Spartans' first Rose Bowl since 1988 leads Big Ten bowl slate

Spartans' first Rose Bowl since 1988 leads Big Ten bowl slate
December 8, 2013, 11:30 pm
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Vinnie Duber

After a magical 12-1 season for the Michigan State Spartans, it's time to stop and smell the roses.

Of course, knowing Mark Dantonio's team, his team won't be taking any kind of a break as it preps for the program's first-ever BCS bowl game appearance and first Rose Bowl trip since 1988.

Sparty will party for a while, celebrating the Big Ten championship secured Saturday night with a 34-24 win over Ohio State on Saturday night, but then it's on to the final test: a date with Pac-12 champion Stanford on New Year's Day in Pasadena, Calif.

"We're very excited about having the opportunity to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl against Stanford," Dantonio said in Michigan State's bowl-announcement release. "This has been a special season. We have great chemistry on our football team and have a large senior class that has provided outstanding leadership throughout the year. Our team has displayed a great resilience throughout the season, and it was no different in the Big Ten Championship Game against Ohio State. Our team showed great poise and maturity and really controlled the fourth quarter. We've accomplished our first two goals by winning the Legends Division title and the Big Ten Championship. We now look forward to the challenge of playing the Pac-12 champion in Stanford."

[MORE BOWLS: Notre Dame confirms Pinstripe Bowl bid]

The Rose Bowl came out as one of the more intriguing BCS bowl games this season when the pairings were announced Sunday night. The Spartans — now ranked No. 4 in the BCS standings — and the No. 5 Cardinal have displayed similar styles throughout the season, exhibiting trademark physicality to go along with strong defenses. But make no mistakes, both teams have shown they can score points, too.

Stanford finished the season winning six of seven, including the Pac-12 title game against Arizona State. But, as good as the Cardinal have been, Michigan State has been better, winning its final nine games, ending that stretch by knocking off the undefeated Buckeyes in Indianapolis.

Here's a quick look at where other Big Ten teams will be playing this postseason (Big Ten team listed first):

Orange Bowl, No. 7 Ohio State vs. No. 12 Clemson. After the disappointing defeat in the Big Ten title game, the Buckeyes are still heading to the BCS as a one-loss team. Both of these teams will head into South Florida coming off a loss, as the Tigers fell to South Carolina in their final game of the season. This figures to be a shootout with a bunch of offensive firepower on both sidelines. Ohio State obviously boasts Big Ten postseason award-winners in quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde, while Clemson has an All-ACC First Team wideout in Sammy Watkins and one of the country's most talented quarterbacks in Tajh Boyd. The Orange Bowl is an unfortunate consolation prize for both teams, give the preseason expectations, but it sure could be a terrifically entertaining game for college football fans.

Capital One Bowl, No. 19 Wisconsin vs. No. 9 South Carolina. It was a surprising and extremely disappointing season-ending loss for Wisconsin against Penn State, one that knocked the Badgers out of BCS bowl conversation. Instead, they'll be playing in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day, and they'll have their hands full with the Gamecocks. South Carolina allowed just 142.3 rushing yards per game this season, while Wisconsin ranked eighth in the country with 283 rushing yards per game.

Outback Bowl, Iowa vs. No. 16 LSU. The Big Ten was certainly a top-heavy conference this season. And though the 8-4 Hawkeyes were a great story, turning around from a four-win 2012 season, a bowl matchup with one of the SEC's perennial powers could be daunting. Still, Iowa has an advantage here in that the Bayou Bengals will be breaking in a new quarterback after Zac Mettenberger was lost to injury at the end of the season. Sophomore Jake Rudock's one season will seem an eternity compared to the LSU backup. Is it enough for Iowa to make a stand against the big, bad Tigers, though?

[MORE BOWLS: Northern Illinois to battle Utah State in Poinsettia Bowl]

Gator Bowl, Nebraska vs. No. 22 Georgia. The underachieving Huskers meet the underachieving Bulldogs in this one, which is sure to gain plenty of attention thanks to the history of these programs rather than their 2013 resumes. But both teams can score, and they should have a pretty good familiarity with one another: They played in the postseason last year in the Capital One Bowl, a 45-31 Georgia win.

"We have some familiarity with Georgia having played them last year in the bowl game, but these are two different football teams," Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said in a release. "This will be a great challenge for our football team, and we look forward to the opportunity.”

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Michigan vs. Kansas State. After Sugar Bowl and Outback Bowl appearances in Brady Hoke's first two seasons, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is an obvious step down for Michigan, though it certainly is a deserved one following a 7-5 finish. It could be worse, of course, for the Wolverines, who as recently as 2008 and 2009 finished back-to-back seasons without a bowl appearance, but not even a win over Kansas State — who finished 5-4 in the Big 12, though did win five of its last six games — will cheer anyone up in Ann Arbor.

Texas Bowl, Minnesota vs. Syracuse. If you subscribe to the transitive property of sports, this should be a walk in the park for Minnesota, as the Gophers scored wins over both Northwestern and Penn State, two teams that beat Syracuse in the season's opening weeks. The Wildcats smoked the Orange, 48-27, before collapsing. The 8-4 Gophers deserved better than a weak .500 opponent after their dream season, but a ninth win would be terrific for Minnesota, which hasn't won nine games in a single season since 2003, a 10-win season that was their first campaign with at least nine wins since, wait for it, 1905. So, that's correct, if these Gophers can win nine games, it'll be for only the second time in the last 108 years.