Hey Phil: After your insistence that Ohio State has embarrassed the Big 10 and hurt the conference's credibility, I had hoped you would give credit where credit is due. But alas, no mention of OSU's big Sugar Bowl win over a SEC team. While both Michigan and Michigan State got spanked and Wisconsin lost to a non-AQ conference team, the Buckeyes took to the national stage last Tuesday night and rid itself of the SEC monkey on its back. Hopefully, you'll make SOME mention of the Buckeye victory and how OSU saved some serious Big 10 face. By the way, you were 2-6 picking the Big 10 bowls (yes, I was paying attention!)
-- Al H.
It ain't easy to have a worse bowl season than the Big Ten, who have put up a losing record in five of the last six years, but somehow I managed, and my email, like that one, reflected it. Hope nobody was putting any money on my, ahem, expertise. My pick of Michigan State to upset Alabama looks particularly intuitive, doesn't it? Only missed it by six touchdowns.
As for that Sugar Bowl: The Buckeyes did indeed have an impressive night in New Orleans, especially since Arkansas played well, too. Ohio State finished fifth in the AP rankings, and it's well-deserved. In a season in which the so-called national championship may have been decided by the half-inch gap between Michael Dyer's knee and the turf, Ohio State can make a pretty good case that its distance from a title wasn't much farther. (Though not as good as TCU's case -- the "non-AQ conference team" reference in that email is pretty disingenuous because in my admittedly 2-6 judgement, the Horned Frogs would have beaten either team in Monday's game.)
I wish I could say that that victory helped the conference's credibility, or "saved some serious Big 10 face," though I'm not sure that was true. The Buckeyes are an elite team, true, but wasn't it hard to watch that game and not be bothered every time one of the Ohio State Five -- who admitted to breaking the rules about selling jerseys and trophies -- made a big play (and there were plenty of them)?
No matter how you feel about the seriousness of the violations, the fact that the Buckeyes found a technicality to put off the suspensions until next season cast a shadow over the victory. A school's image depends on more than just bowl wins, and I've heard (and read) a lot of skepticism, disgust and ridicule about how the Big Ten handled that case. It'll get worse if the players don't return next year and serve their suspensions, as they pledged to coach Jim Tressel.