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B1G Thoughts: Rutgers goes bowling, TTUN’s chances vs. UGA, bowl opt outs, more

As the best 5-7 team in the country, Rutgers gets an invite to the Gator Bowl. Plus the Big Ten’s New Years resolutions!

Maryland v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Every week I will be bringing you some B1G thoughts on everything that happened! This will include analysis, stats, key players, moments and maybe a joke or two. Be sure to check out the I-70 Football Show in the Land-Grant Holy Land podcast feed for more in-depth analysis and to preview the next week of B1G games.

Rutgers goes bowling

After Texas A&M was unable to play their bowl game due to COVID issues, there was a furious search for a replacement. The bowl settled on Greg Schiano’s Rutgers program. As the 5-7 team with the highest APR in the country, the Scarlet Knights got the call and accepted the invite.

Their reward? Playing against a Wake Forest team that has one of the best offenses in the country. Rutgers likely doesn’t stand a chance against the Demon Deacons, but does that really matter? I vote no; the coolest part about bowl games is allowing players to travel to places they don’t normally get to go, play teams they don’t normally get to play, and — in most cases — get some type of cool reward whether it’s gifts, clothes, money, etc.

Schiano has been tasked with turning around the Scarlet Knights and while they probably would have preferred to get a bowl game the old fashioned way, accepting this invitation can stand as proof of concept and led to momentum for next season.

Should players opt out for bowl games?

In 2016, news broke that Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey were opting out of their bowl games and getting an early jump on their NFL Draft prep. Those decisions are largely recognized as the catalyst to the opt-out movement that — depending on who you ask — has gotten out of control.

I, for one, do not think it’s gotten out of hand, just for the record. First, bowl games are not necessary. Aside from the 12 regular season games, potential conference championship games and playoff games, players do not have to sign up for extra risk. Especially when those players are in line to make millions at the next level. Just look at what happened to Jaylon Smith and Jake Butt. Smith was expected to be a top-five pick, but after the linebacker tore up his knee in the Fiesta Bowl, he fell to No. 34 in the 2016 draft. That injury cost him literal millions of dollars and changed the course of his career.

In the same season, TTUN tight end Butt tore his ACL in the Orange Bowl; this injury led to him falling to the fifth round. He missed his whole rookie season and has never been the same leading to an early retirement from the NFL. We shouldn’t need cautionary tales or injuries, lost money, and shortened careers to respect players’ decisions, but if that’s what it takes, so be it.

Bowl games are fun, I understand wanting them to remain important like the good old days, but instead of focusing on star players opting out, we should focus on the young players whose careers effectively begin after replacing a star who has opted out.

Does Michigan stand a chance against Georgia?

For most of the season, many of us considered Georgia to be unbeatable, they had a dominant defense, an above average offense and they were in the SEC. But in the conference championship game, Alabama exposed some major flaws in the Dawgs’ defense — mainly their corners — but many still assume that Michigan won’t stand a chance against UGA.

Maybe you believe that Georgia will run Michigan off of the field, but I’m not so sure. While Michigan doesn’t have Bryce Young or Jamison Williams, they have shown an ability to be dominant in flashes and they are a very tough team that hasn’t feared anyone they’ve faced all season.

TTUN has an absolute game-changer in Aidan Hutchinson, who might be a top-three pick in the next NFL draft. Hutchinson isn’t the only star on the defense as fellow defensive end David Ojabo has made a name for himself and will be a high pick too.

They have a physical running game led by Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum and dynamic freshman Donovan Edwards. Quarterback Cade McNamara isn’t electric, but he rarely takes sacks and barely makes mistakes, which has kept the Wolverines in position to win games all season.

Michigan may not win this game, but I don’t think that they will get run off of the field. If TTUN continues to play smash-mouth football and Josh Gattis can game plan at the level that he did against Ohio State and Iowa, they will keep this game close and perhaps even shock the world and play for a national championship.

Big Ten’s New Year’s Resolution

I’ve been on the record that I believe this is one of the best seasons of Big Ten football in a long time — maybe ever. With Rutgers accepting an invite to a bowl game, the Big Ten has ten teams in the postseason.

In addition, there was parity at the top of the league for the first time in a long time. Unlike in most seasons where Ohio State just runs through everyone, we had a resurgent Michigan team who is now one win away from a national championship berth. We also had surprise performances by Michigan State, and Purdue, and in both divisions it took until the last game of the season to determine the representative for the Big Ten Championship Game.

Since the year is almost over, if the Big Ten wants to continue this upward trend, they should make a few resolutions. First, they should agree to get rid of divisions. This may not be a one-year decision, and it may take a couple of years to figure out the logistics, but in 2022 the conference should announce that they will be ridding themselves of divisions as soon as possible.

Secondly, I believe that they should either end “The Alliance.” While it sounds like a great idea to have a scheduling alliance with two other Power 5 the conferences, it is unnecessary for the Big Ten. While the ACC and PAC-12 benefit in many ways from the partnership, there is no legitimate benefit for the Big Ten. In all seriousness, the B1G needs to stop acting like the have-nots; along with the SEC, they are the uppermost haves in the college football world and they need to starting acting like it.

For resolution No. 3, the Big Ten should stop holding back playoff expansion. This is another instance where the Big Ten pretends to be a have-not, fighting against expansion and delaying it over minor details is a bad move.

The B1G needs to remember that it is closer to the SEC than it is to the other three P5 conferences. The Big Ten needs to recognize that there is no chance that they ever get left out of the playoffs with 12 teams; they do not need auto-bids for all the Power 5 conferences to guarantee their inclusion.

We like to pretend that the SEC is the big bad wolf, but realistically they’re just shrewd businesspeople who prioritize football and the B1G would be better off aligning with them than any other conference.

Lastly — and this is just my opinion — the Big Ten should end their deal with ESPN and commit to FOX or a combination of networks including CBS. The SEC has committed to almost completely moving their games to ESPN, so instead of playing second fiddle to them, the Big Ten should completely end their relationship with the worldwide leader and blaze a new path at networks that will make them the centerpiece of their programming.