2018-19 Big Ten Bowl Picks – Part I
It is bowl season! Bowls are an odd mix of exhibition and spectacle and you never really know which side is going to come out emotionally and physically prepared to do what is necessary to win the game and which one is just there for the trip and camaraderie. That makes them notoriously difficult to pick against the spread. However, that’s exactly what we are here for! Part one features the first four games and part two will pick the last five.
Minnesota (+5.5) vs. Georgia Tech – total of 58 – December 26, 5:15
The Gophers played two of their best three games of the season in the final three weeks as they thumped Purdue and won convincingly at Wisconsin. Their defense looked pretty good down the stretch but it was the offense that really found some rhythm with quarterback Tanner Morgan and freshman running Mohamad Ibrahim leading the way. Their offense was more aggressive downfield with Morgan at quarterback and Ibrahim will likely eclipse1,000 yards for the season in this bowl game. Georgia Tech is in flux as Paul Johnson is stepping away from football and Geoff Collins (a terrific hire) will become the new head coach. While the Yellow Jackets beat four straight opponents before losing to Georgia, I don’t think they will be all that interested in stopping the physical Gophers offense in Detroit. I like Minnesota to cover and I like them to win outright.
Wisconsin (+3.5) vs. Miami – total of 47.5 – December 27, 5:15
The Pinstripe Bowl is a matchup of two teams that I think are both supremely disappointed to be in this game. Miami and Wisconsin both expected far more from the 2018 season but their weak offensive attacks andless than desired defenses have put them in New York for the bowl season. Miami lost defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to Temple but I don’t really think that will have an impact on this contest. Wisconsin is ranked 43rd in defensive S&P+, easily their worst defensive performance in recent memory.That’s not shocking given the personnel losses they suffered before and during the season but there was always a feeling that they would just “figure it out”. Unfortunately for them, that never came to fruition. The rushing attack was terrific but the offense was very one-dimensional. The easiest way to analyze this game is to look at Miami’s run defense (ranked 25th inS&P+) versus Wisconsin’s rush offense (ranked second in S&P+). However, I think the game will be decided by Miami’s ability to either score on Wisconsin’s defense or be held in check. I think the Hurricanes have enough speed and ability to reach the high-20s against this suspect and beat up Wisconsin defense and I like them to cover. Take Miami to cover but take the UNDER in what I suspect will be a pretty uninspiring contest.
Purdue (+3.5) vs. Auburn – total of 54.5 – December 28, 1:30
The Purdue Boilermakers already have a huge victory this off season as Jeff Brohm received a gigantic pay raise and elected to stay in West Lafayette as the head coach of the Boilers. They will now take on the Auburn Tigers in Nashville in the Music City Bowl. Auburn is still coached by Gus Malzahn but his seat is as hot as possible and it is questionable how much they’ll put into this game. I have no doubt Purdue will be fired up and play inspired football for two reasons: they kept their head coach and they want to get an SEC scalp to propel them into next season. David Blough will lead the Boilers offense for the final time and I think he’ll be able to have some success against the Auburn secondary, if his offensive line can block the potentially dominant Tigers defensive front. That’s the matchup to watch for me, Purdue’s offensive line versus Auburn’s defensive line. I think Jeff Brohm will scheme around that a little bit and run a lot of quick passes to the edge to get Rondale Moore involved and keep Auburn’s defensive line uninvolved. Auburn has more talent but Purdue has way more interest in this game. Purdue wins outright.
Michigan (-7.5) vs. Florida – total of 51 – December 29, Noon
The Peach Bowl is a battle of two top ten programs with rich histories. That should feel exciting. However, many consider this one of the more unappetizing bowl games out there and no one has much of an appetite to see them lock horns again. Michigan is coming off of an embarrassing meltdown in Columbus that featured a shocking defensive performance. They are favored here but their fan base about as down as you can be on a 10-2 regular season. On the other side, Florida had a successful first season under Dan Mullen and a bowl win could be seen as another positive sign that things are turning quickly in Gainesville. Michigan clearly has a terrific defense that was awful in one game. That being said, it’s concerning that they struggled against Indiana’s offense at times and Florida does have some speed that could give the Wolverines issues. That being said, Michigan has struggled with a particular type of team and Florida does not present the same challenges Ohio State does. The Gators have wins over LSU and Mississippi State but neither of those squads really have a pulse on the offensive end. I like two things in this game, the under and Michigan to cover (although I am not particularly inclined to bet this contest).