Image Week Arrives for Big Ten Football
This is image week for the Big Ten
Conference, including in Dinkytown. Conference teams were 1-6 in bowl
games last year so it doesn’t require much improvement to produce a
better bowl record during the days ahead.
Darrell Thompson, the Gophers football radio analyst, was asked if the Big Ten’s image
is on the line now. “I think it is,” he said. “I think people will
look at it harder (this year’s record). …It just kind of comes down to
bragging rights for the Big Ten.”
Somewhere between the Vietnam War and
Desert Storm, the Big Ten lost its reputation as numero uno among
college football conferences. But, come on, 1-6 in bowl games. Is the
state of Big Ten football that bad?
No, it’s not and between now and January 5
when the league plays its last bowl game the Big Ten can prove that last
year’s big embarrassment was an exception, not a norm. This year’s
conference bowl record might be 4-3, maybe 3-4 and (faint praise) at
College football is loaded with parity and
the Big Ten can at least argue its teams are the equal of those in the
ACC and Big East, and better top to bottom than the Mountain West and
WAC. Perhaps comparable to the Pac 10, but behind the Big 12 and SEC.
The Gophers are a popular pick to beat
Iowa State in Thursday night’s Insight Bowl, a match up between 6-6
teams. If the Gophers run the ball effectively against what has been a
mediocre Iowa State defense, Minnesota should win its first bowl game
under coach Tim Brewster and stop a three game bowl losing
The Gophers lost two of their last three
games and public opinion went south when Minnesota was unable to beat an
average Illinois team at home after a 42-34 win the week before against
Michigan State. The Gophers defense, which in its last two games has
given up a total of 100 rushing yards, is impressive but must get help
from an offense that hasn’t produced a touchdown in the last four
The Big Ten has a
little more swagger this morning after last night's 20-14 Wisconsin win
over Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Other conference bowl wins
could come in the Rose Bowl on January 1 and the Orange Bowl on January 5. Ohio
State’s rushing defense, fifth in the nation giving up 83.42 yards per
game, is featured against Oregon’s run game, sixth nationally at 236.08
yards per game. The difference might be a breakout game for Ohio State
sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor whose press clips have
sometimes been more impressive than performances.
Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense (No.
2 nationally at 307.15 yards rushing per game) spits out yardage like
the Fed prints money but seldom has the attack faced a defense like
Iowa’s. Multiple weeks of preparation for the offense by Iowa coach
Kirk Ferentz and his “Albert Einstein” (Norm Parker)
defensive coordinator could slow down the Tech offense and force the
Wreck to pass. Not a good option. Iowa’s worry, though, is
players have enough speed to contain Tech.
The Big Ten might pick up a win in
the Penn State-Louisiana State Capital One Bowl game on New Year’s Day.
This could be a toss up game but senior quarterback Daryl Clark
and the Nittany Lions’ athleticism gives them a solid chance against
another team that is among the fastest in the country. Northwestern has
a leaky pass defense, but has a chance against Auburn in the Outback
Bowl on January 1. Odds are slim that pass deficient Michigan State
can make a competitive game out of the Alamo Bowl on January 2 against
pass happy Texas Tech (Raiders, 44, Gophers, 41, in the 2006 Insight