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Power Ranking the Big Ten’s Bowl Games

This bowl season you will be hard-pressed to miss the Big Ten in action. A total of 10 of the 14 teams in the Big Ten will be playing in bowl games this year, including four in New Year’s Six bowl games, highlighted by Ohio State in the College Football Playoff and conference champion Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

With so much going on for the Big Ten this bowl season, there is plenty to follow. But if you are just a casual viewer and just want to watch the best games, here is a ranking of how watchable the Big Ten’s bowl games will be.

1. Fiesta Bowl – Ohio State (11-1) vs. Clemson (12-1)
Dec. 31 –  7 p.m., ESPN

The second of two College Football Playoff semifinals to be played on New Year’s Eve (Alabama will take on Washington in the earlier time slot), Ohio State will make history by being the first non-conference (and non-division) champion to play a playoff game. Urban Meyer goes head-to-head with Dabo Swinney for a second time, three years after the two met in the Orange Bowl in the final year of the BCS. Ohio State’s defense will be tested by Deshaun Watson, who lit up the Crimson Tide in a Vince Young-esque championship game performance a year ago.

2. Rose Bowl – USC (9-3) vs. Penn State (11-2)
Jan. 2 – 5 p.m., ESPN

Big Ten champion Penn State may have missed out on a playoff shot, but a trip to Pasadena, California, for the third time since joining the Big Ten is not a bad consolation prize at all. James Franklin’s Nittany Lions look to keep their hot streak going with Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley going up against an equally hot USC team. Neither team has lost since the end of September, with 17 straight wins between them. Given how Penn State plays in the second half, we could have a classic on our hands in the Grandaddy of Them All.

3. Orange Bowl – Michigan (10-2) vs. Florida State (9-3)
Dec. 30 – 8 p.m., ESPN

Jim Harbaugh vs. Jimbo Fisher is one of the more enticing coaching matchups in the bowl season this year, and with players like Jabrill Peppers and Jourdan Lewis going up against Dalvin Cook, the star power is high for this one in Miami. Michigan demolished the Florida Gators last bowl season. Can they take down the Seminoles next?

4. Music City Bowl – Nebraska (9-3) vs. Tennessee (8-4)
Dec. 30 – 3:30 p.m., ESPN

Nebraska and Tennessee meet for the third time in a postseason bowl, but the stakes this time around are considerably lower than they were in either the 1997 (Nebraska split-national title) or ‘99 (No. 3 vs. No. 6) seasons. Still, this one could be a fun game to watch if Tommy Armstrong is in good shape. Nebraska’s offense should rack up some big plays against a Tennessee defense that has been ripped to shreds this season.

5. Cotton Bowl –Western Michigan (13-0) vs. Wisconsin (10-3)
Jan. 2 – 1 p.m., ESPN

In a season that saw Wisconsin’s only losses come to other teams representing the Big Ten in the New Year’s Six, the Badgers earned their own trip to a New Year’s Six bowl game, where they will face this year’s Group of Five representative, Western Michigan. P.J. Fleck and the Broncos have rowed their way to a 13-0 season that includes two victories against Wisconsin’s Big Ten West Division foes, Northwestern and Illinois. The Badgers will be the best defense WMU has faced all season, but can Wisconsin use its physical advantage to slow down the Western Michigan dream season?

Continue reading the full ranking on Athlon Sports.

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About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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