Encore! Encore! Encore! Ok, maybe it’s not actually a crowd of fans yelling encore but after the Big Ten’s bowl performance, it’s quite necessary.
The conference finished an astounding 7-1 in bowl play, knocking off teams from the Pac-12 to the SEC. Purdue and Iowa kicked it off with close wins over Arizona and Boston College, respectively. The Boilermakers withstood a second-half Wildcat comeback where they lost the lead before scoring the game-winning touchdown with under two minutes to go. Michigan State flew out west to blow out Washington State in the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday bowl. Ohio State was able to shut down and dominate a Sam Darnold-led USC squad that only managed seven points. Northwestern survived its 1000th close game this season by taking out Kentucky, who failed a 2-pt conversion to win the game. Penn State waved goodbye to the best running back in college football in Saquon Barkley after a 35-28 win over Washington. Barkley should be a top-10 pick coming up in this year’s NFL draft. Wisconsin bounced back after its loss to Ohio State with an impressive win over the Miami Hurricanes. Michigan was the only Big Ten team that loss during the bowl season as it fell at the hands of South Carolina. With all that said, let’s take a look at who truly rose to the occasion to represent the Big Ten in their respective bowl appearances.
Anthony Mahoungou and Gregory Phillips Senior WRs Purdue
In a game that saw the Boilermakers post a whopping 555-yards from scrimmage against Arizona, Anthony Mohoungou and Gregory Phillips had monster games working in tandem with quarterback Elijah Sindelar. Phillips reeled in 14 receptions for 149 yards and two touchdowns on the day. Mahoungou proved to be a solid running mate, grabbing six receptions for 118 yards while matching Phillips with two scores himself. The France native made a highlight reel grab for the game-winning 38-yard reception with a Wildcat defender draped over him. Arizona had no answer for the senior receivers during their last game as Boilermakers.
1. Elijah Sindelar Sophomore QB Purdue
ICYMI, @FosterFarmsBowl Offensive MVP @ElijahSindelar was named to the @AP_Top25 All-Bowl Team yesterday. #BoilerUp #LetsPlayFootball pic.twitter.com/mPfiCMLawZ
— Purdue Football (@BoilerFootball) January 4, 2018
With the honorable mention of Mahoungou and Phillips above, we absolutely have to list Sindelar as a top performer during bowl play. The sophomore quarterback went off against Arizona, completing 33 of 53 attempts for 396 yards and four touchdowns to one interception. Now don’t get me wrong, those stats are impressive, but it’s the fact that he managed to do all that on a torn-ACL. No, your eyes aren’t fooling you. News came out after the bowl win that Sindelar played the final three games with the torn ligament in his knee, an injury that leaves players sidelined for months at a time. Sindelar looked as good with one leg (you couldn’t tell anything was wrong) as some quarterbacks did with two. Cheers to you Mr.Sindelar, now I think it’s time you get that knee fixed.
2.Saquon Barkley Junior RB Penn State
Some of us just aren’t all that great at goodbyes. Barkley, on the other hand, ran out of the building with his farewell. The junior spoke before the game that the decision wouldn’t be made until after but, when you’re easily a lock to be a top-10 pick, it’s not a hard choice. Barkley showcased his diverse skill set against the Huskies, marching 137 yards on just 18 carries, finding the end zone twice. He added another 38 yards on a team-high seven receptions. Barkley is arguably the most complete running back prospect to come out in recent years and he will make an immediate impact in the NFL.
3. Alex Hornibrook Sophomore QB Wisconsin
Orange Bowl MVP @alex_hornibrook is 20-3 as a starter. His 25 TD passes this season were second-most in school history, behind only @DangeRussWilson’s 33 TDs in 2011.#OnWisconsin pic.twitter.com/IMUD6zIv9a
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) January 4, 2018
Alex Hornibrook took a lot of criticism after Wisconsin’s loss in the Big Ten championship to Ohio State. Hornibrook couldn’t get much going against the tough Buckeye defense, throwing two interceptions in the loss. The sophomore quarterback bounced back against Miami, completing 23 of 34 attempts for 258 yards and four touchdowns. Hornibrook made it look effortless by making throws in tight windows, finding receivers covered by defenders. His play was pivotal for the Badgers as they surged ahead from an early deficit, scoring 21 points in the second quarter. Hornibrook facilitated enough offense to remain ahead and close out the victory. With Hornibrook bound to improve and a defense that should remain one of the best in the country, Wisconsin will be a top team come next season.