As a football entity, the Big Ten has been subjected to taunts, insults and generally treated like an ugly duckling in recent years.

And that's just from the league's own fans.

It's been open season on the conference, which has worn a bull's-eye the size of its geographic footprint for all of college football to aim criticism.

That narrative became their reality.

How's the view look now?

Granted, one week of euphoric highs probably won't alter perceptions and opinions completely, but a wave of positivity allowed the conference to replace its "Kick Me" sign with "Hey, Look at Us."

New Year's Day brought the opposite of a hangover for the Big Ten.

Ohio State shocked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to advance to the College Football Playoff championship game. Michigan State stormed back from a 20-point deficit in the fourth quarter to upset Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. Melvin Gordon ran circles around Auburn in the Outback Bowl as acting coach Barry Alvarez "danced" in the locker room and the Badgers handed the SEC another blow to the ego.

Oh, and some guy named Harbaugh parachuted into Ann Arbor last week.

Actually, Jim Harbaugh walked across water to get to his new job, judging by the reaction from giddy Michigan fans.

Life isn't so bad in the Big Ten all of a sudden.

"Narratives are based on facts," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany told reporters at the Superdome as the Buckeyes celebrated their stunning comeback against No. 1 seed Alabama. "But sometimes narratives overcome the facts. Winning games on big stages, it certainly reset that."

The narrative that has consumed the Big Ten feels like it's changing. Coach Urban Meyer has Ohio State on the doorstep of a national championship. Michigan State's only two losses came against the two teams left standing — Ohio State and Oregon.

Harbaugh's return to Michigan brings instant credibility to the school and entire conference. Coaching searches don't often end with a school landing its desired grand-slam choice. The Big Ten's two flagship programs did just that by hiring two A-listers in Meyer and Harbaugh.

Nebraska and Wisconsin hired new coaches this offseason that received national kudos. The Gophers took a step forward this season under Jerry Kill.

The Big Ten has some darn good coaches now, which will raise the conference's profile, recruiting efforts and overall level of play.

"There's a perception out here," Meyer said after the Sugar Bowl. "I'll tell you when I think the tide turned a little bit when Wisconsin beat Auburn. Everybody on our team knew that. I made sure they knew that.

"When Michigan State came back and beat an excellent Baylor team. Maybe the Big Ten's not that bad. Maybe the Big Ten is pretty damned good. And it's certainly getting better. … So there's no doubt that when we saw Wisconsin beat Auburn, that was a major, major moment for us getting ready for this game."

The conference's image took a beating during the SEC's reign of supremacy of national titles and recruiting successes. Then, the Pac-12 surged ahead of the Big Ten in the power structure.

Recent bowl seasons brought more misery and snickers. The Big Ten went 49-64 in bowl games in the BCS era (1998-2013), the worst of any Power Five conference.

The conference posted a 6-16 record in January bowl games the past three seasons.

All 10 of the Big Ten's bowl teams this season were underdogs in Vegas betting lines, prompting jokes about whether the conference would go 0-for-10.

Instead, the Big Ten went 5-5, including 3-1 in New Year's Day games. The Buckeyes can put a big cherry on top by winning the national championship next week.

"It was a great day for Big Ten football," Delany told reporters late New Year's Day. "We've been on a lot of the other side of these things. We've had to tip our hat to those that have beaten us. I tip our hat [to us] when we win the games."

Chip Scoggins