Annual Big Ten Bowl Hosing

Submitted by 1464 on December 5th, 2011 at 10:04 PM

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)

Team Record Conf Rank Spread
Western Michigan 7-5 5**  
Purdue 6-6 7 -2.5


Insight Bowl -  Tempe, AZ

Team Record Conf Rank Spread
Iowa 7-5 6  
Oklahoma 9-3 4 -15.5



Texas Bowl - Houston, TX (away game)

Team Record Conf Rank Spread
Texas A&M 6-6 7 -9.5
Northwestern 6-6 9  



Fight Hunger Bowl - San Francisco, CA (away game)

Team Record Conf Rank Spread
Illinois                                 6-6                   10                                 -3 (Uh, no?)  
UCLA 6-7 5  



Ticket City Bowl - Dallas, TX (away game)

Team Record Conf Rank Spread
Houston 12-1 1 -6
Penn State 9-3 4  



Gator Bowl - Jacksonville, FL (away game)

Team Record Conf Rank Spread
Ohio            6-6 8  
Florida 6-6 7 -2



Outback Bowl - Tampa, FL

Team Record Conf Rank Spread
Michigan State 10-3 2  
Georgia 10-3 3 -3



Capital One Bowl - Orlando, FL

Team Record Conf Rank Spread
Nebraska 9-3 5  
South Carolina 10-2 5 -1



Rose Bowl - Pasadena, CA

Team Record Conf Rank Spread
Oregon 11-2 1 -6
Wisconsin 11-2 1  



Sugar Bowl - New Orleans, LA

Team Record Conf Rank Spread
Michigan 10-2 3 -2
Virginia Tech 11-2 1  


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.



December 5th, 2011 at 10:29 PM ^

Basically, all I'm hearing is 'That's not fair!'


Fair or not, the Big Ten needs to step it up during Bowl season.  Plain and simple.  You mention several times that the Big Ten is getting "screwed", but the fact is the Big Ten agreed to these Bowl tie-ins and thinks as a whole that they can handle it.  That's a good start to getting some of that respect back.  Now the teams just need to produce on the field.

Zone Left

December 5th, 2011 at 10:52 PM ^

It's not getting screwed when you agree to it.

The Big 10 is going to lose most bowl games most years. That's the way it is until they decide to push for less lucrative tie-ins.

Gorgeous Borges

December 5th, 2011 at 11:20 PM ^

I'd take Ohio State against the spread all day against Florida. Their offense is getting a lot better (see: Game, The).

Also, I'd take Penn State against Houston, because Houston hasn't faced a decent defense yet.


December 5th, 2011 at 11:21 PM ^

I actually think the games look pretty competitive this year, outside of Iowa and probably Oregon/Wisconsin. 

Houston may have a great offense but PSU has a solid defense that may be able to shut them down.   Still could have one of those Mike Martin vs. Purdue games and just totally disrupt their game.   Illinois will probably lose just because of their horrible negative momentum and fired coach, but they were probably going to lose anyway. 


The OSU, Michigan, MSU and Nebraska games all look like pretty even match ups, even if they are against teams with better conference ranks, and btw you have Va Tech's ranking wrong.  I can't say I'm that dissapointed in the bowl match ups this year, outside of the travesty that is the national title game.


December 6th, 2011 at 12:16 AM ^

Meh, this happens all the time.  And some of those rankings are a little skewed - I mean, yes Houston is a #1 in their conference, but they also got housed by the only decent defense they faced this season, one that is an order of magnitude worse than PSU's.  Ohio-Florida looks about right, as does Illinois-UCLA (a 6-7 team being #5 in your conference speaks poorly of your divisions, not its quality).  Iowa-OU looks like a mismatch, but so does MSU-UGA on paper (Georgia has beaten virtually no one all year, and were beaten rather convincingly by the good teams they did meet up with).  So while these matchups historically do put the Big 10 in an underdog position, this isn't a battle of Davids and Goliaths.

As for the perception issue, that doesn't come from NW losing to Oregon St. in the Beef O'Brady BBQ bowl, but in the UM's, MSU's, UW's, and Ohio's of the world losing rather spectacularly to teams from the other power conferences.  When UM was beaten nearly senseless by USC back in 2006, that was a pock on the Big 10 and UM because it was clear UM couldn't hang with an elite team like USC.  Then OSU was beaten badly by Florida, then LSU the following year, and it became dogma that the Big 10 could not compete with the best from the SEC and out West.  Then last year, Alabama destroyed MSU, Miss St. dominated UM, and Wiscy lost to TCU.  Ohio beat an okay Arkansas team by the skin of its teeth, but it was clear that, again, the best teams in the Big 10 struggled during bowl season.  Until that changes, until teams like UM beat VT and Wisyc beats Oregon, the sense that the B1G is overrated based on bowl performance will not fade.


December 6th, 2011 at 7:18 AM ^

Point well taken.  My counterpoint is that in 2006(7), Michigan got waxed by USC - the best team in the PAC 10.  OSU got beat by Florida, the SEC champion.  Granted, OSU and Michigan were 1 and 2 going into their game, so the outcomes should have bore that out.  However, if Michigan were up against the second best team in the SEC or PAC 10, would they still have been blown out? 

 The two best Big 10 teams were matched against the two best national teams.  Your argument is that this hurt how our conference is perceived.  It also kinda validates my point that we always seem to play over our head.

Yes, I know, we agree to these bowls.  However, I just get tired of the so called experts spouting off about items that they do not seem to know much about.

I'm not sure that we lose a Big 10 / SEC Challenge type OOC schedule every year, as most would have you believe.  That stands for all the other conferences too.  Yet we get zero respect as a conference nationally because of Penn State vs Alabama or OSU vs the SEC. 

oriental andrew

December 6th, 2011 at 4:35 PM ^

"The two best Big 10 teams were matched against the two best national teams. "

That's bull.  The two best Big Ten teams were also, at one point, considered the two best national teams.  If that were indeed the case, Michigan and osu should have put on better performances in their bowl games.  Sure, we can say that Michigan was a bit hung over and disappointed from being kept out of the MNC game, but that's no real excuse.  When the time came, our best teams were whipped.  They should not have been seen as playing over their heads.  osu was #1 and Michigan was #3 going into the bowls!!


December 6th, 2011 at 1:02 AM ^

I wish the NYD bowl games had a little more variety--we play 3 SEC teams. I think it would be better for the B1G and for fan interest if the Gator or Outback bowl dropped the SEC tie-in for an ACC or Big East tie in--we rarely play ACC teams, which is why the Sugar Bowl vs. VT is cool.


December 6th, 2011 at 1:25 AM ^

i do agree it's a big unfair that the strengths of the conferences are determined by bowl games in which the big ten teams always have a further ways to go.  however your conference rankings don't factor in that 3 games are against weak conferences.

the sec & pac12 games are even.  the big12 games are a little slighted but they should be if we're the stronger conference.

OSUMC Wolverine

December 6th, 2011 at 8:59 AM ^

The Big Ten's problem in bowl match-ups is that the Big Ten makes money.  We have the best bowl contracts of any conference.  We travel well as a conference.  The bowls dont care about a good match-up, they want good attendance and television ratings.  The Big Ten provides that.  A midling Big Ten team is going to get picked for almost any bowl before a midling team in any other conference, including the 'mighty' sec.  Its all about the money...and we bring it.


December 6th, 2011 at 9:24 AM ^

As long as 95% of the bowls are held in warm-weather locations, this is going to happen, especially since your definition of "home" team is that campus is closer to the stadium. Keep in mind, the goal of the bowl planners is $$, so they will always select teams that will fill the stadiums, which typically means selecting close-by (i.e., warm-weather) schools. Even with your criteria, most of the "home" teams are still a plane flight--or a very long drive--away from the bowl location. I don't think this is as big of an anti-B1G problem as you suggest.


December 6th, 2011 at 10:16 AM ^

Aside from Iowa, I think everyone has a winnable pairing.

Wisconsin is the Big 10's best chance to beat Oregon.  They actually played a common opponent (Oregon State) with similar results.  Michigan got a better match up than they would have if they weren't selected in the BCS.

Our matches ups with the SEC are comparable.  It will be a good measuring stick between the two conferences.

I think the Northwestern game will be interesting.  If I was a betting man, I might put some action on that line.

Illinois couldn't ask for a better match up.  They also have a common opponent (ASU) with similar results.

Penn State's issue will be whether or not they can focus on the game.

And Purdue?  Well.....  If they can't beat the 5th (per your reasoning) place team in the MAC, then who are they going to beat?.






December 6th, 2011 at 10:30 AM ^

I did not expect this post to be the good read that it is so +1 to the OP. 

All these things considered this years B1G is one of the weakest I can remeber in my lifetime and arguments can be made that as many as 4 SEC teams are good enough to play in the BCS this year.  All in all I am just beyond thankful that Michigan is going to New Orleans and the most joyus of Sparty Schadenfreude is in full bloom.


December 6th, 2011 at 1:03 PM ^

I disagree.  This is one of the strongest B1G conferences I have seen in 40 years, even if the top two aren't the 1973 Bucks and Blue (the two best Big Ten teams relative to the rest of the NCAA I ever saw:  OSU on 1-1-74 killed a very good USC team and M was idle due to  the Rose Bowl or nothing rule.     As for this year's  B1G, when did it last have this many good teams who spent nine weeks beating up each other?  Michigan, Wisconsin, State, Penn State, Nebraska,  Ohio (once it got back the suspended players), Northwestern, and Iowa are all very to pretty good teams.  Michigan and Ohio are both teams which have improved continuously during the season.   From top to bottom this B1G is better than it has been in a long time, even if there is no one (or two) dominant team(s).    

Let's be glad M has a team to be proud of and this senior class can graduate with a good taste in its mouth.  As for  Schadenfreude, that is for meaner and pettier  people than the M community I know.


death by trident

December 6th, 2011 at 2:38 PM ^



Conference Rating v 1-10 v 11-25 v 26-40 v 41-75 v 76-120 Last
1 Big 12 41.8 9-28 21-16 4-0 14-4 18-0 1
2 SEC 41.5 4-22 9-18 15-8 25-7 26-0 2
3 Pac-12 34.8 4-26 8-8 15-16 37-15 8-2 3
4 Big Ten 30.0 0-2 10-28 8-10 29-14 28-7 4
5 ACC 26.3 0-3 1-5 8-21 33-31 26-5 5
6 Ind. I-A 23.3 0-2 1-5 0-3 8-4 12-8 6
7 Big East 22.3 0-2 1-2 0-3 16-28 29-7 7
8 MWC 19.7 0-2 2-17 1-0 10-15 30-10 8
9 WAC 16.0 0-2 0-7 1-16 7-13 30-18 10
10 CUSA 15.2 0-3 1-4 6-21 5-12 51-37 9
11 Sun Belt 14.3 0-4 0-3 0-13 7-25 38-14 11
12 MAC 11.8 0-3 0-6 0-2 2-29 61-43 12

NOTE: The stats on this page include data ONLY from games involving two FBS schools.


Conference Rank Chg Value
SEC 2 -- +0.9
Ind. I-A 6 -- +0.3
ACC 5 -- +0.3


Conference Rank Chg Value
CUSA 10 1 -1.8
WAC 9 1 -0.8
Pac-12 3 -- -0.1
Sun Belt 11 --



The Big 10 needs to step it up.


December 9th, 2011 at 10:42 AM ^

It's funny that the conference champion of the "toughest/strongest" conference this year got left out. I'm certain that if the SEC was the "toughest/strongest" conference and none of them got in that ESPN would tirade about it through every bowl game and have it scrolling on a ticker 24/7


December 6th, 2011 at 6:29 PM ^

we're over-matched because we look to be pretty down this year as a conference... even in light of our recent mediocrity (whether perceived or actual).  We got Oklahoma v Iowa because the Sugar Bowl didn't give KSU what they may have deserved, thus shifting the B12 down.  ie-They have 1 BCS team, we have 2.  

Yeah, we have to play some away games, but that's the nature of bowl games.  It is winter. Therefore, it is an ice-box up north and a termpered sweat-box down south.  Remember, it's also an award to a good, or at least "meh", season.  More of a reward for B1G team to vacation to SoCal for a bowl game or for USC to  play a game in your hated neighbor (Ned Flanders') back yard?

Really, we should just ... uhhh... get better?!?!  Maybe then we would be favorites and have more wins than losses during "the most wonderful time of the year".