Fans of the Big Ten must come to grips with one very uncomfortable truth: the conference still isn't well respected by the human element that is part of the BCS system.
Ohio State, with an undefeated 8-0 record and the nation's longest active win streak (20 games), sits at No. 4 in both the Coaches' and Harris polls. Ohio State also fails to get a single first-place vote in any of the three major human polls (including the AP, which is not part of the BCS).
Okay, so the Buckeyes haven't been knocking off all comers by 49 points each and every week, but a win is a win, isn't it? But perhaps to better illustrate the lack of Big Ten respect out there, we need to look a little lower in the polls.
At No. 21 in the Harris and Coaches' polls is Michigan. The Wolverines are a one-loss team (which came on the road in quadruple overtime). While some shaky performances against some less-than-impressive competition have severely hurt Michigan's ranking, the Wolverines are still winning football games. There are four two-loss programs ahead of Michigan in both of the BCS human polls, and five two-loss teams ahead of the Wolverines in the AP Poll.
Then there's Michigan State (No. 24 in the Coaches' Poll and No. 23 in the Harris Poll. Up until this week, Michigan State was the only program in the nation from the five "power conferences" to have only one loss without appearing in the Top 25—in any human poll. Michigan State, by the way, fields the nation's No. 3 scoring defense and No. 1 overall defense.
Why do Michigan and MSU rank so low compared to, say, Missouri, Oklahoma, Auburn, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State or Lousiville, all one-loss teams? How about two-loss Texas A&M, South Carolina or UCLA?
And don't spew that nonsense about not playing and beating the best of the best in the Pac-12 or SEC. UCLA, Texas A&M and South Carolina didn't do that either, which is why those programs are sitting with two losses.
Instead, it's all about perception, and until the Big Ten can start winning the big-time non-conference and bowl matchups against the SEC, Pac-12, ACC and Big 12, the lingering condescension towards the Big Ten will remain.
The best chance the conference has to dispel those feelings quickly, however, would be with a strong performance—or even a victory—in the BCS National Championship Game this season. To do that, however, Ohio State (the only legit contender for a title game berth) would need two of the top three teams in the current rankings to lose.
Were that to happen, the Buckeyes would earn a spot int he BCS title game assuming they remain undefeated, whiole simultaneously opening up a spot in the Rose Bowl Game for the next-highest Big Ten program in the BCS rankings, assuming that team can keep its head above the magical No. 16 spot in the rankings.
It's far from certain, but easily the best-case scenario for the Big Ten this year.
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