Big Ten Bowl Watching Guide, Part 2

The Big Ten's first two bowl representatives came up short, and Minnesota takes the next shot later today, but New Year's Day offers three high-profile chances for the conference to get back some of the respect it has lacked for the past couple of seasons.

Outback Bowl
11 a.m. EST, ESPN
Tampa, Fla.

Iowa (8-4, 5-3) takes on South Carolina (7-5, 4-4 SEC) in a matchup of the Big Ten's co-fourth place team and the co-third-place team in the SEC East. After hovering at .500 for three straight seasons, the Hawkeyes rode Big Ten Most Valuable Player Shonn Greene back to the top half of the conference standings.

They also played stout defense despite not being able to muster much of a pass rush.

South Carolina heads south with putrid offensive numbers but a defense that stacks up well on paper.

Buckeye fans will want to watch:

Few Hawkeyes have names familiar to most Ohio State fans because the two schools have not played since 2006, but Buckeye backers would do well to take notes on this team because most will be back in gold and black next season.

The group of returnees may or may not include Greene, the conference's leading rusher in the regular season with 1,729 yards and 17 touchdowns, but the junior is worth watching either way.

Northeastern Ohioans might have caught glimpses of Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi before, and they can expect to see the sophomore from Mentor Lake Catholic again in the future after he grabbed the starting job earlier this season. Stanzi's top target this season is another Ohioan who turned heads in high school as a quarterback: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos of Youngstown Cardinal Mooney.

Capital One Bowl
1 p.m. EST, ABC
Orlando, Fla.

Michigan State (9-3, 6-2) takes on Georgia (9-3, 6-2 SEC) in a game matching the Big Ten's No. 3 team against a squad that arguably shares that distinction in the SEC with Ole Miss, the second place team in the other division of the Bulldogs' league.

Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio's continued efforts to resurrect MSU gets its biggest stage yet, and he figures to lean heavily on a pair of seniors from Ohio for offensive output.

Running back Javon Ringer ran for 1,590 yards and 21 touchdowns, and the Dayton native will hope to put a cherry on the top of what is already first team All-America season before he heads off to the NFL. Hoping to offer a little assistance is quarterback Brian Hoyer, a Cleveland St. Ignatius product who throws the ball for touchdowns (nine times this season) almost as often as he throws it to the other team (eight interceptions).

Georgia counters with a pair of star underclassmen in running back Knowshon Moreno and quarterback Matthew Stafford. Moreno, a third-year sophomore, led the SEC in rushing (111.5 yards per game) and Stafford, a junior, topped the league in passing yards (3,209).

In regards to defense, neither team has a standout unit.

Of note: Both the Bulldogs and Spartans have shrunk from the spotlight thus far this season. Michigan State was blown away by Big Ten co-champs Ohio State and Penn State while Georgia got hammered by SEC championship game combatants Alabama and Florida.

Buckeye fans will want to watch:

Ohio State does not play Michigan State again until 2011, and few starters from this Spartan team will still be around at that time because the majority of Dantonio's squad is upperclassmen.

Mostly because of the star power of Stafford and Moreno, Georgia began the season as a popular pick to win the national title. Although those hopes did not pan out, they still have a formidable scoring unit, which provides Dantonio and his defensive staff a chance to show off the defensive chops that gained him name recognition as an assistant to Jim Tressel at Ohio State earlier this decade.

Also worth watching is how Ringer, who was shut down each of the last two seasons he faced Ohio State, performs against Georgia, an out-of-conference foe that appears vulnerable on the ground after getting ripped apart by Georgia Tech's option attack the last time out. The Bulldogs allowed 409 yards in that contest and an average of 157 yards per game in their other two losses.

Rose Bowl
5 p.m. EST, ABC
Pasadena, Calif.

Penn State (11-1, 7-1) takes on Southern California (11-1, 8-1 Pac-10) in a matchup of a Big Ten co-champion and the outright Pac-10 titlists, who will be playing in their backyard in an ultra-familiar stadium.

Strengths collide here in a classic case of the irresistible force and immovable object.

With first team All-Big Ten quarterback Daryll Clark at the controls, the Nittany Lions averaged more than 40 points and 450 yards per game during the regular season.

They travel west to put those gaudy statistics up against a squad that most feel is the best defense in the country and perhaps the best seen in many years. The Trojans ranked No. 1 in the nation in four major defensive categories: passing yards, total yards, passing efficiency and scoring. They were fifth in rushing yards allowed and tackles for loss.

The other two units aren't bad, either.

USC quarterback Mark Sanchez led the Pac-10 in pass efficiency and total offense, and the team as a whole checks in No. 14 in the nation in both total yards and scoring.

Penn State's stop troops rank in the top 10 in the nation in rushing defense (ninth), pass efficiency defense (sixth), total defense (fifth) and scoring defense (fourth).

Buckeye fans will want to watch:

With both of these teams having beaten Ohio State this season, there are matchups all over the field that bear watching, but the most important figures to be in the trenches when USC has the ball.

The line is the unquestioned strength of the Nittany Lion defense, a group that played the most important role in their win over the Buckeyes. If they can't disrupt Sanchez and control the stable of talented Trojan tailbacks, Penn State is in for a long night.

Clark and the rest of the Penn State offense were handcuffed by the top two defenses they faced in the Big Ten, so a better showing against one the caliber of USC's would go a long way toward validating the points and yards the Nittany Lions piled up overall during the course of the year.

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