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Tuesday, December 10

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Football Fri Jan 07 2011

Big Ten Goes Bowling: Winners & Losers

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An 0-5 record on New Year's Day ensured this bowl season would be remembered as a massive disappointment for the Big Ten, but there was some good mixed with the bad. Herewith, we say goodbye to college football -- with apologies to the four games yet to come -- with a rundown of the winners and losers from the eight Big Ten bowl games.

WINNERS

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for ohio state.gifOhio State

An obvious choice as the biggest winner, since the Buckeyes were the only Big Ten team to win a significant bowl game. Asked to carry the conference banner after the Jan. 1 disaster three days earlier, they held off Arkansas to win the Sugar Bowl, 31-26, capturing their first bowl win against an SEC team after nine losses.

Ohio State roared out of the gate behind Terrelle Pryor (337 offensive yards), but Jim Tressel, as always, sat on a 31-13 lead for the final 19 minutes of the game. The Razorbacks rallied steadily and landed a stunning blow in the final moments, a punt block at the OSU 18-yard line. Ryan Mallett took over with 1:09 left, needing a touchdown to win the game, but he threw a game-clinching interception almost immediately, not seeing defensive end Solomon Thomas dropping into coverage underneath in a zone blitz scheme.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for wisconsin.gifWisconsin

Sure, the Badgers lost the Rose Bowl, falling 21-19 to undefeated TCU, but there's absolutely no shame in losing to a team that has lost once in the past two seasons. After setting a program record with 45.2 points per game in conference play this season, Wisconsin found the going tougher against the sturdy Horned Frogs. But they nearly pulled it out, driving 77 yards for a touchdown with 2:00 left before Scott Tolzien's potential tying two-point conversion pass got batted down at the line of scrimmage. And the receiver was open, too.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iowa.gifMicah Hyde, Iowa

Losers of their final three regular-season games, the Hawkeyes seemed ready to go out quietly in the Insight Bowl before Hyde intervened. While reserve tailback Marcus Coker (219 yards) starred in a new leading role, the sophomore cornerback produced the only points of the fourth quarter, scoring on a 72-yard interception return to lift Iowa to a 27-24 win against Missouri.

Thumbnail image for illinois.gifMikel Leshoure, Illinois

If this was his final college game, Leshoure went out strong, amassing 184 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries as the Fighting Illini rolled over Baylor, 38-14, in the Texas Bowl. With young quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase adding a season-high 242 yards on 18-of-23 passing and the defense clamping down on Robert Griffin, Baylor's dynamic quarterback, it was one of those nights that had you wondering why Illinois couldn't do this every game.

LOSERS

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for michigan.gifRich Rodriguez, Michigan

No one had a tougher week than Rodriguez, who lost his job four days after his Wolverines got crushed by Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl, 52-14. Another hideous day for the Michigan defense likely ended any chance Coach Rod had of returning for a fourth season. As the coaching rumor mill churns at full speed, college football's winningest program is only a step or two behind Notre Dame on the downward slope to national irrelevance. Beware.

michigan state.gifMichigan State

The Spartans can't laugh much at their cross-state rivals after getting whomped by Alabama in the Capital One Bowl, 49-7. Michigan State was one of the nation's breakthrough teams this season, claiming a share of its first Big Ten championship in 20 years, but the story ended with a horrific thud. This was clearly the most embarrassing bowl loss for the Big Ten, seeing its co-champion so dominated by a three-loss Alabama team that did not initially seem like an immovable object. Cue the S-E-C chants.

penn state.gifMatt McGloin, Penn State

The redshirt freshman quarterback had his moments after taking over in mid-October, but he closed with his worst game of the year, throwing five interceptions in Penn State's 37-24 loss to Florida in the Outback Bowl. McGloin completed just 17 of 41 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown -- and yet still, the Nittany Lions were alive in the final minutes, trailing by six points and driving, before Ahmad Black picked off a pass and took it back 80 yards for a touchdown to seal the Gators win.

northwestern.gifNorthwestern

It's hard to bash the Wildcats too severely for losing 45-38 to Texas Tech in the TicketCity Bowl when they were playing, as in the previous two games, with a pair of freshman backups at quarterback. But despite a season-high 38 points, Northwestern still found itself trailing 31-9 in the third quarter before a commendable rally fell short on the game's final play. That's now eight straight bowl losses, a streak that dates to 1949, for "Chicago's Big Ten team."

 
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