After seeing Penn State get thoroughly demolished by USC in the Rose Bowl, I thought to myself, "Is USC this good, or is Penn State and the rest of the Big Ten really this bad?" After all, Ohio State established this trend by getting pulverized in back-to-back BCS Championship games by much more physical SEC squads in Florida and LSU.
The Big Ten has been getting a bad rap for its performances in the past couple of years, especially on the big stage.
Three traditional powerhouse programs and major TV markets will always make the Big Ten relevant in college football, but we're in the dark ages for the conference.
The conference hasn't won a Rose Bowl since 2000 and, like many around college football, can't find an answer for USC.
A lack of constant, equal-caliber opposition during the regular season sets up the Big Ten for failure during bowl season. The conference has not had a National Champion since Ohio State in 2002, and even that victory came under fire for the infamous pass interference call that many believe cost Miami back-to-back titles.
Consider just how bad things got in a hurry for Penn State today in the first half alone:
- Penn State had not allowed more than 24 total points in a game this season. USC had 31 in the first half.
- The Nittany Lions had allowed 24 first-half points combined in their last four games.
- Penn State allowed an average of 168 passing yards-per-game. Trojans QB Mark Sanchez had 276 in the first half.
- Penn State allowed an average of 263.9 yards-per-game. USC had 341 in the half.
USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, coaching his final game before leaving to be the head coach at Washington, devised the perfect game plan to expose the Penn State secondary, which was a weakness masked by a dominant defensive line.
Penn State generated minimal pressure on Sanchez, and the USC junior made all the throws against a secondary that reinforced the Big Ten's "slow" stereotype. Sanchez silenced his doubters while creating some for Tom Bradley and the Penn State defense.
USC is a different team inside the Rose Bowl. After all, they've won 24 of them. Clearly, they own a physical and psychological edge over most opponents they play against inside that stadium—with the exception of Texas.
Penn State will likely be the conference preseason favorite in 2009—a much deserved honor. But if respect is to be brought back to the Big Ten around the country, a better showing during bowl season is vital. Four double-digit losses are not going to cut it, regardless of what looked to be a daunting bowl schedule.
Ohio State could get the critics to back off with a Tostitos Fiesta Bowl win against Texas on Monday night, but Jim Delany's league has to do some soul searching after the season and another embarrassing postseason loss.