Harrison: The Big Ten's Shot At Redemption

Posted Dec 3, 2012

Harrison Thought: The Big Ten's shot at redemption during bowl season

By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

It's the most wonderful time of the year. That statement rings true for almost all of us, and perhaps has a bit of a different ring to it for the Big Ten as bowl season approaches.

It would be old news to break the fact that the collective work of this year's Big Ten teams has been far from good. From the beat-down that Michigan took at the hands of Alabama, to the third-place team in the Leaders division winning it all in what amounted to a college football mulligan, the results on the field this year have gone about as smoothly as--well--the last few Big Ten seasons. To add insult to injury, the league's best team, Ohio State, won't even get a chance to prove its mettle because of the one-year time-out it's serving.

But perhaps not all is lost.

Instead of cringing at the thought of more intersectional matchups and epic-failures when stacking up to other leagues, Jim Delany and gang should look at what's on the front porch ringing the doorbell. It's a familiar friend. A friend that the league hasn't answered the door for in quite some time: Redemption is his name.

For starters, the Badgers' win in the Big Ten Championship Game--though an unexpected development--has a chance to be the ultimate salve for the wound of public perception. If a five-loss Wisconsin team can somehow find a way to go out to Pasadena and push around a Stanford team that might be playing better than anyone in the country right now, it'll certainly make heads turn.

In addition to the Rose Bowl, the Big Ten also has the usual matchups with a strong SEC. To state that the top of the SEC is good would be an understatement. That means wins in these games would be huge for the Big Ten.

For starters, Nebraska will be playing the Georgia Bulldogs in the Capital One Bowl. It'll be a chance for the 'Huskers to stick it to an opponent that just went toe-to-toe with an Alabama squad that is playing for all of the Oranges down in Miami.

Then the nation gets the spectacle of watching the Outback Bowl, where Michigan will go against South Carolina. The Gamecocks are beatable as a more one-dimensional team without running back Marcus Lattimore, and the Wolverines are playing with a lot of confidence. It would be another win against a top ten team if the Maize and Blue can pull it off. A win in either Florida locale on New Year's afternoon would make good headlines for the conference in an otherwise bad-headline type of year.

Aside from the contests at the top, the Big Ten also has teams like Purdue and Michigan State that underachieved and will get a shot to beat teams they have a fighter's chance against. The in-season disappointment could translate to a win or two in hand, thereby boosting the overall bowl record of the Big Ten. As we all know, the overall bowl record is often pointed to as evidence of a conference's birthright.

It's all good theory, but we're going to find out soon enough what story either gets continued or re-written for the sad-tale of the Big Ten this year. So strap ‘em on, ye Midwestern warriors. You are trying to play catch up to leagues like the SEC, Big 12, and Pac-12. They all have a head start, but you've got a chance to make up ground with a strong finishing kick.

If things don't go well, there's always the next decade to try and make it up.