The Big Ten was once the power conference of college football. However, those days are long gone and now the conference is on life support in regards to national relevancy
The Big Ten has not a national championship team since 2002. Moreover, coming into this bowl season the Big Ten limped in with an overall bowl record of 22 wins and 36 losses since that 2002 season.
With a Michigan State victory in triple overtime against Georgia, the Big Ten took a step forward. However, a defeat in the Rose Bowl would be three steps backward.
A conference is generally considered elite one of two ways. First, they can have a great deal of conference depth. In other words, if their top eight teams play against another conferences top eight teams, they are going to win the bulk of the games played.
The other way is to be top heavy with elite teams. This has been the secret of the SEC’s success over the last six seasons. Most seasons there are two elite teams and the drop-off is great. This season was the most depth the SEC has had in several seasons.
With that said, the Big Ten has not been able to display either of those traits as their bowl record shows.
The Rose Bowl is a chance for the Big Ten to make a big statement with a win for Wisconsin. This is not only a game they could win, this is a game they should win. The Oregon Ducks offense has been defeated in every key game under Chip Kelly with a month to prepare. Those games, of course, are bowl games and season openers. The Ducks are 1-3 coming into this final bowl game.
The Rose Bowl use to be the measurement of success for the Big Ten. However, they have only been victorious in one Rose Bowl in the last 11 seasons.
The excuses are gone for the Big Ten and this is a must win game. Anything less than a Rose Bowl victory is a failure and will leave a cloud of doubt over the conference one more season.
There is going to come a time in the next few seasons were three teams from BCS conferences finish with an equal record. While it may not be fair, the Big Ten team is going to be the victim of the conference's failures in the conference games if things do not shift quickly.
The Big Ten is a proud conference that is better than their record displays. However, perception will remain their reality until they win a big game.
The immediate future of the conference is hanging on the shoulders of the Wisconsin Badgers.