The Big Ten has only held a conference championship game for two seasons, but one player has already turned the annual end of the year contest into his own playground.
Wisconsin’s senior running-back Montee Ball stole the Lucas Oil Stadium show once again, rushing for 202 yards and three touchdowns as the Badgers claimed their third-consecutive trip to The Rose Bowl in a 70-31 blowout of Nebraska last week.
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Big Ten: Montee’s Big Ten Ball in Indianapolis
Big East: Bridgewater’s legend grows
“Just to say, everything we’ve been through, all the close games we’ve lost, to play like the way we did today, it really says a lot about Wisconsin.”
The FBS’ all-time leader in touchdowns put the game away with a 16-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter, increasing Wisconsin’s lead to 35-10. The Wentzville, MO native was ultimately named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
“We kind of set our minds before the game that this is our game,” Ball said. “The running backs were going to set the tempo. “We’ve been practicing real hard so I’m glad to see that.”
Saturday’s finale added to the growing legend Ball has left Indianapolis in consecutive years. The running-back ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns in the Badgers’ 42-39 Big Ten Championship win against Michigan State last year.
And now, just like in 2010 and 2011, Wisconsin will head to Pasadena looking for their first Rose Bowl title since 2000 when they beat Stanford, incidentally the school they will line up against Jan. 1.
The west coast hasn’t been kind to the Badgers in recent memory with back-to-back losses to TCU and Oregon.
Indianapolis has however, and Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema can thank his senior running back for that.
“As my AD tells me all the time, you haven’t won one yet,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “We’re going out there to win. That’s the mission, and I appreciate all the fans coming out to Madison East.”
Ball was just excited his team is getting another shot to win that one and he’ll have the opportunity to end his illustrious Badger career in the “Granddaddy of them All.”
“We all felt like we had a big statement to make on a big stage,” Ball said. “We just wanted to make sure that we executed. And we did.”
Illinois (2-10, 0-8 Big Ten)
Indiana (4-8, 2-6 Big Ten)
Iowa (4-8, 2-6 Big Ten)
No. 21 Michigan (8-4, 6-2 Big Ten)
• The Wolverines will make their fifth appearance in the Outback Bowl. U-M has compiled a 3-1 record in the Outback/Hall of Fame Bowl, with appearances in the 1988, 1994, 1997 and 2003 games. The Wolverines defeated Alabama (28-24) in the 1988 game, North Carolina State (42-7) in the 1994 contest and Florida (38-30) in the 2003 game. The lone setback came against Alabama (17-14) in the 1997 game.
Next Game: Outback Bowl vs. South Carolina on Jan. 1, 2013
Michigan State (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten)
• The Spartans are bowl eligible for a school-record sixth consecutive year (2007 Champs Sports Bowl, 2009 Capital One Bowl, 2010 Alamo Bowl, 2011 Capital One Bowl, 2012 Outback Bowl, 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl). They’ll face TCU in Tempe, Ariz. on Dec. 29.
• MSU has compiled an 18-2-1 record (.881) against current members of the Big 12 Conference (1-0 vs. Baylor, 2-0 vs. Iowa State, 5-1 vs. Kansas, 5-0-1 vs. Kansas State, 1-0 vs. TCU, 0-1 vs. Texas Tech and 4-0 vs. West Virginia).
Next Game: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Dec. 29 vs. TCU
Minnesota (6-6, 2-6 Big Ten)
• Minnesota’s invitation to play in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas marks the Golden Gophers’ 15th overall postseason bowl appearance, but the first since 2009.
• Senior linebacker Keanon Cooper is from Dallas and is excited to finish his collegiate career in Texas.
“It is a surreal feeling that I will end my Minnesota career in my home state,” Cooper said. “I am thrilled to be going to Houston for my third and final bowl game. I am also excited that my teammates will be able to experience the great hospitality of my home state and the rich football tradition of Texas.”
Next Game: Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas vs. Texas Tech on Dec. 28
No. 14 Nebraska (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten)
• Nebraska heads to Orlando for the second time in as many seasons after posting its third 10-win season in four years. They’ll face Georgia in the Capital One Bowl on new Year’s Day.
• The Cornhuskers fell to South Carolina in last year’s Capital One Bowl 30-13. This year they return Taylor Martinez, who is the Huskers’ all-time career leader in total offense with more than 9,000 yards. The junior quarterback pairs with running backs Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah to lead the most explosive ground game in the Big Ten this season, averaging 254 yards per game.
Next Game: Capital One Bowl vs. Georgia on Jan. 1
Northwestern (9-3, 5-3 Big Ten)
• For the third time in four seasons, Northwestern will play in a New Year’s Day bowl game after accepting a bid to the 2013 TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.,
• Northwestern is coming off a regular season in which it recorded its highest win total since 2008, along the way becoming bowl eligible for the sixth time in Pat Fitzgerald’s seven seasons at the helm of his alma mater.
Next Game: TaxSlayer.com Bowl vs. Mississippi State on Jan. 1.
No. 4 Ohio State (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten)
Penn State (7-4, 5-2 Big Ten)
Purdue (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten)
• Purdue will play in back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2006 and ’07 when they face Oklahoma State in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. The Boilermakers defeated Western Michigan 37-32 in the 2011 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit.
• In the only other meeting between the two schools on the gridiron, also in the postseason, the unranked Boilermakers knocked off the 24th-ranked Cowboys 33-20 in the 1997 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.
Next Game: Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Oklahoma State on Jan. 1.
Wisconsin (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten)
• The Badgers will be making their 24th appearance in a post-season bowl game when they head to Pasadena to face Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
• Wisconsin’s most famous Rose Bowl appearance was 50 years ago when the Badgers lost a thrilling game to USC 42-37. The Trojans led the Badgers 42-14 at the start of the fourth quarter. Wisconsin scored 23 unanswered points in the final frame, but fell just short.
Next Game: Big Ten Championship Game vs. Wisconsin, Dec. 1
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