No matter how you frame it, the Big Ten’s recent bowl history has been abysmal.
In the BCS era (since 1998), Big Ten teams are 47-61 in bowl games, the worst mark for any of the power conferences.
The Big Ten is 0-2 this season, and it would be 0-4 counting losses by incoming members Rutgers and Maryland. The Gophers added to the league’s woes, losing to Syracuse, despite being a four-point favorite. One night later, Michigan got humiliated in a 31-14 loss to Kansas State.
Over the past three years, the Big Ten is 4-13 in January bowl games. And then there’s the Granddaddy of Them All. In the past 10 Rose Bowls, the Big Ten is 1-9, including three consecutive losses by Wisconsin.
No wonder the conference’s football reputation has taken a beating. The Big Ten is running out of chances to change its perception before the NCAA switches to the four-team College Football Playoff for next season. The selection committee, no doubt, will remember these bowl struggles, so the importance of Wednesday and Friday can’t be overstated.
“On one hand, I’m an analyst, and I’m objective,” said Kirk Herbstreit, the former Ohio State quarterback who will call the Rose Bowl for ESPN. “On the other hand, when I’m sitting in my hotel room, watching these bowl games, I’m cheering like crazy for the Big Ten. It’s gotten embarrassing how the Big Ten has performed.”
Herbstreit said he’s taken heat on Twitter for calling out the Big Ten. The ACC, for comparison, is 3-13 in its past 16 BCS games.
“What I think people fail to realize is the Big Ten for years, for decades always considered themselves the elite conference in college football,” Herbstreit said. “So you have to compare yourself, if you want to be the best conference, to the SEC, not the ACC and these other conferences.”
On Wednesday, the Big Ten gets three cracks at SEC teams, including Georgia and LSU, which both lost NFL-caliber quarterbacks (Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger) to season-ending knee injuries. The Pac-12 is sending a talent-laden, smash-mouth team to the Rose Bowl, in Stanford, and the Big Ten counters with its best facsimile, in Michigan State.
And Friday’s Orange Bowl offers a chance for Ohio State to live up to its preseason No. 2 ranking and subsequent hype against Clemson.