Bowling With The Big Ten: A Watchability Ranking

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Do you like Central Florida in January? No, of course not. No one does.

Obligatory

Bowl season is upon us, and for those of you that like mildly competitive football games between teams with no geographic or cultural affiliations, you're in luck because in just a couple short weeks you will be able to watch all of your least favorite Big Ten teams take part in meaningless exhibition games.

But which of these games is the best?  That is a hard question to parse, as there is so many different things one can judge a bowl game by, but we've decided to rank these bowls according to a few different factors and come up with a guide for Michigan fans looking to survive bowl season.

(Update: Now with more MIchigan)

1. The Rose Bowl: Michigan State-Stanford

Matchup: 5+

Potential Schadenfreude: 3

Excitement: 5

The Granddaddy of them all certainly seems to have its best possible matchup this year.  Michigan State enters the game with quite possibly the best defense in the country, while Stanford survived the rough and tumble PAC-12 and brings its own brand of hard-nosed defense and old-school inspired offense.

This one won't be the same fireworks show as some recent Rose Bowls (I'm looking at you, Oregon-Wisconsin), but these are two great teams with similar mindsets.  It is as exciting a defensive matchup as you will find.  There won't be too much Spartan pain to reap even in the event of a loss.  After 20+ years, just getting there has been a load off for most MSU fans.

2. The Orange Bowl: Ohio State-Clemson

Matchup: 5

Potential Schadenfreude: 4

Excitement: 4

Where the Rose Bowl looks to be a defensive slug fest, this one should be all about offensive fireworks.  Ohio State's offense was only really slowed by one defense all year, and even against MSU the Buckeyes put up 24 points.  Clemson, meanwhile, beat everyone on its schedule pretty handily, but lost against its two biggest opponents.

This is a very good matchup, but it lacks the overall excitement of MSU-Stanford because this is a clear runner up prize for Ohio State, and Clemson has been nationally irrelevant for weeks now.  There is a bit more schadenfreude possible, just because Ohio State finishing the season with two straight losses sounds so good I have to imagine it is fattening.

3. Capital One Bowl: Wisconsin-South Carolina

Matchup: 4

Potential Schadenfreude: 3

Excitement: 4

Wisconsin was probably on the outside looking in for a BCS bid anyway once Michigan State won the BTCG, but a loss against underdog Penn State to close the season has to hurt the Badger faithful, especially after a close game against Ohio State during the season and a screw-job loss to Arizona State.

South Carolina also just barely missed out on a trip to the conference championship game, although in this case it wasn't in the head to head meeting with the eventual division champ.  SC lost to Georgia when that death star was still fully operational, and then lost to Tennessee, which is just Tennessee forever and ever and you shouldn't lose to them.

The good thing for this matchup is that both teams are solid on either side of the ball and should play a close game that isn't riddled with mistakes and bad play.  The bad thing is that the Capital One Bowl is still a minor bowl game in the grand scheme of things.  However, at the NYD timeslot it is in, it would be preferable to all the other Big Ten games going on simultaneously.

t-4. The BWW Bowl: Michigan-Kansas State

Matchup: 2

Potential Schadenfruede: 5 (Have you read a Michigan board lately?)

Excitement: 2

I wasn't going to include this one on the grounds that of course for Michigan fans it is number one, but MGoShoe set me straight.  Can't leave out Michigan.

Frankly, this game is dangerously close to falling below NU-UGA.  This year Michigan has been as bi-polar a team as has ever existed in college football.  Some weeks Michigan's offense explodes for 40+ points, other weeks it can't even muster positive yards on the ground.

Kansas State, meanwhile, is about as spicy as Bill Snyder likes his chili — not spicy at all, and washed down with a nice glass of whole milk.  The WIldcats spent the season beating every team it should and losing to every team it should (there is an argument there for NDSU being better, or at least damn close to as good).

This is one of those late December bowl games that you throw on in the background while you are at a Christmas party with friends.  It isn't the kind of game you actually sit down and watch from beginning to end unless you have a horse in the race.

t-4. The Gator Bowl: Nebraska-Georgia

Matchup: 2

Potential Schadenfreude: 4

Excitement: 3

So how much do you like watching two beaten up offenses slug it out while their under performing defenses flail wildly trying to do anything of consequence?  Then this game is for you.  Both offenses should be marginally healthier and more capable of some of the early season fireworks.  The defenses on the other hand have some larger issues.

Minus more points for this being a rematch of last year's game.  Add a lot of those points back once you figure that this is another opportunity for Bo Pelini to lose his shit and make a scene.

6. The Outback Bowl; Iowa-LSU

Matchup: 2

Potential Schadenfreude: 3

Excitement: 2

I want to believe this game could be something.  Iowa is nothing if not crafty, and LSU brings all sorts of talent but all of it is strapped to the rocket that is Les Miles.  The whole thing could blow up at any time and kill everyone or send the Tigers soaring above the rest of the field.

However, LSU's defense is good enough to constrict Greg Davis's offense to a series of 1 yard runs and 3 yard passes.  Meanwhile, Zach Mettenberger's ACL injury takes the vertical element out of LSU's offense and means it will spend the day throwing bodies at Iowa's predictable yet solid 4-3 defense.

Sounds like a real snoozefest.

7. The Texas Bowl: Minnesota-Syracuse

Matchup: 2

Potential Schadenfreude: 1

Excitement: 0

Nothing against Jerry Kill, his staff, or the turnaround they engineered to get Minnesota to eight wins this year, but good god do I want nothing to do with a bowl game between Minnesota and Syracuse.  This one offers a poor matchup, no joy that I can derive from the suffering of others, and zero excitement.

Also, it takes place in Houston Texas.

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