The college bowl season has a way of bringing people together.
That’s why members of the Iowa football program will take more than a passing interest in certain matchups.
“I got an opportunity to meet a couple of guys during Big Ten media days,” Hawkeye lineman Brett Van Sloten said. “You want them to represent the conference well, so you’re rooting for them over the opponent they’re playing.”
It’s a bond that will tighten in coming weeks as Iowa and six other Big Ten teams try to reverse a downward trend.
Since 2003, the conference has a 28-47 record in bowls.
“The better the Big Ten does, the more reputable our conference is,” Hawkeye linebacker James Morris said. “And the more reputable our conference is, the better your achievements look.
“That’s a lot of people’s motives this time of year.”
You might think players who spend hours and hours breaking down film would rather tune in to something else.
You’d be wrong.
“I have no problem watching football all day,” linebacker Anthony Hitchens said. “I usually get yelled at for that when I’m home.”
Hitchens and the Hawkeyes may not like what they see.
The Big Ten faces another daunting slate this postseason, due partly to the fact every team moved up a notch when both Ohio State and Michigan State landed a spot in the Bowl Championship Series.
Critics will say it’s just an excuse. I say it will be a contributing factor in another lackluster showing.
This is how I see the Big Ten bowls playing out:
Minnesota (8-4) vs. Syracuse (6-6)
Where: Houston, Texas
When: Dec. 27, 5 p.m. on ESPN
Analysis: The Gophers showed resilience and focus as coach Jerry Kill dealt with health issues. So there’s reason to believe they’ll fare better than last year’s 34-31 loss to Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. The last time Minnesota won at least nine games in a season was 2003. Syracuse, meanwhile, is making its third bowl appearance in four seasons, but this is the first under coach Scott Shafer. The Orange beat just five FBS teams, with a combined record of 27-31.
The pick: Minnesota 27-17
BUFFALO WILD WINGS
Kansas State (7-5) vs. Michigan (7-5)
Where: Tempe, Ariz.
When: Dec. 28, 9:15 p.m. on ESPN
Analysis: Both of these teams sputtered in the opening weeks. The difference is, Kansas State gradually hit its stride, scoring more than 30 points in each of its final six games. With junior Jake Waters completing nearly 60 percent of his passes and sophomore Daniel Sams averaging 5.3 yards per carry, the Wildcats have a two-quarterback system that seems to work. The Wolverines lost five of their last seven games, and offensive coordinator Al Borges is under fire.
The pick: Kansas State 34-20
Nebraska (8-4) vs. Georgia (8-4)
Where: Jacksonville, Fla.
When: Jan. 1, 11 a.m. on ESPN2
Analysis: Georgia coach Mark Richt appears to be a nice man who can’t meet the lofty expectations of his fan base. Nebraska’s Bo Pelini is an angry man, who pretty much dared his athletic director to fire him. Neither had much luck with quarterbacks. The Bulldogs lost Aaron Murray to a knee injury. The Cornhuskers’ Taylor Martinez is out with a sore foot. This is a rematch of last season’s Capital One Bowl, which Nebraska led in the third quarter before Georgia pulled away 45-31.
The pick: Georgia 20-10
Wisconsin (9-3) vs. South Carolina (10-2)
Where: Orlando, Fla.
When: Jan. 1, noon, on ABC
Analysis: Remember when defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was the most talked about player in college football? He slipped off the radar and sometimes drew the ire of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. Now, Clowney can redeem himself against Badger running backs James White and Melvin Gordon, who combined to rush for 2,803 yards. Wisconsin isn’t too shabby on defensive, either, ranking sixth nationally in yards allowed (294.0) and points allowed (14.8). The X-factor is Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw, who’s mobility is generally overlooked.
The pick: South Carolina 34-30
Iowa (8-4) vs. LSU (9-3)
Where: Tampa. Fla.
When: Jan. 1, noon, on ESPN
Analysis: One number jumps out when reviewing the Hawkeye 2013 defense: 11.5. That’s the sack total for a once maligned group of tackles and ends. Last season, Iowa’s entire defense accounted for 13 sacks. They’ll need to put pressure on LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings, and contain a Tigers’ rushing attack that averages 200.8 yards a game. The current players were in junior high and high school when these schools met in the 2005 Capital One Bowl, but it’ll take a similar effort for Iowa to pull this one out.
The pick: Iowa 30-25
Michigan State (12-1) vs. Stanford (11-2)
Where: Pasadena, Calif.
When: Jan. 1, 4 p.m. on ESPN
Analysis: Michigan State might meet its match, from a physicality standpoint. Senior linebacker Shayne Skov leads Stanford with 91 tackles (10.0 per game) followed by A.J. Tarpley’s 80 (5.0). This will be the Spartans’ first Rose Bowl appearance since 1988, and they’ve come a long way since a 17-13 loss to Notre Dame on Sept. 21. Stanford beat the Fighting Irish 27-20 on Nov. 30, but were less than dominant heading into December. In the final year of the BCS, we have a classic showdown between Pac-12 and Big Ten champions.
The pick: Stanford 17-10
Ohio State (12-1) vs. Clemson (10-2)
Where: Miami, Fla.
When: Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
Analysis: Will the Buckeyes bounce back from their first defeat in two seasons? If they don’t, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd will pick them apart. He’s completing 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,473 yards and 29 touchdowns. Ohio State is shaky defensively, allowing 259.5 passing yards per game (102nd nationally out of 123 FBS programs). On a positive note: Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer owns a 7-1 bowl record, including two national titles at Florida. This will be his postseason debut with Ohio State.
The pick: Ohio State 46-24
Andrew Logue covers Hawkeye football for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @AndrewMLogue
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football