Jim Harbaugh going head-to-head with Nick Saban in the Citrus Bowl is one of the most intriguing matchups of this year's postseason slate
The college football bowl season is here, and the Big Ten is serving up a loaded plate for fans this season. With Ohio State in the College Football Playoff and Wisconsin and Penn State each taking part in New Year's Six bowl games, the Big Ten will have plenty of spotlight opportunities to shine. One of the most intriguing matchups isn't even in the New Year's Six, but in the Citrus Bowl where Michigan will take on Alabama in one of the most hyped matchups of the bowl season.
If you are a fan who needs to pick out only the best games to spend your time watching this bowl season, then you may be wondering which of the Big Ten's bowl games you should plan around and which you can probably skip. That is what this list is for. Below is a ranking of the Big Ten's most watchable bowl games this bowl season, starting with the games you won't want to miss for one reason or another and moving our way down to the games where you may just want to have on in the background at a holiday party at the most. The Big Ten's bowl lineup has some good storylines to follow for most of the bowl games, and there also is Michigan State in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Here's this year's bowl watchability ranking for the Big Ten's postseason matchups.
1. Fiesta Bowl/College Football Playoff Semifinal – Ohio State (13-0) vs. Clemson (13-0)
Dec. 28 – 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Topping the list is the obvious one. Ohio State's playoff matchup with Clemson pits the undefeated Big Ten champion Buckeyes against the undefeated ACC champions, and the defending national champions. Ryan Day goes head-to-head with Dabo Swinney on the sidelines while Chase Young will try disrupting Trevor Lawrence. Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins up against a strong Clemson defense should be another good matchup to watch.
2. Rose Bowl – Wisconsin (10-3) vs. Oregon (11-2)
Jan. 1 – 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
Jonathan Taylor and Wisconsin have been on a surge to end the season, even if the Badgers came up short in the Big Ten Championship Game. Taylor will likely play his final game in the Grandaddy of Them All against Pac-12 champion Oregon. Wisconsin's defense against Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is the key. This one could be a bit more defensive compared to these teams' last Rose Bowl encounter in 2012 when Russell Wilson was at QB for the Badgers.
3. Citrus Bowl – Michigan (9-3) vs. Alabama (10-2)
Jan. 1 – 1 p.m. ET, ABC
The Citrus Bowl got a good one with blue bloods Michigan and Alabama. Jim Harbaugh vs. Nick Saban is enough to carry this game, but the Wolverines may be more motivated to get a win here as a few Crimson Tide players have already opted out of the game. Plus, no Tua Tagovailoa for Alabama could give Michigan the QB advantage with Shea Patterson.
4. Cotton Bowl Classic – Penn State (10-2) vs. Memphis (12-1)
Dec. 28 – 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Don't sleep on the Cotton Bowl. Memphis is a dangerous team and one that could pose some problems for Penn State. Rising defensive star Micah Parsons will lead a feisty Penn State defense against a talented Memphis offense as the Tigers begin a new era under new head coach Ryan Silverfield. James Franklin goes for his second New Year's Six bowl victory in three years.
5. Outback Bowl – Minnesota (10-2) vs. Auburn (9-3)
Jan. 1 – 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
P.J. Fleck and Minnesota have had a memorable season that hit some speed bumps late in the season, but neither head coach nor the team will not be content to just accept a spot in the Outback Bowl. The Gophers have their hands full with Auburn and QB Bo Nix, but their own passing game is capable of doing some damage against the Tigers.
6. Holiday Bowl – Iowa (9-3) vs. USC (8-4)
Dec. 27 – 8 p.m. ET, FS1
You never know quite what you will get with USC, and sometimes the same can be said for Iowa. Kirk Ferentz is going for his ninth career bowl victory, and his third straight. Hawkeyes QB Nathan Stanley could be in for a big game.
7. Gator Bowl – Indiana vs. Tennessee
Jan. 2 – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Indiana has not won a bowl game since 1991, but with a passing game like the Hoosiers have now, that drought could be coming to an end. Whop Philyor has turned in a 1,000-yard season catching passes from Peyton Ramsey and Michael Penix Jr. But IU goes up against a Tennessee defense ranked 17th against the pass this season.
8. Redbox Bowl – Illinois (6-6) vs. California (7-5)
Dec. 30 – 4 p.m. ET, FOX
Just the fact we have Lovie Smith in a bowl game makes this one special. After a strong second half of the season, the Illini go for their first bowl victory under Smith and first since 2011. They'll face a talented Cal defense anchored by senior linebacker Evan Weaver.
9. Pinstripe Bowl – Michigan State (6-6) vs. Wake Forest (8-4)
Dec. 27 – 3:20 p.m., ESPN
Anyone who has watched Michigan State football this season knows it can be a bit of a chore to do so. The Spartans take on a Wake Forest team that can pack an offensive punch but can also be dragged into an ugly bout. Even in Yankee Stadium, don't expect many home runs during this game.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Patreon, on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.