The Big Ten Needs to Earn Respect, Not Demand It

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The Big Ten Needs to Earn Respect, Not Demand It
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The "College Football Bowl Subdivision", or FBS as we call it, is broken down into two highly indifferent pieces—"First Class" (Automatically Qualifying BCS Conferences) and "Coach" (Non-Automatically Qualifying BCS Conferences).

Some schools from the "Coach" conferences have legitimate rumblings about not earning an automatic berth from their conference into the Bowl Championship Series. When Boise State, Utah, BYU, TCU, and Houston shout from their mountaintops, I will listen. Those schools have earned that respect.

When schools such as Hawaii, Memphis, and Troy start shouting from atop their milk crate, I will disregard.

Respect comes on many levels and, even within the "First Class" conferences of college football, we have an unsettling debate.  Among those conferences that automatically qualify for a BCS-bowl bid, there is a great parity in recent memory among the elite "first class" conferences (Southeastern and Big 12) and the rest of the bunch, namely the Big Ten.

The reason that the Pac-10 was not cited in this study is because a school from that league has won a national championship since 2004.  Also, the Pac-10 is very comparable to the Big Ten except for the fact that the USC Trojans have owned its Big Ten counterparts in the Rose Bowl the last three seasons.

The other BCS conferences not mentioned—the Atlantic Coast and Big East—are merely irrelevant in the discussion for conference superiority and respect.  The ACC has just one BCS win since 2000 while the Big East has not had any active members play in a BCS National Championship...ever.

So, let's start the debate.

Fans of schools from the Big Ten have been constantly stomping their feet demanding respect for the Big Ten, although their voices are not being heard.

The voices from these boisterous fans have been silenced by the Big Ten's BCS and non-BCS bowl record since 2004.

Also, since 2004, no Big Ten school has won a national championship.  During the current span, schools from the Big Ten are 2-7 in BCS bowl games and 9-16 in non-BCS bowl games.

Meanwhile, since 2004, the SEC has crowned three national champions while the Big 12 has crowned one.  The SEC is 6-2 in BCS bowl games since 2004, while the Big 12 maintains a steady 4-4 record.

In non-BCS bowl games, the SEC is 20-12 (11 more wins than the Big Ten) and the Big 12 is 16-12 (seven more wins than the Big Ten).  All of this since 2004.

Fans from schools like Ohio State and Penn State will laud the Big Ten's 145-54 record in non-conference action versus Division 1-FBS schools.  What they won't mention is that they are a meager 41-39 versus schools enshrined within BCS conferences.

Still, that record during the regular season is ,as the SEC is just 36-34 and the Big 12 is 29-31.

But, don't hang your hat on those numbers.  Just focus on the big games, like the numbers which are considerably less-than desirable for Big Ten fans.

Lately, the Big Ten has had its fair share of close-call's and upsets at the hand on non-Division 1 FBS schools.

  • Sep. 3, 2009—Indiana def. Eastern Kentucky, 19-13
  • Sep. 5, 2009—Iowa def. Northern Iowa, 17-16
  • Nov. 22, 2008—Wisconsin def. Cal Poly, 36-35
  • Sep. 1, 2007—Appalachian State def. Michigan, 34-32
  • Sep. 16, 2006—Southern Illinois def. Indiana, 35-28

College football is all about perception.  That is why we have outrageous preseason top 25 polls that do not resemble, for the most part, the final top 25 polls of the season.

With the Big Ten's close calls and upsets against teams from an entirely different division, the perception of the Big Ten is that it is weak and too slow.  I disagree with the statement that the Big Ten is too slow for the most part, but let's examine how the Big Ten has failed miserably, in major regular season showdowns out of conference, to reestablish itself as a powerful BCS conference, like the SEC and Big 12.

  • Sep. 5, 2009—Missouri def. Illinois, 37-9
  • Sep. 12, 2009—USC def. Ohio State, 18-15
  • Sep. 12, 2009—Oregon def. Purdue, 38-36
  • Sep. 19, 2009—California def. Minnesota, 35-21
  • Aug. 30, 2008—California def. Michigan State, 38-31
  • Aug. 30, 2008—Utah def. Michigan, 25-23
  • Aug. 30, 2008—Missouri def. Illinois, 52-42
  • Sep. 13, 2008—USC def. Ohio State, 35-3
  • Sep. 13, 2008—Oregon def. Purdue, 32-26
  • Sep. 20, 2008—Pittsburgh def. Iowa, 21-20
  • Sep. 1, 2007—Missouri def. Illinois, 40-34
  • Sep. 8, 2007—Oregon def. Michigan, 39-7
  • Sep. 15, 2007—Iowa State def. Iowa, 15-13
  • Sep. 15, 2007—Duke def. Northwestern, 20-14
  • Sep. 9, 2006—Notre Dame def. Penn State, 41-17
  • Sep. 10, 2005—Texas def. Ohio State, 25-22

As you can see, the Big Ten has collectively whiffed in some big games, and some inferior BCS schools have knocked off Big Ten schools in games where the Big Ten schools was supposed to win.

In the Big Ten's seven BCS losses since 2004, the average margin of defeat has been a little more than two touchdowns.

In the last three Rose Bowls, the three teams to represent the Big Ten (Michigan, Illinois, Penn State) have lost by an average margin of 20 points.

You should be starting to see where the perception of the Big Ten being weak lies.

In 2009, Big Ten teams have lost to schools from the FBS that they should have beaten:

  • Sep. 12, 2009—Central Michigan def. Michigan State, 29-27
  • Sep. 19, 2009—Syracuse def. Northwestern, 37-34
  • Sep. 19, 2009—Northern Illinois def. Purdue, 28-21

There have also been some close calls this year, like when Navy was a two-point conversion away from shocking the Ohio State Buckeyes.

To be elite, a football program must win the games it is supposed to.  Slip-ups occur, just like when Ole Miss upset Florida last season.  The difference is that Ole Miss is not Appalachian State.

The other difference is that the schools from the SEC and Big 12 have won on the big stage more often than the Big Ten since 2004.

While fans from Happy Valley to Iowa City demand more respect for the Big Ten, it is hard to give any respect when they have not earned it.

Every team in every BCS conference schedules cupcakes; that is not the debate at hand. There actually is no debate at hand.  The fact is that, since 2004, the Big Ten can't hold a candle to the SEC or Big 12.

If it could, the court of public opinion would be completely different.

At least the Big Ten is not be the "Shopping Cart" of the BCS, as the Big East and ACC are constantly being pushed around easily by the other conferences.

The only reason that the Big Ten is even in view of the SEC and Big 12 is because the SEC and Big 12 can still see them in their rear-view mirror.

It is time for fans, coaches, and players from the Big Ten to realize this problem and find a solution to fix it instead of griping about it every Saturday morning.

It is looking like we will have to wait until the bowl games to see if the Big Ten, Ohio State, Penn State, and the others can repair their images.

If it can not be done there, at least Ohio State takes on Miami in 2010. Also, Penn State will travel to Alabama, and Wisconsin takes on Arizona State.

Reputation is just like credit.  Once it is damaged, it takes years to repair.

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