Big Ten's Fate In Hands Of Penn State, Ohio State

Robert SkorochockiContributor IDecember 30, 2008

The Big Ten isn’t off to a great start this bowl season.

The Wisconsin Badgers, who were ranked No. 11 in the pre-season, were smoked by Bobby Bowden’s Florida State Seminoles 42-13.

The Northwestern Wildcats lost to Missouri 30-23 in overtime last night in the Valero Alamo Bowl.  Even though the Big Ten came away a loser in this game, Missouri was a national title contender in September and Northwestern was un-ranked.  Northwestern gave the Big Ten a small moral victory with their performance.

The Big Ten can still walk away big winners this bowl season with the help of their two powerhouses, the Penn State Nittany Lions and Ohio State Buckeyes.

When Ohio State squared off against USC this past September, their school reputation as well as the Big Ten’s reputation was on the line.  After being blown out in consecutive national championships by SEC teams, the national perception was, and still is, that the Big Ten Conference is weak.

With Chris “Beanie” Wells sidelined due to injury, Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel decided to start true freshman Terrelle Pryor in place of senior Todd Boeckman. 

After Rey Maualuga picked off Boeckman, who replaced Pryor repeatedly, for a touchdown, the score was 21-3 USC at the half.

Add on two Mark Sanchez touchdown passes and you have a final of 35-3 in favor of USC.  For the third consecutive time, the Buckeyes were embarrassed in a nationally televised game against a team, according to their ranking; they were supposed to compete with.

The Michigan Wolverines, a usual Big Ten powerhouse, finished an atrocious 3-9 (2-6 Big Ten) this year.  It was their first non-bowl season in 34 years.  With Illinois and Wisconsin not meeting expectations, the Big Ten’s only two supreme teams are Ohio State and Penn State.

Michigan State had a solid year under Mark Dantonio, finishing 9-3 (6-2 Big Ten).  However, their two losses were big ones to Ohio State and Penn State.  Michigan State was embarrassed at home in East Lansing 45-7 at the hands of Pryor and the Buckeyes on Oct 18. 

With the Big Ten title still in reach, Michigan State didn’t even show up to Beaver Stadium on Nov. 22.  The Michigan State defense was another victim of the “Spread HD” offense of Penn State as the Spartans were downed 49-18. 

Michigan State will have a chance to redeem itself when they face-off against the Georgia Bulldogs, who were pre-ranked No.1 in both polls, in the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day.

As the BCS Bowls approach, starting with the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi between Penn State and USC, the Big Ten has one last shot to prove to the nation they are still a superb conference.

Hands down, the Big 12, or the Big 12 South for that matter, was the best conference in college football this season.  Some argue the SEC is the best conference in college football, but like the Big Ten, the SEC only has two teams playing in BCS Bowl games in Alabama and Florida.

The SEC had a down year, with disappointing seasons from Tennessee, Georgia and LSU.

With the Big 12 being first, the SEC being second, the Big Ten in my mind is still the third best conference in college football and could creep up on the SEC if Ohio State and Penn State can pull off upsets.

With the regular season over there was once again a handful of one-loss teams vying for a national title spot.  However, you didn’t hear much of an argument for Penn State, despite only losing to Walker Award winner Shonn Greene and the Iowa Hawkeyes on a last second field-goal, 24-23.

The national media proclaimed that Penn State’s schedule wasn’t nearly as hard as the Oklahoma’s, Florida’s and Texas’s out there, and they are right.

However, Penn State did impressively destroy an Oregon State team that not only defeated USC this year, but was one win away from a Rose Bowl berth.

In addition to that, you can’t blame Penn State for the Big Ten having a down year.

Most of the national media, whether they write it or not, believes Penn State has no shot to beat USC, and their reasoning for that assumption is because Penn State plays in the Big Ten, and they will repeat what Ohio State has done in the past three years.

You shouldn’t write off a team based on the conference they play in, especially when it’s a BCS conference.

If Ohio State can beat Texas, and Penn State can upset USC, the Big Ten will have gained most, if not all of its reputation that it has lost in the last three years.

Even if both teams can play to the same level as their opponent, I feel the Big Ten will come away a winner this bowl season.

If both teams are blown out, it’s going to be hard debating for a Big Ten team going to the BCS National Championship game anytime in the near future.

Many Penn State players say they are playing for their school and not their conference when they take on USC.  I find that hard to believe when it was the Big Ten Conference that kept Penn State’s name out of national title contention with just one loss.


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