Big Ten Football: New Year's Day 2010 One to Remember

Kevin TrahanAnalyst IJanuary 1, 2010

As the clock struck four zeros at the Rose Bowl, celebrations kicked off in Pasadena and Columbus, as the Ohio State Buckeyes knocked off the Oregon Ducks 26-17.

Joining the Buckeyes in cheering were fans from Iowa City, State College, Madison, and Ann Arbor.

Bitter rivals joined together and cheered as one for Ohio State because for the first time in a while, they have something to cheer about on New Year's Day.

Their conference's reputation just might have been saved.

As the sun set in Pasadena, the Buckeyes capped off a monumental day in the Big Ten, in which the conference went 2-1 in bowl games, quite an accomplishment after years of losing on New Year's Day.

And while it may not last, let the record show that deep into the bowl season, the Big Ten has a better bowl record than the SEC and the Pac-10.

The day didn't start out rosy for the Big Ten, as it was handed another one of those heartbreaking losses that its fans have come to know all too well.

After coming back from throwing five interceptions, Northwestern had the chance to beat Auburn in the Outback Bowl with a field goal as time expired. And the Wildcats missed.

After holding the Tigers to a field goal in overtime, Northwestern tried a fake field goal and ended up two yards short of a win, extending its bowl curse.

But the Capital One Bowl provided a much-needed spark. After blowing a 16-3 lead, Penn State's senior quarterback Darryl Clark led a clutch, methodical drive downfield, helping put his team up 19-17. And the defense held for the final minute, evening the Big Ten bowl record at 2-2.

But the real story of the day was the Rose Bowl.

Ohio State is largely responsible for the Big Ten's negative image—fair or not—because of its two straight losses in the national championship. The SEC ate up Ohio State's failures, causing all of college football to proclaim the Big Ten the sport's worst conference.

But this year's Rose Bowl was a chance for the Buckeyes to redeem themselves. They are arguably the hottest team in America, and were playing in a USC-less Pasadena. It was the perfect storm, and the result didn't disappoint.

Again, this wasn't just a win for Ohio State, but the whole Big Ten as well. Both Ohio State and Iowa look like national championship contenders next season, and this win helps both become more legitimate.

In the new world, where conference strength and preseason rankings mean everything for a national championship run, Big Ten teams have certainly gained an edge.

But Pasadena might not be the end of the big wins for the conference.

Iowa will play Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 5, in what will be a challenging but winnable game for the Hawkeyes. And it will be a game that could push the Big Ten to an "unthinkable" 2-0 in BCS games.

Is this to say that the Big Ten is the best conference in college football? Of course not.

But are they just as strong as the SEC? Absolutely.

Even in its losses, the Big Ten was respectable, and it is no longer reeling, trying to come up with excuses for its "boring and slow" style of play.

Is the Big Ten back? It's too early to tell.

Besides, the conference still has two more games left. But the future looks promising for the conference, no matter how the remaining games turn out.

It seems safe to say that the Big Ten has begun the new decade with a step in the right direction.

And on Jan. 1, 2010, a struggling conference began to fix its broken reputation.