Photo: Big 10 Network Screengrab
The Big 10 went 0-5 in Bowl Games on New Year’s Day, and lost its three games against SEC opponents by a combined 138-45. It was a day full of major letdowns on national stages. From Happy Valley to Ann Arbor to Evanston, Big 10 faithful went to sleep with their tail placed firmly between their legs. It was a difficult day for the football power.
But yesterday’s poor record actually demonstrates the conference’s perceived strength.
Each Big 10 representative entered New Year’s Day as the underdog in its respective Bowl game. Why? Because the schools travel so well that Bowl organisers seek them out when picking games, even if they are clearly inferior to their opponent. As we’ve noted countless times, Bowl season is all about the Benjamins, and simply put, Big 10 teams ensure a bounty of them.
That’s why Michigan was facing a clearly superior No. 21 Mississippi State team. All year, pundits have ripped the Wolverines to shreds; but when Bowl season arrived Progressive coveted Maize and Blue backers for its Gator Bowl – even if it meant matching them with a top-25 team from the best conference in the country. Sure, the final score is ugly, but it was far from shocking.
Meanwhile Penn State fell to Florida in a nail-biter. The Nittany Lions had the ball down six with 90 seconds left, before its walk-on starting quarterback Matt McGloin threw a pick-six to seal the Gator victory. It was an emotional sendoff for Urban Meyer in the Gators’ home state, and they eeked out a victory. Hardly a shame to lose to Florida, especially with poor quarterback play in a disappointing season for the program.
Northwestern lost to Texas Tech, but without the quarterback who led them to all 7 of their regular season wins. He suffered a season-ending injury in November.
No. 5 Wisconsin was a two-point conversion away from knotting the score against No. 3 TCU, but its attempt failed thanks to some questionable late-game play calling. Still, losing by two to a better-ranked program on a neutral site program is far from unexpected, let alone embarrassing.
Finally, the one true debacle was No. 16 Alabama’s shellacking of No. 9 Michigan State. Alabama was clearly the superior team, and wanted to show its disappointing three-loss season was an aberration. That’s no excuse for the Spartans to lose 49-7, but remember, few picked them to prevail in the first place.
Sure, it was an embarrassing day for the Big 10. But they wouldn’t have been in position to lose to favoured teams if the conference wasn’t so respected and if sponsors didn’t feel compelled by the huge legion of followers.
In the end, sponsors are what college football Bowl season is all about, and sponsors love the Big 10. Sponsors decide which teams play, and in the case of Ohio State, which troubled players play in the Sugar Bowl (the conference’s last shot at redemption). And sponsors will soon forget Jan. 1 2011, and bring Big 10 teams to prestigious Bowl games again next year.
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