Bowl projections 2012: Big Ten bowl matchups set

Archie Griffin. Out of nowhere. - Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Ohio State may not be bowling, but that doesn't meant their conference (and divisional) rivals aren't going to be providing entertaining post season fodder.

Ohio State's bowl game debut in the Urban Meyer era won't be coming until the 2013-2014 season, but that doesn't mean that there won't be plenty of interesting Big Ten football matchups in which to root for (or against) conference teams in the month to come. We now know which games specifically the league will be playing in as well as all of the opponents from a combination of Twitter and e-mail press releases.

Because the league only had 7 bowl eligible teams (with Penn State and Ohio State both disqualified for post season consideration), the league will vacate the spot usually reserved for their eighth pick, the Little Caesar's Bowl. Western Kentucky will fill the void to take on a MAC team (most likely Toledo) in the Motor City, December 26th.

That leaves Big Ten bowl season to officially kick off December 28th. While many of matchups certainly don't appear to be favorable ones, the schedule is as follows:

  • December 28th, 9:00 PM (ESPN) - Meineke Car Care Bowl (Houston, Texas) - Minnesota versus Texas Tech. The early rumors of the Gophers having to face off with Baylor were terrifying. Texas Tech isn't much better but are inconsistent enough to potentially give Jerry Kill's crew a ray of hope. Plus, this is a rematch of the biggest comeback in NCAA post season history (miss u, Mike Leach; and heck, miss u too Glen Mason, for that matter). Best of luck, Goldy Nation.
  • December 29th, 10:15 PM (ESPN) - Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Tempe, Arizona) - Michigan State versus TCU.Two teams better than their records otherwise indicate. Don't be fooled; TCU's offense is completely mortal and this might be one of the few bowl games the Big Ten actually wins.
  • January 1st, 12:00 PM (ESPNU) - Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dallas, Texas) - Purdue versus Oklahoma State. Wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins, the Boilermakers' interim coach, will have to keep the seat warm for Butch Jones or whoever else the Boilermakers ultimately elect to go for. His challenge? Derailing the always explosive Oklahoma State offense. Better hope Mike Gundy gets the Tennessee job.
  • January 1st, 12:00 PM (ESPN2) – Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, Florida) – Northwestern versus Mississippi State. This actually isn't as nightmare-ish of a Big Ten-SEC matchup as it could've possibly been. Mississippi State didn't really beat anyone this year and while they'll have a talent advantage against the Wildcats, this could actually be a fun game to watch. We probably won't bet on the Wildcats to get off the bowl schneid, but they've certainly faced more daunting post season tasks recently.
  • January 1st, 1:00 PM (ABC) – Capital One Bowl (Orlando, Florida) – Nebraska versus Georgia. On paper, this is an absolutely terrible matchup for the league (and Big Red). One team, a play away from the national championship, the other, absolutely boat raced in their league's conference championship game. On the other hand, sometimes it's better to get smoked and move on than to come so far only to come up just short. Plus it's not exactly like Mark Richt and co. have been unbeatable in the post season recently.
  • January 1st, 1:00 PM (ESPN) – Outback Bowl (Tampa, Florida) – Michigan versus South Carolina. South Carolina has top 10 talent but their offense has been inconsistent this season. The Wolverines' defense is good enough to win a game like this, but will their offense continue to be the hot mess it was against the Buckeyes (and Fighting Irish and Crimson Tide for that matter)?
  • January 1st, 5:00 PM (ESPN) – Rose Bowl (Pasadena, California) – Wisconsin versus Stanford. A complete mismatch on paper, but then again, so was the Big Ten Championship Game. No one's played as good football as Stanford has week-over-week of late, but maybe if Wisconsin plays as loose as they did in Indianapolis they can hang with the Cardinal and potentially not turn into the Buffalo Bills of The Grandaddy of Them All.

Are any of these games winnable for the league? Or are those looking for conference pride going to be forced to root for Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl against (most likely) Virginia Tech?

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