The Big Ten got 10 bowl bids this season, matching the most ever received by a conference in one season. Unfortunately, like the Big East last March Madness, more bids does not mean that the conference will thrive. While having the most bids is an impressive feat, there are four reasons why the conference ended up with the most embarrassing bowl season on record.
Bottom Half of the Conference
In a bowl era where 70 teams get to go bowling, a lot of undeserving teams get a chance to step on the field one last time. There are four teams that finished the season 6-6, and if it wasn't for the surplus of bowl games, three of them probably would not have gotten bids (Illinois, Purdue and Northwestern). Ohio State, with their legacy, would have gotten in, as they put fans in the seat.
With the lucky trio, each team has been inconsistent. Illinois started 6-0 and was the talk of the conference and then came crashing down, losing their last six and not even getting one of the conference automatic bids.
Purdue's signature wins this year came against fellow 6-6 teams, Ohio State and Illinois. Additionally, the Boilermakers lost to lowly Rice.
Northwestern can say that they at least beat Rice. The Wildcats signature win was a 28-25 upset of Nebraska. Unfortunately, we saw that this same team lost to Illinois and to a disappointing Army squad.
Big Ten Bowl Success
The Big Ten has struggled in bowl games, only having two seasons in the past 10 (2002 and 2009) where they have won over half of their games. Unfortunately for this elite conference, their lack of bowl success goes further back, with the Big Ten only having 11 seasons since 1974 where they were above .500 in the bowl games.
The lack of success is seen that the conference only has a 122-131-3 all-time record in bowl games, and that number is bolstered by the success that Nebraska and Penn State had arriving in the conference.
Interim Coaches in Bowl Games
In Spring Practice, Joe Paterno, Jim Tressel and Ron Zook were leading Penn State, Ohio State and Illinois, respectively. As the bowl games approach, the top jobs are filled by Tom Bradley, Luke Fickell and Vic Koenning, with the latter two already being replaced for next season. While each has done admirably with their roles, each has to think about what is next for them.
Bradley's status is up in the air at PSU, as nothing is on solid footing at this time. While Fickell has been retained by Urban Meyer, he is also in the mix for the Pitt opening. Fan favorite Koenning was offered a chance to stay on, but turned it down to explore options closer to family. So in each case, their own futures will be pressing, as each program looks to close out the 2011 season.
The matchups are probably the biggest reason why the conference will struggle this bowl season. A quick examination of the betting lines show that only three of the conference's teams are giving points (Illinois, Nebraska and Michigan), with none of them being over 1.5 points. Even with those that are favored, the matchups were not kind.
Best Hope to Win
- Allstate Sugar: Michigan vs. Virginia Tech
Slim Chances, But Still a Chance
- Kraft Fight Hunger: Illinois vs. UCLA
- Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl: Ohio State vs. Florida
- Capital One: Nebraska vs. South Carolina
Dare to Dream
- Little Caesars: Western Michigan vs. Purdue
- Meineke Car Care of Texas:Texas A&M vs. Northwestern
- Outback: Michigan State vs. Georgia
- Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Oregon
A Puncher's Chance
- TicketCity: Houston vs. Penn State
- Insight: Iowa vs. Oklahoma
If the Big Ten does fail, they will become the laughing stocks of the football world, as people will say the conference is all quantity with minimal quality for another year.