Tuesday, September 16, 2008
The Big-10? Try the Little Eleven...
It's one of the most storied conferences in College Football history. But lately it's been a lightning rod for criticism and failed expectations. It's the Big-10 Conference! Even the name doesn't make sense. There have actually been 11 teams in the Big-10 since Penn State formally joined in 1990. They even sneakily acknowledge this in their logo by designing the letters so you can make out the number 11 inside the Big-10 logo... Those tricksters!
Historically it has been the best of the best. Winning numerous National titles and awards. But lately, it's turned into a nightmare for Big-10 fans and a bit of a joke for the rest of the country. The Big-10 continues to feature highly ranked teams but their lack of bowl success and high profile out of conference victories leaves many wondering if perhaps they aren't receiving votes for their storied history rather than the talent of the teams on the field.
Case in point? Ohio State. The Buckeyes ran roughshod over the Big-10 in both 2006 and 2007 and earned a spot in the BCS National Title Game. Great news, right? Not unless you are a Florida or LSU fan. The Gators crushed Ohio State in the 2007 Championship game by the score of 41-14 and LSU dispatched them almost as easily in the 2008 Championship by the score of 38-24.
The rest of the Big-10 didn't fare so well in their Bowl matchups either as the Conference as a whole went 5-10 in Bowl games over the past 2 seasons. By way of comparison, the SEC, widely considered to be the strongest conference in the country, went 13-5. The Big East was next best amongst the BCS conference at 8-2, followed by the Pac-10 at 7-5, the Big-12 at 8-8, and the ACC at 6-10. That means the worst BCS conference in Bowl performance over the past 2 seasons was? You guessed it... The Big-10.
So if the Conference is down and struggling to win games against their peers then why do the Buckeyes and other Big-10 teams continue to get so much love from the polls? Your guess is as good as mine but it certainly isn't due to high profile out of conference success. In the past 2+ seasons, Ohio State's non conference opponents included Youngstown State(twice), Akron, Ohio University, Northern Illinois and Troy. To their credit they did win a big game at Texas at the start of the 2006 Season but their only other high profile matchup came last Saturday at USC when they were once again, humiliated at the hands of a superior opponent, 35-3.
The evidence is pretty compelling when you look at it. Big-10 teams have made a living out of convincing the pollsters that beating up on each other proves their strength only to go on to defeat and often humiliation at the hands of better teams in their Bowl matchups. Be it the National Title game or even the Rose Bowl, which the Big-10 hasn't won since 2000, they just haven't been worthy of their rankings or their acclaim for quite some time now.
Hopefully the pollsters will finally take notice and penalize them for failing to perform in Bowl Games and big OOC matchups. Because until they show they can beat someone outside of the the "mighty Big-10", they shall remain, at least in the eyes of this blog, The Little 11.