TaxSlayer Bowl: Penn State has chance to clinch winning bowl record for Big Ten


I don’t know how many of you take conference superiority or conference pride to heart, but that seems to be a popular discussion point these days. The Big Ten got off to a solid start this bowl season but took some big hits in the New Years Six lineup with Michigan State flatlining against Alabama in the Cotton Bowl semifinal of the College Football Playoff and Iowa getting tanked by Pac-12 champion Stanford. As we enter the second day of 2016, the Pac-12 and SEC are tied in the latest bowl standings with 6-2 records this postseason. The Big Ten has managed to keep its head above water thanks to a decent start to the bowl fun and Ohio State‘s Fiesta Bowl victory over Notre Dame and Michigan’s thumping of Florida in the Citrus Bowl. At 5-4, the Big Ten is one win away from a winning bowl season when the narrative suggested it could be staring down an all-time worst postseason. At worst, the Big Ten will break even with a loss. See where I am going with this?

ATHLON SPORTS: TaxSlayer Bowl Preview and Prediction

Penn State will carry the Big Ten banner today in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Georgia and either give the Big Ten a winning record this bowl season or sink it to a .500 mark. How significant would that be? With a Penn State win, the Big Ten will have back-to-back winning bowl seasons, which strengthens the argument the Big Ten is a solid conference from top to bottom and has more depth than some choose to recognize. Yes, it hurts the Big Ten’s image when the Spartans and Hawkeyes lay an egg in their high-profile games in the playoff and Rose Bowl, but having a winning record despite those lopsided losses helps support the idea the conference is expanding in its depth.

The Big Ten did send two 5-7 teams to bowl games this season due to bizarre circumstances, but both Nebraska and Minnesota managed to capitalize on those bowl trips with victories. Nebraska’s win over UCLA may be one of the best by a Big Ten team this season. The Big Ten West also saw Wisconsin score a nice win against Pac-12 South Division champion USC in the Holiday Bowl. A pair of wins against Pac-12 teams is nice and helps counter a bad loss to Stanford by Iowa in the Rose Bowl. The Big Ten went 2-1 against their west coast counterparts, just the second time in the last five seasons the Big Ten earned a winning record against the Pac-12 with more than one bowl meeting between the two conferences.

The Big Ten did go 0-1 against the ACC this year with Indiana losing to Duke in the Pinstripe Bowl, although the Hoosiers have a beef with that one. Ohio State scored a top 10 win against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and the conference is currently 1-2 against the SEC. If Penn State can defeat Georgia to break even with the SEC, that would make for a nice little postseason for Jim Delany to brag about when it comes time to negotiating new media rights deals. Don’t be fooled though. Win or lose the TaxSlayer Bowl, the Big Ten is still going to profit with a new media rights deal.

But hey, having an even record against the SEC and a winning record against the Pac-12, the two conferences that will have the most bowl victories this season, is a nice little bargaining chip to have.

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