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Mutka: Surplus bowls dim luster of New Year’s Day

Updated: January 25, 2013 6:21AM



Old-time football aficionados used to circle January 1 on their calendars because it was a special day for dedicated couch potatos.

Back in the day New Year’s was reserved for the four biggies — Rose, Sugar, Cotton and Orange. Now, that date is just one of many in a glutted market. Seventy programs have earned bids to 35 post-season games with the most recent payouts ranging from $500,000 to $18 million, according to Wikipedia.

Rewarding mediocrity has become the norm since more than half of the 120 schools — including some with .500 records — qualify from what used to be designated as Division I before the NCAA started vomiting alphabet soup to describe different categories.

Payouts don’t always make sense. Take the Orange Bowl, one of the $18 million group last year, for instance. Neither Northern Illinois or Florida State, who meet in Miami on Jan. 1, rank in the BCS top ten.

You need to be a clubhouse lawyer to figure out the whys and wherefores, ifs ands or buts of how various programs jockey for position. Somebody out there is raking in the greenbacks, but it’s certainly not the players.

Label this a down year for the Big Ten, which has been deprived of Ohio State and Penn State. Even without those absent sinners seven members will be competing from Friday through Jan. 1. Here’s the breakdown with last year’s payout, starting with Purdue:

HEART OF DALLAS ($1.2 million): Purdue (6-6) will be making its 17th bowl appearance, but first in Texas since 2004. The Boilermakers are guided by wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins, against Oklahoma State (7-5). The interim coach has not headed a program since 1986 (William Penn).

Constant adjustments have been the norm for Higgins, who switched to offensive coordinator for the last three games after Gary Nord was sidelined by a back injury. That aside, he will probably join his former boss, Danny Hope, in seeking employment elsewhere after the holidays.

Unresolved quarterback issues and nose-diving attendance cost Hope his job along with a soggy defense which gave up averages of 407 yards and 29 points. Their task will be to stop Joseph Randle, who rushed for 1,351 yards and 14 touchdowns; and receiver Josh Stewart, who turned 96 catches into 1,164 yards.

Second-team All-American Kawann Short (East Chicago), who made all-Big Ten first team in the defensive line; and Dolapo Macarthy (Merrillville) add local flavor.

Key victory: Beat Indiana 56-35 to salvage a bowl bid.

ROSE BOWL ($18 million: Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez resurrected his coaching career after a seven-year absence when Brett Bielema defected to Arkansas after the Badgers thumped Nebraska to earn their third straight trip to Pasadena. Alvarez’s s 16-year record of 118-73-4 is UW’s all-time best and includes three Big Ten titles. Wisconsin 8-5 record is the worst of any Big Ten team to play in the grandaddy of all bowls, which dates back to 1902, mainly because division rivals Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible.

All-American Montee Ball, who set the NCAA career record of 82 touchdowns, fell short of his 2011 numbers but still crunched for 1.730 yards. After a slow start due to a preseason on-campus mugging he recorded nine 100-yard games to earn the Doak Walker Award.

Stanford (11-2) should be favored. More run-oriented than usual, the Cardinal are constricted by first-year QBs Josh Nunes and Kevin Hogan. Running back Stephan Taylor has rumbled for 1,442 yards and 12 TDs.

Key victory: 70-31 over Nebraska. Playoff win atoned for a 30-27 regular-season loss.

CAPITAL ONE ($4.25 million): Nebraska (10-3) was crippled by injuries to pre-season All-Big Ten running back Rex Burkhead, who started just six games, but Ameer Abdullah rushed for 1,080 yards and quarterback Tyler Martinez surpassed 9,000 in career yards, while throwing 21 touchdown passes. The mobile signal caller also rushed for 973 yards. The Cornhuskers, who have won 24 bowl games, averaged 35 points and 462 yards per game.

Georgia (11-3) fell only five yards short of displacing Alabama, which advanced to the BCS championship game with a 32-28 victory in the SEC title game.

Key victory: Badgers beat Michigan 23-9.

OUTBACK ($3.4 million): Injuries short-circuited high-voltage Denard Robinson, who missed two games. The 2011 Heisman finalist completed only 54 per cent of his passes and deferred to Devin Gardner, a 63 per cent passer who started eight games. Jake Ryan led the Wolverines (8-4) with 53 solos and 14.5 tackles for loss, but they never recovered from an ego-bruising 41-14 defeat by Alabama.

The favored Gamecocks (10-2) hitched their offense to Connor Shaw, who completed 67 per cent of his passes but was sacked 23 times, and Dylan Thompson.

Key victory: Wolverines beat Michigan State 12-10.

WILD WINGS ($3.3 million: Five losses by a total of 13 points ruined the hard-luck Spartans (6-6), who still managed to qualify for their sixth straight bowl. Tailback LeVeon Bell shredded defenses for 1,648 yards and caught 30 passes. Michigan State mustered nearly 100 more yards per game than its opponents, but averaged just 20.2 points. A 17-16 loss to unbeaten Ohio State hints at what might have been if quarterback Andrew Maxwell had been more effective.

Homefield advantage proved meaningless for Texas Christian (7-5), which was 0-4 against SEC visitors. Injuries disabled the Horned Frogs, who were reduced to starting their No. 3 quarterback. One of the youngest Division I programs, TCU used 28 first-year players, including 16 true freshmen.

Key victory: 16-13 at Wisconsin.

GATOR ($2.5 million): Northwestern (9-3) has lost nine consecutive bowl games since East Chicago’s Art Murakowski scored a touchdown in a 20-14 victory over previously unbeaten California in the 1949 Rose Bowl. The Wildcats stumbled after a 5-0 start, but boasted one of the most exciting tandems in Division I with Venric Mark, who scored 11 touchdowns and averaged 171 all-purpose yards, and part-time quarterback Kain Coulter, who threaded for 820 yards and 12 touchdowns and threw for eight TDs. A defense which yielded 385 yards per game kept the Wildcats from dominating.

Mississippi State (8-4) collapsed after a 7-0 start against a weak non-conference schedule, the Bulldogs dropping four of their last five games.

Key victory: Jeff Budzien kicked three field goals, including the game-winner in the fourth quarter of a 23-20 victory at Michigan State.

CAR CARE ($1.7 million): Minnesota’s biggest concern Friday may be monitoring the health of Coach Jerry Kill. He has suffered from multiple seizures since reviving a stagnant program in 2011. After a 4-0 start the Gophers (6-6) will limp to Houston behind MarQueis Gray, who earned team MVP honors for the second year in a row. The Ben Davis grad shook off injuries to complete 59 per cent of his passes and carried for 331 yards and five TDs.

To contain Texas Tech (7-5) the Gophers must zero in on quarterback Seth Dodge, who averaged a phenomenal 362 yards passing. The bombastic Red Raiders amassed over 500 yards per game.

Key victory: 44-28 over Purdue for Minnesota’s first Big Ten triumph



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