Fault USC for the negative perception of the Big 10
The Big 10 has taken its share of knocks on the field and in the press. Over the last six seasons, the conference has developed a reputation for being slow, overrated, and lacking in talent. But these are merely assumptions, and far from truth, when you consider their overall record against BCS conferences and the number of selections in the NFL draft. But they still take a media clubbing, and continue to be the butt of jokes told by your average college football conversationalists.
Ohio State has been the league’s proud program, and two embarrassing losses in consecutive BCS championship games offered no assistance in shedding stereotypes. But as Pete Fiutak of College Football News points out, and I tend to agree, it isn’t the Buckeyes’ failures causing the swelling around the Big 10 eye. That blow to their image comes by way of another culprit, and it bears the letters U-S-C.
“The problem is that the league hasn’t come through on the biggest stages, with issue one being the constant waterboarding provided by a USC program that, when fully focused, is the best in America and would beat 110 other teams in the Rose Bowl by three touchdowns, would beat six of the top teams by double digits, and would be in a battle to the final gun with the other three, whichever they might be, and would probably win two of those games. You can’t dog an entire conference because it has trouble with USC.”—Pete Fiutak, CFN
USC kicking a Big 10 program up and down the field has become as much a New Year’s tradition as the countdown and ball drop in Time Square. These are the games played on the grandest of stages and before the largest viewing audience. Pete Carroll’s Trojans are 6-0 against the Big 10, with no competitive games between them, and five of the drubbings taking place in January. All the opponents were ranked, qualifiers for BCS bowl games, and only Illinois entered with more than two losses. The upper tier of the Big 10 conference was paddled on each occasion, and the public humiliation is longstanding.
Yes, the two national championship losses by Ohio State were memorable, but the Buckeyes also won a title in 2002. And even with the championship game miscues against Florida and LSU, the Big 10 still managed to go an even 11-11 since ’02 against SEC opponents, with power hitters Michigan, Iowa, and Penn State combining for a mark of 7-2. We don’t speak of these numbers when trashing the Big 10, because few will remember those games or know those figures.
People remember conference representation in BCS Bowl games. And unfortunately for the Big 10, they are tied into the Rose Bowl to face the Pac 10 champion. And for seven years and counting, that champion has been USC. In the two years that the Trojans qualified to play in the BCS championship game, Michigan was edged by Texas in the 2005 Rose Bowl, and Ohio State manhandled Notre Dame in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, giving a totally different look to a conference clobbered by the Trojans before and after the BCS championship break period.
To remove themselves from the negative light, the Big 10 must overcome Pete Carroll and USC. The Buckeyes will have another opportunity in September, hosting the conference’s nemesis for another prime time game. Face defeat once more, and that image grows even darker. Win that game, and watch how quickly the perception changes.