Big Ten Debacle: How New Year's Day Was Unkind to the Conference

wes burdenContributor IJanuary 1, 2011

After celebrating the start of 2011, there were six college bowl games on the slate to kick off the New Year. Five of these games included Big Ten teams and man how they made their respective conference look anything but respectable.

Coming into the college football year, many thought that the Big Ten could possibly be one of the nation's best conferences. Today's Big Ten defeats could just be the icing on the cake that proves how wrong many people were about the conference that represents the Midwest part of our country.

While I was watching the thrashing being displayed by Alabama on the overrated Spartans, who eventually won easily 49-7, John Saunders came in at halftime to tell us about the other games in progress. One of those games was Michigan against Mississippi State. He mentioned how Denard Robinson was having a great half, but forgot to mention the score.

As I soon found out, I knew why he didn't want to mention the score.

The Bulldogs were up 31-14 at the half, and would go on to dismantle a Wolverine defense that every team they played had no problem with, eventually winning 52-14.

At the same time, Northwestern was keeping it close with the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Going into the game, this one had "offensive shootout" written all over it and it did not disappoint whatsoever.

With over 900 total yards of offense, the game was one for those who love a healthy dose of scoring and more scoring. Coming down to the wire, Texas Tech had just enough to hold off Northwestern, taking the Ticketcity Bowl, 45-38.

The Outback Bowl featured two teams whose regular season records were not where they expected to be come this time of year. It was a battle of two 7-5 teams pitting the Florida Gators against the Penn State Nittany Lions.

This game was also another close one for the Big Ten, as the Lions were leading by four heading into the final quarter.

But if you follow college football, then you would have known that these Gators weren't going to let Urban Meyer go out (for the time being) on a loss to an average Big Ten team.

The Gators came out in the fourth quarter flexing their muscles, scoring 17 unanswered points and taking Matt McGloin's fifth and final interception back for a touchdown to win the game 37-24.

At this point, that would put the Big Ten's record at 0-4 heading into their traditional New Year's Day game, the Rose Bowl.

This year's representative was Wisconsin, who finished fifth in the BCS standings to earn the honor (or was it dishonor?) to represent the conference against a non-AQ team, the TCU Horned Frogs. Instead of the traditional Big Ten vs. Pac-10 Rose Bowl matchup, they decided to shake things up this year and chose the undefeated Frogs out of the MWC to play the Badgers.

Many people who watch or cover college football expected Wisconsin with their big three rushing attack and explosive defense to be too much for a team like TCU, who are penalized for the competition they had to play this year. Even though they were ranked third in the nation, TCU was more or less the underdog in this game and had to have a great game to be able to beat the Badgers.

If the Rose Bowl was any indication, then the Horned Frogs will be petitioning for a playoff system starting tomorrow to prove they can hang with anyone in the nation.

The game started off fast, with both teams scoring on their first two possessions. But the Horned Frogs were able to get touchdowns on both their drives, leading 14-10 after the first quarter.

After this point, the defense on each side of the ball began to display what made these teams two of the best in the nation this year. TCU took an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter and would eventually go on to win the Rose Bowl, 21-19.

Although this game will spur even greater talk of a playoff system for college football, another key question will have to be asked after this day: How overrated was the Big Ten this season?

New Year's Day will end and the Big Ten teams who played will finish a combined 0-5, making the conference 2-5 overall with the Buckeyes left to play Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.

This day provided wins to three SEC teams, one Big 12 team and the aforementioned TCU Frogs.

With all the publicity about two divisions for the Big Ten next year, I can't imagine how losses like these could affect the conference in the coming years.

From start to finish, the teams in the Big Ten displayed why they were overrated at so many levels and I think the media needs to recognize this for days to come.

Sorry Big Ten and its members, 2011 has not started the way you wanted it to and not even a Buckeyes victory can save you this time.