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Nightmare On New Years: Big Ten Goes 0-fer To Start 2011

Suffice to say, it's been a bad month for Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. First he had to deal with the backlash from the awful decision to name the new Big Ten divisions "Leaders" and "Legends," and a horrible logo to boot. Now, he has to deal with the shellacking his football teams took on New Years Day, where they failed to win a single bowl game.

The Big Ten had five teams playing in coveted New Years Day games and none were able to secure a victory. Here's a rundown of the massacre on New Years for the conference.

Captial One Bowl
Alabama 49, Michigan State 7

The Crimson Tide ran out to a 28-0 lead on the Spartans at halftime and this one was never really in doubt. Flint product Mark Ingram recorded his 42nd career touchdown, passing Shaun Alexander on the all-time list at Alabama. Greg McElroy threw for 220 yards and a score and the Tide (10-3) ended up pulling most of their starters early in the third quarter.

For Sparty, not much went right. MSU (11-2) suffered the worst loss in Capital One Bowl (previously the Citrus Bowl) history and put a damper on what was otherwise a spectacular season where they won their first Big Ten championship in 20 years. While Mark Dantonio has been a lifesaver for the MSU football program, the team dropped to 0-4 in bowl games under his watch.

In MSU's defense, Alabama might be the best three loss team in college football history. But that won't serve as much consolation.

Gator Bowl
Mississippi State 52, Michigan 14

Michigan looked like it might hang with the Bulldogs, grabbing a 14-10 lead early in the first half, but MSU responded and hung 42 unanswered points on the Michigan defense to give the Wolverines' their worst bowl loss ever.

The U-M defense made the Bulldogs (9-4) look like offensive juggernauts, allowing quarterback Chris Relf to throw for 281 yards and three scores, adding another one on the ground as well. Vick Ballard accounted for three touchdowns for MSU, tying a Gator Bowl record for rushing touchdowns.

 

Denard Robinson threw for 256 yards and a touchdown for Michigan (7-6), but he once again missed several key throws and failed to generate any points in the second half. It's a very disturbing trend for the Wolverines' quarterback, as he's failed to deliver a good performance against Michigan's better opponents. 

Of course the big story coming out of Jacksonville is whether or not Rich Rodriguez just coached his final game at Michigan. Rumors have been swirling all week (really all year) about his job status, and the drubbing in the bowl game only added fuel to the fire. Athletic director Dave Brandon said he won't make an announcement until later in the week, fueling speculation that he's trying to avoid screwing with Jim Harbaugh's preparation for the Orange Bowl on Monday. The consensus feeling is that he's done in Ann Arbor, but only time will really tell.

 

TicketCity Bowl
Texas Tech 45, Northwestern 38

In another high scoring affair, Texas Tech tried its hardest to allow the Wildcats back in the game, nearly blowing a 22-point lead before holding on for the win. Taylor Potts completed an astounding 43 of 56 passes, throwing for 369 yards and accounting for five touchdowns for the Red Raiders, who improved to 8-5 on the year.

For Northwestern (7-6), not much has gone right in bowl games over the past half century or so. The Wildcats haven't won a bowl game since 1949, a 22-game slide. 

Outback Bowl
Florida 37, Penn State 24

Penn State nearly pulled off the Big Ten's first win of 2011, but quarterback Matt McGloin threw two costly interceptions that allowed Florida to give Urban Meyer a win in his farewell contest as the Gators' head coach. McGloin threw five interceptions overall on the game after only throwing four all season long.

Penn State (7-6) led 24-17 in the third quarter after McGloin punched in a 2-yard score, but Florida (8-5) crawled its way back into the game. A Chas Henry field goal cut the lead to 24-20, then Florida went ahead for good in the fourth when Mike Gillislee scored on a 1-yard run after a McGloin interception. Henry's third field goal of the day put Florida up 30-24.

The Nittnany Lions had a chance late in the game to take the lead back, but McGloin ran into turnover trouble again. With just 1:11 left in the game, Ahmad Black picked off McGloin at the Florida 20 yard line and took it 80 yards the other way for a score, effectively sealing PSU's fate. McGloin threw another pick with 23 seconds left, but the outcome was already well decided.

Rose Bowl
TCU 21, Wisconsin 19

In the marquee matchup of the day, TCU proved it could hang with the big boys and finally stopped the machine that was the Wisconsin Badgers in "The Granddaddy Of Them All."

The game was hotly contested throughout, with neither team compiling a lead of more than eight points. TCU (12-0) led for the majority of the game, but Wisconsin wouldn't go away. The Badgers (11-2) had their way on the ground, with Montee Ball leading the charge with 176 yards and a score. John Clay added 76 yards and a touchdown.

But needing a two point conversion to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, Wisconsin went to the air. It didn't work.

TCU led 21-13 for much of the second half, but Ball's 4-yard run with 2:46 left cut the lead to 21-19. The Badgers went for two to try and tie the game, but Scott Tolzien's pass was swatted down at the line of scrimmage by TCU's Tank Carder. Carder's rejection saved a for sure conversion as intended target Jacob Pederson had slipped into the TCU secondary unnoticed and was wide open. With just one timeout left, Wisconsin was forced to attempt an onside kick, which failed.

The Big Ten's last shot at a victory will come in the Sugar Bowl, where Ohio State is set to take on Arkansas. The Big Ten won't be completely shut out of the bowl games, as Iowa earned a win over Missouri in the Insight Bowl on Tuesday. Still, it's not what the conference had in mind for 2011.