Bowl season turns Big 10 little

January 5, 2009

by Matt Kane

Not too many college football fans would have argued that the Big 10 Conference was on even-footing with the SEC and Big 12 conferences this past season, but, by how things have gone in the recent bowl games, I’m not even sure the Big 10 is better than some of the mid-majors.

I cannot get over that, through Sunday, with only Ohio State left to play tonight (Monday) in the Fiesta Bowl, the Big 10 is 1-5 in bowl games.

I’m not surprised that the one win was claimed by Iowa, 31-10 over South Carolina in the Outback Bowl — the Hawkeyes have been a good team all season (just ask Penn State), and they were playing a falling South Carolina team — but I can’t believe none of the Hawkeyes’ conference-mates could come through in the big game.

Four of the five losses by Big 10 teams weren’t even close games.

The most notable blowout was Penn State’s 38-24 beat-down by USC in the Rose Bowl. Not too many people expected the Nittany Lions to beat the Trojans, but I thought Penn State might keep the score respectable.

USC is one of the best teams in the country, no matter what any poll says, so that loss is acceptable, but I’m not so sure about the other four Big 10 losses.

Of those four, only Northwestern kept it close up until the end. The Wildcats lost 30-23 to Missouri Dec. 29 in the Alamo Bowl.

The other blowouts were Wisconsin’s 42-13 loss to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl, Minnesota’s 42-21 loss to Kansas in the Insight Bowl, and Michigan State’s 24-12 loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl.

The scores say it all. Those games were yawners, and I’m beginning to think the Big 10 Conference, for football, is a big yawner.

Think about it, the school with the most wins in college football history, Michigan, with 848 wins, didn’t even qualify for a bowl. Being a Penn State graduate, I despise the Wolverines, but it is sad when a team with Michigan’s reputation can’t scrape out six wins.

Ohio State is the Big 10’s only hope remaining. The Buckeyes play Texas in the Fiesta Bowl tonight, and a win over the Longhorns would, definitely, be impressive. But I don’t see it happening.

I saw Ohio State play less than impressive football in its 13-6 loss to Penn State Oct. 25, and, in the Buckeyes’ only other marque game this season, they were waxed by USC 35-3 Sept. 13.

I’m afraid the Buckeyes are going to get the horns from a Texas team that wants to prove it belonged in the national championship game.

An Ohio State loss means the Big 10 would finish with a 1-5 record in bowl play. The only conference that sits below the Big 10 in winning percentage, through Saturday, is the mighty MAC, represented by Ball State, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan.

That is unacceptable.

The MAC can easily move ahead of the Big 10. When this column was written Saturday morning, Ball State and Buffalo still had their games to play.

Buffalo played Connecticut Saturday afternoon in the International Bowl, and Ball State plays Tulsa Tuesday in the GMAC Bowl.

Every word I type about the Big 10’s bowl inefficiency makes me more frustrated. I’m starting to wonder if the conference’s name should be changed to the Little 10.