This Year’s Quick Lane Bowl is More Important Than You Think

The weight of history is on Bowling Green’s shoulders at this year’s Quick Lane Bowl. Bowling Green’s pursuit of history for the MAC makes this year’s Quick Lane Bowl must-see TV.

Bowling Green lost last year’s Quick Lane Bowl
Source: Mallory Hiser, BGSU Athletics

It was December 26, 2003. The number one song on Billboard was Hey Ya! By Outkast, Finding Nemo was the top-grossing movie of the year, and it was the last time a MAC team beat a Big Ten school in a Detroit bowl game. Bowling Green beat Northwestern 28-24 thanks to Josh Harris’ 386 passing yards and three touchdowns to cap an 11-win season.

On Monday, for only the fifth time in the combined 26-year history of the Motor City and Quick Lane Bowls, the MAC will face the Big Ten when Bowling Green faces Minnesota on Boxing Day. The MAC is 1-3 all-time against the Big Ten in bowls. The Big Ten did not outclass the MAC in these three bowls, with each win coming by one score. The 2007 Motor City Bowl was the most heartbreaking of these losses with Purdue driving for a game-winning field goal in the final 69 seconds.

The MAC is always a consistent threat to beat Power Five schools, and this year is no different. Miami (OH) ended its 16-game losing streak to new Big 12 member Cincinnati this year, Bowling Green beat Gasparilla Bowl-bound Georgia Tech, and Ohio beat Liberty Bowl participant Iowa State. Yet, there is something about bowl season that causes the MAC to fall short against the Power Five.

Before last-minute replacement Central Michigan defeated Washington State in the 2021 Sun Bowl, the conference boasted one bowl win against a Power Five or Big East school from 1976-2020, the aforementioned 2003 Motor City Bowl win.

This year’s Quick Lane Bowl loses some luster with 5-7 Minnesota being the “mighty” representative from the Big Ten. However, a win against the Big Ten after a fruitless regular season against the conference makes a significant statement for the league.

The MAC went 0-8 against the “other” Midwest conference. Toledo and Akron came agonizingly close to knocking off Big Ten foes. A last-second field goal helped Illinois escape Toledo, while Akron fell short against Indiana in four overtimes. If Bowling Green comes up short, it will be the MAC’s first winless season against the Big Ten since 2005.

Furthermore, a third Power Five win aids the conference’s image substantially. Only the Sun Belt (four wins) and Mountain West (four wins) had better non-conference resumes against the Power Five.

National perception is everything in this era of college football due to the arbitrary and subjective nature of the College Football Playoff committee. Any opportunity to enhance the MAC’s reputation is necessary to build momentum before the 12-team playoff.

At first glance, the Quick Lane Bowl’s matchup between 7-5 Bowling Green and 5-7 Minnesota is easy to overlook. Several MAC-Big Ten matchups dot the landscape each year. Yet, this one is different.

The haze and bustle of the Christmas season are in the rearview mirror come December 26 and people will find any source of relaxation. Most of the country’s eyes will be on the MAC. A win against the Big Ten in bowl season is a long time coming and a much-needed statement for the MAC in a more competitive Group of Five arms race.