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Big Ten in Review, Bowl Season: Strengths, Weaknesses and THE Dadgum National Champs

The Big Ten is back, baby!

Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten had a winning record this bowl season at 6-5, and as we all know, this is the most important record and completely renders the rest of the season meaningless. The Big Ten is also home of the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes, who as far as I can tell didn't play Wisconsin this year.

All in all, it was a pretty good season for the favorite conference of the Midwest (and East Coast, now, too). Let's look back at bowl season and take some last cracks at Purdue.

Big Ten East


S&P+ rank: 81st overall, 85th offense, 77th defense

Bowl result: LOL

Biggest strength: The Hoosiers had Tevin Coleman this year and he rushed for over 2,000 yards. It is a shame that a national audience didn't get to see him play in a bowl game. They were also SEC East champions and beat Purdue for the second straight year.

Biggest weakness: The defense was just godawful. It's hard to make a bowl game with only half of a team. The passing game was terrible, too. This may have only been a quarter of a team. I'm so sorry, Tevin Coleman.

Remaining schedule: Home against Southern Illinois to open 2015.


S&P+ rank: 64th overall, 64th offense, 55th defense

Bowl result: L, Foster Farms Bowl: Stanford 45, Maryland 21

Biggest strength: The Terps acquitted themselves quite nicely in their first Big Ten season, going 4-4 and finishing third in the East Division. Stefon Diggs had 10 catches for 138 yards against Stanford and William Likely had a 100-yard kick return for a TD. Those were really the only positives.

Biggest weakness: Got steamrolled by the Cardinal and averaged 0.6 yards per carry, which is bad. Lost their last two games to Stanford and Rutgers, which is also bad.

Remaining schedule: Home against Richmond to open 2015.


S&P+ rank: 56th overall, 73rd offense, 37th defense

Bowl result: LOL

Biggest strength: Hired Jim Harbaugh. It's really quite fun to go back and look at Michigan's schedule from last year. They were so bad! It's amazing. Sorry, Michigan, you suck and I won't be mentioning any of your other strengths (like there were any, bazinga).

Devin Funchess was pretty good, I guess.

Biggest weakness: Got blown out by Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State, which is pretty much a hat trick of horrible for the Wolverines. Harbaugh has got some work to do, friend.

Remaining schedule: At Utah on a Thursday night to open up 2015.

Michigan State

S&P+ rank: 8th overall, 10th offense, 9th defense

Bowl result: W, Cotton Bowl: Michigan State 42, Baylor 41

Biggest strength: Played in perhaps the most exciting bowl game of the season, scoring 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter against Baylor. Jeremy Langford had three touchdowns and 162 rushing yards, while Connor Cook threw for over 300 yards. Got good news on the "coming back to school" front.

Biggest weakness: Gave up 1,000,000 passing yards to Bryce Petty and even 53 to a wide receiver. Didn't even win its division like Wisconsin did, smdh.

Remaining schedule: At Western Michigan to start the 2015 season.

Ohio State

S&P+ rank: 1st overall, 1st offense, 2nd defense

Bowl result: W, Sugar Bowl: Ohio State 42, Alabama 35; W, College Football Playoff championship: Ohio State 42, Oregon 20

Biggest strength: I mean, just about everything. Ezekiel Elliott had 476 yards and six touchdowns in the Playoff. Let that sink in for a moment. The Buckeyes' third-string (!!!) quarterback led them to victories over Alabama and Oregon. Let THAT sink in for a moment. Completely steamrolled Oregon and held the Ducks to 2-of-12 on third down.

Biggest weakness: Elliott had one catch for minus-1 yard, sooooo, you tell me who da real MVP is.

Remaining schedule:

This probably won't happen. The Buckeyes open up at Lane Stadium against the only team that beat them this year *stifles laughter* Virginia Tech.

Penn State

S&P+ rank: 32nd overall, 82nd offense, 13th defense

Bowl result: W, Pinstripe Bowl: Penn State 31, Boston College 30

Biggest strength: Christian Hackenberg finally looked like an NFL caliber QB, throwing four touchdowns and 371 yards. Sam Ficken hit a walk-off extra point after Boston College's #collegekicker missed his in OT. The Nittany Lions had four separate players catch touchdowns. That's pretty cool.

Biggest weakness: That offensive ranking is atrocious. Defense gave up 285 rushing yards to BC, which is somehow more than its season average. BC was a pretty good rushing team this year. Lost two fumbles and had 10 penalties.

Remaining schedule: Opens up in Philly (speaking of Philadelphia, didja see we got a new quarterback recruit from there? Malvern Prep is in my high school's conference and let me tell you, the Inter-Ac conference is not very good at football. Please don't let that color your view of him. He looks solid.) at Temple in what will be pretty much a home game for PSU.


S&P+ rank: 60th overall, 42nd offense, 82nd defense

Bowl result: W, Quick Lane Bowl: Rutgers 40, UNC 21

Biggest strength: Rutgers had two guys rush for 100+ yards. Josh Hicks had 202 on the ground and Robert Martin had exactly 100. Dismantled UNC despite converting only 20 percent of its third downs and less than 50 percent of its passes. I just can't help myself -- Rutgers has so many weaknesses.

Biggest weakness: The Scarlet Knights defense shut out UNC in the first half but gave up 21 points in the second half. Pretty bad direction to be going in, Rutgers. Man, they actually played kinda well except for all the stuff mentioned in the "strengths" section.

Remaining schedule: Opens up with Norfolk State at home. Does anyone in the Big Ten play an FBS team to open next year? Sheesh.

Big Ten West


S&P+ rank: 77th overall, 69th offense, 83rd defense

Bowl result: L, Heart of Dallas Bowl: La. Tech 35, Illinois 18

Biggest strength: Way outgained Louisiana Tech in total yards. Maybe got to eat at Pecan Lodge while in Dallas. On that note, what do y'all think are the best BBQ joints in the greater metroplex area? Suggestions in the comments, plz. Have a few more years of Mike Dudek

Biggest weakness: Dominated time of possession (but as Oregon proves, that doesn't really matter anymore) and total yards, but turned the ball over twice in devastating fashion. A 69-yard (nice!) interception return for six before halftime really seemed to take the wind out of Illinois' sails.

Remaining schedule: Opens up the 2015 season with Kent State at home.


S&P+ rank: 74th overall, 83rd offense, 63rd defense

Bowl result: L, Taxslayer Bowl: Tennessee 45, Iowa 28

Biggest strength: Jordan Canzeri ran for 120 yards on only 10 carries. In fact, as a team, Iowa averaged 7 yards per carry. Too bad the Hawkeyes were down by 28 minutes into the second quarter; the run game was strong.

Biggest weakness: Just got their doors blown off by Tennessee. I'm pretty sure that's all that needs to be said.

Remaining schedule: Opens 2015 at home against Illinois State (FCS runner-up this year, so Iowa will certainly lose by double-digits).


S&P+ rank: 45th overall, 45th offense, 44th defense

Bowl result: L, Citrus Bowl: Missouri 33. Minnesota 17

Biggest strength: Mitch Leidner looked like a competent passing college quarterback. Maxxxxxxxxxx Williams had his usual excellent game and thankfully is going pro.

Biggest weakness: By rule, the Gophers can't eat at Buffalo Wild Wings for a whole year. Lost to Missouri, who lost to Indiana. So also by rule, Minnesota is worse than Indiana.

Remaining schedule: Home against TCU, who will probably be ranked in the top five, is the first game for the Gophers.


S&P+ rank: 33rd overall, 33rd offense, 41st defense

Bowl result: L, Holiday Bowl: USC 45, Nebraska 42

Biggest strength: Tommy Armstrong, Jr. had a nice day throwing the ball and even chipped in a rushing TD. Didn't win their 10th game even without Bo Pelini on the sideline. I hope they never win double-digit games again.

Biggest weakness: Couldn't contain Adoree' Jackson, who had two touchdowns of over 70 yards. Lost three of their last four games (only win coming in OT by a field goal) to stumble into the offseason.

Remaining schedule: Opens at home against BYU to start 2015.


S&P+ rank: 85th overall, 103rd offense, 54th defense

Bowl result: LOL

Biggest strength: A truly pitiful offense... that Wisconsin lost against. How the hell did that happen again? Remember when Northwestern won at Notre Dame too? What a weird team. Justin Jackson is going to be the new running back I feel bad for next year since Tevin Coleman is going pro.

Biggest weakness: The forward pass proved to be very difficult for the Wildcats to execute. Scoring was difficult as well. I wonder if the Cats will fire Pat Fitzgerald if they don't make a bowl this year?

Remaining schedule: The Nerd Bowl. The Wildcats open at home against Stanford to kickoff 2015.


S&P+ rank: 94th overall, 97th offense, 81st defense

Bowl result: LOLOLOLOLOL

Biggest strength: [null set]

Biggest weakness: Ended season on six-game losing streak and don't really have any hope next year. Such is life in Indiana.

Remaining schedule: Travel to West Virginia to take on Marshall in their first game of 2015.


S&P+ rank: 12th overall, 13th offense, 15th defense

Bowl result: W, Outback Bowl: Wisconsin 34, Auburn 31

Biggest strength: Melvin Gordon. Rafael Gaglianone. The front seven on defense. Barry Alvarez.

Biggest weakness: Head coach selection. It feels like I wasn't even properly vetted before they chose Paul Chryst. I have a lot to offer.

Remaining schedule: Opens the season in Dallas against Alabama for the chance to be 2015 Alabama State Champs. There will be more to this come summer, but I will be attending this game and will probably try and set up some sort of tailgate for any other readers that want to get drunk and yell "Roll Badgers" and "Where's your trophy?!" at Bama fans.