The Big 10 currently has three teams tied at 10-1 and by the end of today, they could still be tied at 11-1. One of them will get to play in the Rose Bowl, but it doesn’t really matter which team — because the Rose Bowl itself no longer matters at all.20 years ago, when there was no BCS or mythical “national championship game,” the Rose Bowl was the pinnacle of a Big 10 football team’s season. It meant that you won your conference and would play a challenge game against the Pac-10 champ. In a mostly regional, non-playoffed sport, there was no higher achievement to realistically aspire to.
Your bowl was your championship game, because there were no other options. And in that era, all bowls were equal.
Now that there is something bigger than the Rose Bowl — the BCS Championship Game — if you’re not playing in that game then you might as well not be playing at all. The ultimate goal for any BCS conference team is now the national championship. Everything else is just a side show.
Full disclosure: I write this post as a Michigan State alumnus and lifelong Spartan fan. But I’m not just saying this because MSU could win a share of the Big 10 title and not go to Pasadena. Today’s Penn State game is the most important game this school has played in over 20 years. A share of the Big 10 title would be an amazing feat and an outright championship even better.
But beyond that it doesn’t really matter what bowl Michigan State plays in January. They had their shot at the BCS Championship this year and didn’t make it. Winning a tie breaker won’t change the final Big 10 standings and it won’t suddenly make them better than a 11-1 Ohio State team. (Or even the Wisconsin team they beat two months ago.) This year’s winner won’t even get to follow the tradition of playing the Pac-10 champ, as Oregon will likely be in the BCS title game, taking even more luster off the Grandaddy of Them All.
Aside from the money and date, there’s no difference between playing in the Rose Bowl or the Citrus Bowl or the Humanitarian Bowl. What used to be the marquee event of the bowl season is now a consolation prize.
And the Rose has only itself to blame. Aligning itself with the BCS cartel, has only made the Rose Bowl one more game that’s NOT the national championship and therefore not worth the energy of any sensible college football fan.
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