Michigan and OSU face critical tests this weekend against ranked opponents.
OSU has struggled handling top-five opponents of late, and Michigan is coming off of a 3-9 season. But wins this weekend would go a long way to restoring the Big 10's image on the national stage.
"A lot of our schools in the non-conference schedule are hoping we do well as a league to help maybe get some of that national respect back," Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We talk about it as coaches, not only in the bowl games but in the non-conference games. I'm pretty convinced it's going to happen, whether it's this year or next year."
Tressel also feels the heat and is aware of the importance of his game against USC. "We certainly do feel we are carrying the flag of the Big Ten whenever we line up out of conference," Tressel said.
And Ron Zook (whose team got manhandled by Missouri last weekend) agrees: "It's very, very important," Zook said. "Obviously we didn't do our part last week, but it's important we play those games. All the coaches in the Big 10 realize our conference is as good as anyone's. Until we [win big non-conference games], there's not a lot we can say."