Well, it's that time of year again, folks. The leaves have all shed themselves from the trees and the cold is starting to settle upon the midwest. The days are getting shorter and the nights longer. If you flip on the six-o-clock Sportscenter during this evening you will, no doubt, be serenaded to the soothing sounds of SEC bias while the moon is peeking gently through the window.
The geese have taken flight to the warmer climes down south, and so too do our football teams. For it is bowl season again. Time for us all to regale upon bowl seasons past, and look forward to our annual unfavorable bowl matchups.
"What's that you say? Unfavorable bowl matchups? But Michigan is playing Va Tech! Purdue plays Western Michigan, those don't seem unreasonable. Why... when I was still a youth (circa 2007-08) I remember playing 5 of our 8 bowl games in the HOME STATE of our competition. Indiana actually played a bowl game that year. I remember Illinois being sacrificed on the alter of a pissed off USC. The game was in SoCal. OSU was embarrased by an LSU team that had to travel all of an hour to get to the game. Michigan miraculously pulled an upset on Florida that NOBODY predicted. Florida had to endure nearly two hours on a bus, after all. Now THAT was an unfavorable bowl season."
True, my crotchety and slightly older grandfather.
While this year is not quite as bad as we had it a few years ago, we are still playing five away games this bowl season compared to zero home games. The away games are all held within a few hours of our competition. We are also only favored in three games. The aforementioned Sugar Bowl and Little Caeser's Bowl; as well as Illinois over UCLA in the Fight Hunger Bowl*. Since Illinois has not won a game since they ended apartheid, let's just call that game a push.
Sick of my attempt at witty banter? Here are the hard facts. Lines provided by Yahoo because, why not? I'm at work anyway and can't get to any of the good sports sites.
Little Caesar's Bowl - Detroit, MI (away game)
Insight Bowl - Tempe, AZ
Texas Bowl - Houston, TX (away game)
Fight Hunger Bowl - San Francisco, CA (away game)
|Illinois||6-6||10||-3 (Uh, no?)|
Ticket City Bowl - Dallas, TX (away game)
Gator Bowl - Jacksonville, FL (away game)
Outback Bowl - Tampa, FL
Capital One Bowl - Orlando, FL
Rose Bowl - Pasadena, CA
Sugar Bowl - New Orleans, LA
We're screwed because...
- The average bowl team in the Big Ten placed at a rank of 5.5 in conference (this makes sense as the top 10 teams made it). Our average opponent is ranked at 3.9 in its respective conference. That means we are consistently playing nearly two positions above our head. If you compare the 8 teams we have that are playing against AQ schools, you come out with a rank of 5.5 as well. You would expect a big drop in the rank of the AQ schools, but they are ranked an average of 4.1 in conference, nearly a spot and a half ahead of the good guys.
- We have the better W/L record in exactly one bowl game, and only because UCLA was allowed to embarass themselves in the PAC-12 title game. Four of the games match teams with identical records. The other five games have us playing teams with better records. Since the B1G record against the other Big 6 conferences was above .500 this year, this difference doesn't reflect poor OOC play. Instead it reflects the disparity in conference rankings outlined above.
- The eye test. Penn State plays arguable the best non-qualifier in Houston. Oregon, Georgia, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Florida, Virginia Tech, UCLA, and TAMU are all teams with names that have cache. More cache than say... Northwestern, Illinois, or Purdue.
- Half of our bowl games are in the state of the opposing team.
But it's cool because...
- Michigan is favored in a BCS game. Run that one through your head again...
What does it all mean?
The Big Ten has an image problem, largely due to the SEC pandering that ESPN has been hocking. Couple this with OSU's 'performance' problem in big games and Michigan's temporary loss of luster, and there has been a stigma attached to the conference for the past 5-6 years.
I think a playoff system will aid the Big Ten in returning to the dominant force in college football, if a playoff system is ever implemented. Home games would be nice. Picture Alabama coming to Ann Arbor in December. Pipe dream, yes. But that would be an equalizer.
The Big Ten may well go anywhere from 2-8 to 6-4 this year. The ceiling is not high. Not because it is a bad conference, but because not unlike a drunk OSU coed, we can't make it through a bowl weekend without getting screwed.
*Ironic that the head coach of both schools lost their jobs right before the Fight Hunger Bowl.
**I ranked teams by conference W/L record and ignored the conference championships (looking at you UCLA). After conference W/L, I looked at overall W/L. After that, BCS rank. If those three were all identical, I used a super secret method to determine which team was to be ranked higher (my uneducated opinion, akin to random computer rankings). Kinda cool.