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The college football season will come to an end on Monday night when the Alabama Crimson Tide take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the CFP National Championship from Miami. Ohio State’s Sugar Bowl victory over Clemson in one CFP semifinal advanced them to the title game and improved the Big Ten’s record in bowl games this season to 3-1.
Today, we look back at the conference’s overall performance in postseason play before this season’s swan song.
Wisconsin Spreads Out Wake Forest in Mayo Bowl
The Badgers got the Big Ten ball rolling with a two-touchdown victory over the ACC’s Demon Deacons from Wake Forest on December 30 in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. Wisconsin has now finished six of its last seven seasons with wins in bowl games, dating back to the 2014 campaign.
Graham Mertz accounted for three touchdowns, and Wisconsin turned four second-half interceptions, all by different players, into 21 points to turn a close game into a near-rout of Wake Forest. Five players scored touchdowns for the Badgers, who will likely fully commit to Mertz under center next season, despite some late-season struggles. Wisconsin will open their 2021 season hosting Penn State in an early test for both programs.
Northwestern Squeezes Out Auburn in Citrus Bowl
The coaches may have stolen the spotlight leading into, and coming out of, the Vrbo Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day. Auburn had fired Gus Malzahn during the regular season and announced that former Boise State head coach, Bryan Harsin, would be taking over. Harsin was in attendance and appeared on the broadcast as he watched the Tigers fall to Northwestern, 35-19.
On the opposite sideline, Pat Fitzgerald earned his fourth bowl win in the last five years, but speculation swirled around his future immediately after the win. The rumors have subsided somewhat over the following few days, but reports surfaced that multiple NFL teams had been or would be in contact with the 46-year old regarding head coaching vacancies.
The Wildcats finished their abbreviated 2020 season 7-2 and will open next year at home against Michigan State. Stay tuned to find out whether Fitzgerald will lead them in Evanston.
Indiana Fails to Bloom in Outback Bowl
The Hoosiers’ remarkable season, their best since 1993, came to a disappointing end in the January 2 Outback Bowl to Ole Miss. Indiana’s impressive resume included wins over Penn State, Michigan, and Michigan State, as well as a close loss to Ohio State that proved to be the Buckeyes’ most worthy opponent en route to the playoff.
Indiana remains without a postseason victory since the 1991 Cotton Bowl but did not go quietly against the Rebels. The Hoosiers were playing with a backup quarterback after starter Michael Penix Jr. was lost for the season with a torn ACL at the end of November.
The Hoosiers will kick off their 2021 season in Ames when they visit the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa’s trip to the TransPerfect Music City Bowl against Missouri was canceled due to increased positive COVID-19 cases within the Tigers program.
The Big Ten will finish with an above-.500 bowl record, but will they close out the season with a National Championship? We’ll all find out Monday night.