Big Ten woes? Blame USC

Monday, January 05, 2009

WHEW! Now that I'm more settled in down here in the great state of TAY-HAAS, I think I have time to once again begin contributing to the ATK community in a somewhat meaningful (I use the term VERY loosly) fashion! YAY!! Now for a sports thought.

Watching OSU play Texas and listening to the Big Ten get railed for its lack of recent bowl success, particularly in the BCS games, I can't help but think that, at least partially, the league is a victim of circumstance, as follows:


Joel 10:35 PM  

1. The Rose Bowl and Pete Carroll, a deadly combination: as we heard (over and over) during Penn State’s recent shellacking at the hands of USC, this current Trojan run is one of the most dominant in history. Sometimes they look like they could compete in the AFC West. Who bears the brunt of this Southern Cal machine? Well, the Pac-10 and whoever the mighty prophylactics play in the Rose Bowl. The only perplexing thing is how the Trojan juggernaut always manages to trip up somewhere in the conference and play their way OUT of the National Title game. If they wouldn’t swallow their jocks against UCLA, Stanford or Oregon State, respectively, they’d be in the National Championship game every year and the Big Ten Rose Bowl rep would be playing the likes of Oregon State or Cal. How do you like that matchup, Illinois and Michigan?

2. OSU can't handle the SEC: For whatever reason, the Bucks just can’t get it done against the SEC. Michigan doesn’t seem to have this problem, (see recent wins against Arkansas, Auburn, Alabama and two against Florida) and the rest of the Big Ten also holds its own. Couple this with USC’s annual inexcusable stumble and, instead of the Fuckeyes getting whipped by the Trojans in the championship game the last two years (and giving the Big Ten a legit shot at a Rose Bowl win against some Pac-Ten also ran, and therefore a BCS game split) the Big Ten ends up taking it on the chin in BOTH marquee games.

3. Two BCS games every year: The bowls keep putting two Big Ten Teams in the BCS every year, mostly because of the Rose Bowl tie-in. While a boon for the conference in terms of dollars, this substantially hurts the league’s chances of a winning bowl record due to lack of what I like to call “trickle down competition.” Imagine the Big Ten bowl record, just this year for instance, if instead of drawing Texas in the Fiesta Bowl, the Buckeyes landed in the Capital One Bowl to play Georgia, dropping Michigan State down to the Outback Bowl to destroy South Carolina, leaving Iowa to play Missouri in the Alamo Bowl and so on… . The Pac-10, Big East and ACC don’t have this “problem,” and consequently each representative seems to play an opponent more commiserate with their own talent level. If you drop each Big Ten team down a level, the matchups get decidedly better in favor of the Big Ten. Moreover, even if you let the Big Ten keep two BCS berths but didn’t make one of them a mandatory smashing at the hands of the unstoppable (but perpetual one-loss) Trojans, they’d still be somewhat better off. Other conferences that get two BCS teams don’t have to play U.S. friggin’ C, in L.A. no less, every year as one of their matchups.

Bottom line: I can’t help but think that if the Big 12 or ACC had been tied in to play USC in the Rose Bowl for the past four years and could manage to produce an undefeated team to get whomped by the SEC Champ every year, they’d be the ones with the crap bowl record and horrible BCS mark.

Hence, when you look at it, USC is to blame for everything. They’re stocked at every position and primed to KILL anyone that has to schlep out to the left coast in January and play them; but they can’t seem to show up every week during the season and thereby by-pass Pasadena (say that five times fast), giving the Big Ten a better Rose Bowl matchup. This year, for instance, if USC doesn’t stumble against the Ducks, they play Oklahoma in the Championship game, Penn State gets Oregon State (who they already destroyed) in the Rose, Texas plays Florida in the Fiesta, Ohio State drops out of the BCS and the Big Ten probably goes 5-2 and 1-0 in the BCS.

My theory; the Big Ten's "bowl problem" has less to do with talent and coaching and more to do with a conglomeration of circumstances.

Pete 11:08 PM  

All the more reason for a playoff then, right? :-P

Smitty 1:26 PM  

I really can't argue with that logic.

I smell a conspiracy. The BCS hates the Big 10, as do many people, for inexplicable reasons. The PAC-10 knows that the Trojans will slaughter a Big 10 teams every year, so they have some sort of deal whereby the Trojans "lose" a game they shouldn't, and...go back to the Rose Bowl. Pete Carroll gets some sort of concession. And the Big-10 loses again in some sort of twisted self-fulfillking prohpecy constructed by the PAC-10 and the SEC. They get to claim dominance over the Big-10 forever, and get the good recruits the Big-10 can't.

All because the Trojans agree to throw 1 game every season.

In return...the PAC and SEC get to overmatch the Big-10.

Prophecy fulfilled, even if it is bullshit.

steves 8:26 PM  

Excellent analysis. I can't find any fault, though it is depressing is some ways.

John R. 11:41 AM  

I agree that the circumstances are part of the Big Ten's bowl problem. Playing a road game at USC every January 1 would be a loss for most schools. Playing every SEC school in the South and never playing them near home doesn't help. Your point about teams being bumped up into higher bowls also hurts.

However, I will admit that the Big Ten has been down lately. Not as down as the people that yell "Big Ten Sux" think, but still down. According to Sagarin computer rankings (how geeky!) they've finished the last few years as either the fifth or sixth best conference in college football. That puts them pretty much last among the major conferences. I don't have where they ranked pre-bowls though, so it's possible they were ranked higher before those games.

My current theory for why the Big Ten is slipping is that the states themselves are losing in population relative to the rest of the country. Most of the top programs in the country are in states that are showing relative population growth. Most of the programs that have slipped recently (Notre Dame and Nebraska come to mind) aren't exactly in boomtowns. Football teams depend on quantity of athletes more than most sports. The bigger the recruiting area, the bigger the advantage. I have no idea if this makes sense but it's my theory.

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