saying something. OSU has been running through their B1G schedule en route to the marquee game of the 2019 Big Ten bowls. There is only one team in the nation to win every single one of its games by double digits. It’s this team. This CFP semifinal will be a good game, so don’t expect another 31-0 drubbing. 

The number one offense in the nation has weapons all over the place. Now, take some of these stats with a grain of salt because many of the athletes only played half of a game because they were just winning by so much. To me, this offense runs through junior running back JK Dobbins. Dobbins benefited from a dual-threat quarterback to the tune of 1,829 yards and 20 touchdowns. That quarterback is none other than Justin Fields. The transfer quarterback threw for 2,953 yards and 40 touchdowns. He boasts a 40:1 touchdown to interception ratio. Unreal.

Statistically, the Buckeyes lack a receiver that stands out. Now, if you watch them, all of their receivers stand out. Chris Olave, OSU career receptions record holder KJ Hill, Binjimen Victor, and true freshman Garrett Wilson have all shown that they can play. The 2020 recruiting cycle was also kind to this team as they signed four more top receivers. Good luck stopping this. 

The 3rd-ranked scoring defense is one of the most improved units in football. Heisman finalist Chase Young leads a defense full of NFL talent. Damon Arnette, Jeff Okudah, Shaun Wade, and Jordan Fuller will further solidify themselves as BIA (best in America). This year’s draft is going to show the nation who truly is DBU. This matchup is going to be good, but I will be rolling with the Buckeyes. Is Clemson the best team OSU has played? Yes, but they’ve played five teams that finished the year ranked. Clemson has one, and it was Virginia. This isn’t 2016. Thie OSU team will be able to establish the run and make their way to the championship game yet again. 

Goodyear Cotton Bowl 
Penn State vs Memphis 

The next New Year’s Six game on the 2019 Big Ten bowls slate is the Cotton Bowl between Penn State and the AAC champion, Memphis. The 10-2 (9-2 against FBS teams) Nittany Lions went through periods where they looked unstoppable. Unfortunately, there were instances where they looked very beatable. When they were good, they got the rush attack going. They can rely on their stout defense in this the first contest between the two programs. 

It is uncertain if quarterback Sean Clifford will suit up against the Tigers. At 2,521 passing yards and 22 touchdowns, Clifford has been able to lead the offense well. He is no Trace McSorley, but he was a welcome surprise. If he cannot go, Will Levis, the quarterback who was actually able to move the ball against Ohio State, will start. At running back, it took PSU a while to figure out who they wanted to feed. Between Journey Brown, Ricky Slade, and Noah Cain, the Nittany Lions are set. Each brings forth their own skillset, but Brown has been the workhorse in 2019. Tight end Pat Freiermuth leads all receivers and the sophomore looks NFL-ready already. He really looks like Mike Gesicki 2.0. 

As is the trend with B1G teams, the defense for Penn State leads the way. At 14 points allowed per game, the Nittany Lions rank 7th in the nation. Possible first-round talent Yetur Gross-Matos is a monster off the edge, but he is questionable with an arm injury. Even if he cannot go, watch out for sophomore monster Micah Parsons. The linebacker is growing into his own and is going to make himself known. While I think this game is going to be closer than most, Penn State will come out on top. Memphis is a very good team, don’t get me wrong. The Nittany Lions, when they get to play their game, are just too good. 

Redbox Bowl 
Illinois vs Cal 

The midway point on the 2019 Big Ten bowls schedule will be the Redbox Bowl. This year, Illinois and Cal will face off for the 11th time (Illinois leads 7-3). The 6-6 Fighting Illini did not have an overwhelmingly great season. Their season went as follows: two wins, four losses, four wins, two losses. Perfectly balanced, as all things should be. While they lost to MAC foe Eastern Michigan, they were able to upset a very good B1G rival.  

On offense, the Illini have not been great. Junior transfer quarterback Brandon Peters has been up and down. Peters is battling a head injury, so his 1,611 passing yards and 17 touchdowns may be missed. Next man up would be redshirt freshman Matt Robinson who was uninspiring in his six appearances. Like Iowa, Illinois has a pair of running backs who went over 500 yards, rather than a singular 1,000-yard back. Both Reggie Corbin and Dre Brown are formidable running backs. Lovie Smith’s offense, unfortunately, is 79th in the nation in scoring offense with 27 points per game. 

Where the defense goes, the team goes. In their wins, they were good. In their loses, not so much. All in all, they did only allow 25 points per game through a schedule against some really good offenses. While defenses do travel, I’ll be taking Cal in this game at Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco. Also, there might be more empty seats than taken seats.  

Outback Bowl 
Minnesota vs Auburn 

The first-ever matchup between Minnesota and Auburn will be in this year’s Outback Bowl. After a close win against a solid FCS South Dakota State team, the Gophers rowed the boat through an admittedly weaker B1G schedule. Level of competition or no, this team is fun to watch. They did falter down the stretch after upsetting Penn State. They could not return from Iowa with a win and then fell in their rivalry game with a chance to get to the B1G title game. 

The Golden Gophers have an exciting offense. Quarterback Tanner Morgan threw for 2,975 yards and 28 touchdowns. The sophomore had plenty of weapons, leading with a pair of 1,000-yard receivers. Good luck shutting down both Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman. Both receivers will end up hearing their names at the NFL draft in the future. It also helps to have 1,094 rushing yards from sixth-year senior running back Rodney Smith. Look for Smith to add to his eight-touchdown total in this game. While I have you, I would like to say that I was terribly wrong about this team before the season. I have never been happier to have been wrong. 

On defense, there have been few defensive backs with more of an impact than Antoine Winfield, Jr. The son of an Ohio State legend tallied seven interceptions, one touchdown, and two forced fumbles. Honestly, that is an insane stat line for a defensive back. I look to him, as well as the rest of the defense, to lead this team to victory in the Outback Bowl. It will be fun to watch this offense up against Derrick Brown, but I think they will be able to take care of business. Get ready to go get your free coconut shrimp! 

VRBO Citrus 
Michigan vs Alabama 

Oh boy. The one game on the 2019 Big Ten bowls slate that makes me wince is the Citrus bowl between Michigan and Alabama. The Wolverines went 9-3 this year, but they went 0-1 in the biggest, most important game of the year. The highlight of the season was when they started to get back on track and took down rivals Notre Dame and Michigan State. But at Michigan, they don’t pay their coaches big bucks to finish 3rd in the B1G East. 

The Michigan wide receiver room heading into 2019 was one of the most interesting stories. Between Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins, Tarik Black, and Ronnie Bell, defenses were going to have their hands full. Fast-forward to today, Peoples-Jones hasn’t lived quite up to the hype and Black has entered the Transfer Portal. They have been able to modernize their approach, but the offense still runs through running backs Hassan Haskins and Zach Charbonnet. Ole Miss transfer quarterback Shea Patterson hasn’t delivered a championship, though many Wolverine faithful expected it. If he can lead this team to a victory against Alabama, his career may not be remembered as a failure. 

Michigan’s defense took a step back this year, which isn’t saying much considering they only allow 19.5 points per game. Don Brown’s defense is filled with NFL talent between Josh UcheKhaleke Hudson, and Jordan Glasgow. Even without Tua Tagovailoa, I think that Alabama will be too much. The only way that Michigan wins this and breaks the 2-2 all-time tie is if they want it more and the Tide don’t show up. I say good luck, Wolverines. You’re going to need it. 

Rose Bowl 
Wisconsin vs Oregon 

Outside of the CFP semifinal, the most intriguing and potentially exciting of the 2019 Big Ten bowls slate is the Granddaddy of them all. Between Wisconsin and Oregon, the Badgers lead the all-time series 3-2. Wisconsin literally ran through their schedule up until they had to suit up against Illinois a week before Ohio State. They do hold the distinction of holding the largest lead over the Buckeyes when they amassed a 21-7 halftime lead. Unfortunately for the Badgers, they forgot to come out of the locker room and gave up 27 unanswered points en route to a 34-21 loss, their second of the year to the CFP-bound Buckeyes. 

In three years as starting running back, Jonathan Taylor has finished in the top nine of Heisman voting each year. Taylor has cemented himself in Wisconsin football history as he has rushed for 6,080 and 50 touchdowns in his three years. There is a reason Taylor is the back-to-back Doak Walker Award winner. He is the man. This issue in the past was quarterback play. This year, Jack Coan was actually good. He threw for 2,539 yards and 17 touchdowns. Outside of the 209 yards and five touchdowns Taylor caught, Quintez Cephus was the biggest threat.  

Oregon has faced good defenses this year, but nothing like Wisconsin. They are going to have to watch out for linebackers Chris Orr and Zack Baun. Both of these athletes will be playing on Sundays in the future. I, for one, cannot wait for this game. I think Oregon is very good. Wisconsin is better. I have the Badgers winning this game, but it’s not going to be easy. This Rose Bowl have the potential to be an all-time classic. 

Taxslayer Gator Bowl 
Indiana vs Tennessee 

The final guaranteed game in the 2019 Big Ten bowls docket is the Gator Bowl between Indiana and SEC foe Tennessee. The Hoosiers finished their regular season with a mark of 8-4 (7-4 vs FBS). Those eight wins are fine and all, but they were 0-4 against teams who were ranked. Despite this, Indiana did something that Tennessee could not do this year. The Hoosiers appeared in the AP poll! 

At the beginning of the year, Indiana started Michael Penix, Jr. Since the redshirt freshman suffered a season-ending injury, the Hoosiers went back to Peyton Ramsey. Ramsey has been the starter for the last two seasons, so at least there weren’t growing pains during his 2,227 yards and 13 touchdown season. Indiana has made its money with under the radar running backs. The next guy is Stevie Scott. The sophomore has been very solid for the Hoosiers in his two years as the number one back. Unfortunately, it is uncertain if he will suit up in this game due to a leg injury. 

The Indiana defense was either really good or really bad. There was no in-between. In three games, they allowed zero, three, and three points. In every other game, they allowed at least 24 and the 51 points allowed to Ohio State was their season-high. Honestly, this is a matchup of bad teams. After a coin flip, I am siding with Indiana. I think that Ramsey and Scott could be too much for the Volunteers’ defense, but it will be a close pillow fight. 

CFP National Championship 
Ohio State vs LSU 

Finally, the final game of the 2019 bowl season will be the College Football Playoff National Championship and it will feature B1G Champs Ohio State and SEC Champs LSU. As I stated before, I believe that LSU will win a close, high-scoring affair against Oklahoma. Ohio State will take care of Clemson in their matchup. This is the matchup that we have been looking forward to for months now, so who takes home the gold? 

At 15-0, your CFP National Champions will be…The Ohio State Buckeyes. Heisman winner Joe Burrow is a great quarterback and the LSU offense is by far better than anything OSU had faced all regular season. The difference in this game will be the fact that LSU has not faced a defense like Ohio State’s If Ole Miss can score 37 points and go for 614 yards (402 rushing), what will the number one offense do? The Ohio State Buckeyes, with this win, will throw their hat into the ring for discussion for the greatest college football team of all time. 

2019 Big Ten Bowls Results 

And that’s it! The bowl season is over! After the CFP championship game win, the 2019 Big Ten bowls record will stand at 7-3. Michigan State is 12-16 in bowl games in their history, whereas Iowa is at 16-15-1 and Ohio State is at 24-25. Penn State is always good in bowls, as evident by their 29-16-2 mark. Illinois is on a skid, but they hold an 8-10 bowl record and Minnesota is at 8-12. At 21-26, Michigan is in need of a big win, but Wisconsin is in the positives at 16-14. Lastly, Indiana does not have much success in bowls, as evident by their sub-par 3-8 record. 

This has been the 2019 Bowls Preview series! It will start today, December 20th as Buffalo and Charlotte face off and will end with Ohio State securing their 9th National Title. Now, let’s sit back and enjoy some football. 

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