Big Ten Bowl Recap
Jan. 5, 2011
With a 31-26 win over No. 8 Arkansas in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night, Ohio State gave the Big Ten at least three bowl victories for the second straight season and for the seventh time in the last nine years. The conference also received wins from Illinois (38-14 over Baylor in the Texas Bowl) and Iowa (27-24 over No. 12 Missouri in the Insight Bowl).
The Big Ten is one of five Bowl Championship Series (BCS) automatic-qualifying conferences with three or more bowl wins this season, joining the ACC, Big 12, Big East and SEC. Currently, only the ACC has more victories this season, with four.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor led the Buckeyes to victory, picking up 336 yards of total offense and throwing two touchdown passes to be named the bowl’s MVP. The win was Ohio State’s sixth in a BCS game, tying an FBS record, and its second consecutive after winning the 2010 Rose Bowl Game.
“Our kids fought and fought. I couldn’t be prouder,” Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said following the game. “Our kids fought like crazy tonight. It’s a big win for us. Arkansas is a special football team. We knew that when we drew them. It was just a knock-down, drag-out and I’m awfully proud of our guys.
The Buckeyes’ win marked the Big Ten’s 11th victory in a BCS game, which is the second-highest total among all conferences since the system’s inception in 1998. The victory also gives the Big Ten at least one BCS victory in back-to-back years for the first time since the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
The victory against Arkansas improved the Big Ten’s record against the SEC to 12-13 in bowl games since 2002-03, which is five more wins than the next-closest conference. The Big Ten has had at least one victory against an SEC team in each of the last nine postseasons, marking the longest active streak in the country.
Ohio State’s win, combined with Iowa’s victory earlier in the bowl season, give the Big Ten two of the five victories against BCS top-15 opponents this season. The wins also give the Big Ten six wins over BCS top-15 teams over the last two years, which currently leads all conferences. The SEC is second with three wins, followed by the Mountain West, Pac-10 and WAC, each with one.
Iowa’s victory in the Insight Bowl marked the program’s third straight bowl win, setting a program record. Freshman running back Marcus Coker was named the game’s offensive MVP, carrying the ball 33 times for 219 yards and two touchdowns, while sophomore cornerback Micah Hyde earned defensive MVP honors after scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a 72-yard interception return.
“They believed in themselves,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said after the game. “They prepared for this. We knew it would be a real tough challenge playing Missouri. And I think our guys earned this throughout the whole month. They just worked extremely hard.”
The Big Ten picked up its second bowl victory of the season with Illinois’ win in the Texas Bowl. Running back Mikel Leshoure scored three touchdowns and earned game MVP honors as the Illini picked up their first bowl victory since 1999.
"It's hard to win games, and they're all big," Illinois head coach Ron Zook said after the Texas Bowl. "I don't think there were a lot of people that gave us much of a chance in this game. So that competitor in you wants to compete. If you prove people wrong, you get some satisfaction, but that’s not why you do it. I’m happy for our players, their parents, people who spent money to come down here.”
Overall, the Big Ten finished the bowl season 3-5, tying a conference record with eight teams earning bowl berths. The Big Ten played one of the toughest postseason schedules in the nation, leading all conferences with five bowl games against teams ranked in the top 21 of the final BCS poll. The Big Ten tied for the lead with three games against top-12 opponents. The Big Ten also placed two teams in BCS games for the sixth straight season and the 10th time in the history of the system. The Big Ten leads all conferences with 23 total BCS berths.