Big Ten Football: How the Conference Can Still Grab 2 BCS Berths
The entire history of the BCS as we know it will last 16 seasons, 14 of which are already completed. In those 14 seasons, the Big Ten has sent two teams to the BCS bowls an astounding 11 times. This includes every single season since 2005, when Ohio State and Penn State started the current streak.
The results of that run have been twofold.
First, the Big Ten has struggled mightily in bowl season because the already-tough schedule moves each conference team up a slot to a tougher bowl opponent when two go to the BCS. Second, an absolute cash grab is on the line, as the second BCS bowl brings in about a third of the bowl revenue for each Big Ten school after expenses are taken out.
While the overall bad bowl results have not given the Big Ten a good national reputation, always being on the big stage is a good thing for the conference. The money is an added bonus that none of these teams wants to surrender, especially the likes of Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and Illinois.
Following last week's results, it may be incomprehensible how the Big Ten could manage to get two teams into the BCS again this season. But if it could happen in 2007, with Illinois going to the Rose Bowl, it can happen in 2012.
Let's put aside my compatriot's "Darkest Timeline" for a moment and look at the "Brightest Timeline" for the Big Ten.
In Big Ten action, Nebraska escapes East Lansing with another ugly win, while Michigan throttles Minnesota to put both teams at 4-1 in the conference. Ohio State makes Illinois look silly, Iowa "upsets" Indiana (I use that term loosely.), and Penn State knocks off Purdue.
Texas A&M gets rocked by an angry Mississippi State in an SEC surprise, while the Wolverines sneak close to the national rankings following a bad day for UCLA, Louisiana Tech, Toledo, Oklahoma State, Texas and Kent State.
USC gets crushed at home by Oregon and falls to a spot in front of Michigan at 25th in the BCS standings.
That pushes Nebraska up to 18th in the BCS and Michigan just on the outside looking in.
Michigan continues the roll to 5-1 with a home win over Northwestern, while Nebraska earns a huge win over Penn State to match the Wolverines at 5-1. In less relevant action, Wisconsin defeats Indiana to spare the indignity of Indiana leading the Leaders Division, Minnesota applies the coup de grace to Illinois, and Iowa defeats Purdue.
Boise State suffers a shocking bump in the road at Hawaii, which knocks the last real non-Notre Dame threat out of the mix for finishing ahead of a BCS conference champion. (Let's assume Louisville ends with zero or one loss.) Nebraska moves up to 17th while Michigan pulls into the standings at 22nd.
Michigan knocks off a suddenly hot Iowa team and picks up a huge win, while Ohio State sets up a massive showdown by going 11-0 with a win over Wisconsin. Nebraska takes care of Minnesota to go to 6-1 and keep the pressure on Michigan. Penn State defeats Indiana, Purdue wins the pillow fight with Illinois, and Northwestern defeats Michigan State.
Texas Tech loses at Oklahoma State, dropping the Red Raiders behind Nebraska and Michigan in the BCS rankings. West Virginia cannot defend their home field against Oklahoma and falls behind the Big Ten schools. Stanford loses at Oregon and falls behind Nebraska but not Michigan.
Michigan and Nebraska are picking up momentum and some national press, with Nebraska reaching 14th and Michigan up to 20th in the BCS standings.
In the game of the day, Michigan knocks off an undefeated Ohio State and relives the glory days of the 1990s, when OSU could not complete undefeated seasons with Michigan on the schedule.
Nebraska opens the weekend with a big win against Iowa, locking up an appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game. Wisconsin defeats Penn State to close up the Leaders Division, and the other three games do not matter at all in Big Ten play.
That puts Michigan and Nebraska at 7-1 in conference play, with each winning every game in November.
Arizona picks up a fourth loss of the season against Arizona State, which will hold RichRod out of the Pac-12 Championship Game. (Michigan fans rejoice for multiple reasons.)
Oklahoma State knocks off Oklahoma, Clemson gets knocked off by South Carolina, and Oregon State loses to Oregon. That pushes Nebraska into the Top 10 of the BCS rankings, and Michigan leaps over a couple extra teams thanks to the huge win over the Buckeyes.
Nebraska heads into championship weekend at 10th, with Michigan at 14th.
Nebraska handles Wisconsin and maintains the spot in the Rose Bowl. Michigan does not see any team behind it pick up a big win, and the Wolverines breath a sigh of relief.
Texas gets pounded by Kansas State, which keeps the Longhorns behind Michigan in the BCS Standings.
The BCS Standings come out, and Michigan is 13th, while Nebraska is ninth. That allows the Sugar Bowl to pick Michigan again, filling seats for the second straight season. Brady Hoke gets upset at not winning a Big Ten title, but his fanbase is OK with another BCS bowl and another win over Ohio State.
The rest of the Big Ten rakes in the BCS cash. Everybody wins. Except for the other poor teams in the Big Ten that have to play up in bowl games.
But those are minor details.
So there you have it. The Big Ten can get two BCS teams, but there's a lot that has to go right in November. If it happened in 2007, maybe it will happen in 2012. The brightest timeline could happen!
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