The Big Ten's woes in college football's biggest games are well-documented. All the teams, especially Ohio State, have been bashed by the media for being unable to win a BCS Championship or even defeat an SEC opponent.
With the addition of Nebraska and the split into two divisions, the Big Ten looks to change its identity. Fans of the Big Ten are hoping that 2011 is the season where their fortune turns for the better and they are able to capture their first BCS Championship since 2002.
Some may say that the Big Ten is one of the top three conferences in college football, and they are probably right. Those same people may also claim that the Big Ten doesn't need a championship to justify their position as one of the nation's best conferences.
The Big Ten has been the butt of many jokes in the media. Ranging from Ohio State's struggles against the SEC to Michigan's slump to Joe Paterno's age, the media has been ruthless.
Michigan and Ohio State are the keys to the Big Ten returning to a championship-contending conference.
Ohio State has been very close the past five years, but they need to take that last step, which will be very difficult considering Terrelle Pryor's suspension the first five games.
Michigan, on the other hand, needs to return to its 2006 form, when they started the season 11-0. They subsequently lost to Ohio State in the much hyped "No. 1 vs. No. 2" matchup, which was the beginning of the end for the Maize and Blue these past few seasons. With Brady Hoke now leading the Wolverines and with Heisman candidate Denard Robinson at quarterback, Michigan seems to be turning the corner.
If for no other reason, the Big Ten needs a BCS Championship to earn back the respect of the media. If their struggles continue, the media's critical attitude towards the Big Ten will only worsen, which could impact recruiting.
Whether it's Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska or even Indiana, the Big Ten needs a team to run the table in 2011, defeat an SEC school in the National Championship Game and give the Big Ten conference a title and some much-needed respect.