Friday, August 29, 2008

An Oddysey: The Big Ten's Climb Back To Respectability

Newsflash: The Big Ten is down. Way down. And in case you didn't know it, an SEC fan is always there to remind you.

As I wrote earlier this week, the Big Ten's demise started in the fall of 2006 when Ohio State and Michigan were overhyped by ESPN for an entire year. Think about long was the build up to "The Game of the Century" in 2006? Five weeks? Six weeks? ESPN built that game up for a long time in order to bump their ratings. And you know what, they should have. It was two good teams, and they had the rights to the game. The problem I have with it, is immediately after the game, when Michigan lost...ESPN kept hyping them. Because they put up a good game on the road, the voters kept them at #2. And the downfall of the Big Ten began.

Florida jumped Michigan in the polls. Florida destroyed Ohio State in the National Championship game. USC destroyed Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Those two teams from the "Game of the Century"...they got embarrassed. And so did their conference. All it took was a top 5 ranking for Michigan the following year, an historic upset by The Little Football Team That Could (App St.), a few more losses in games that should've been won...and there you have it. The Big Ten is down.

But fear not F&BT fans, the Big Ten is not down for the count. It is a long, steep climb back to respectability, but foundered by the hope of a season anew, the Big Ten can make the oddysey by following these few steps:

1) Win the Game You Should ABSOLUTELY Win. Big Ten teams play 9 FCS (1-AA) opponents this year. We all learned last year not to take those for granted, but on this climb up the BCS ladder of respectability...these are must wins. No more Appalachian State. No more North Dakota State. Win these games. Period.

2) Win the Game You Are Supposed To Win. Big Ten teams play some weak non-conference teams this year, and believe me...they are supposed to win these games. MAC teams included. Western Kentucky. Ball State. Central Michigan. FIU. Northern Illinois. Bowling Green. Florida Atlantic. Ohio. Syracuse. Duke. Temple. Miami Ohio. Toledo. Akron. Marshall. Eastern Michigan. Florida Atlantic. Louisiana-Lafayette. Western Michigan. Troy. All wins, and we're on the right pace.

3) Beat Notre Dame. Everyone hates Notre Dame anyways, and we all loved it when they sucked last year. Another sweep of the Domers doesn't necessarily help the Big Ten...but losses could hurt.

4) Win MOST of the BCS Buster Games. Wisconsin @ Fresno. Iowa @ Pitt. Iowa vs Iowa St. Michigan vs Utah. Penn St vs Oregon St. These are games versus "name" teams in college football that are either in, or close to, the Top 25. Solid BCS teams or WAC upset artists...taking three or four out of these 5 games is a solid foundation.

5) Be Competitive in the Marquis Matchups. OSU @ USC. Purdue vs. Oregon. Michigan State @ Cal. Illinois vs Missouri. These are the nationally televised games that the entire country will be watching. A split would be excellent, but a competitive game in all four is a must for the Big Ten.

6) Represent in the Bowls. This is where Big Ten fans need to drop their rivalry biases and cheer for their conference brethen. At no other point in the season will the nation be focusing on conference affiliation. The Big Ten needs some key bowl wins to capitalize on the momentum from their season-long climb up the respectability ladder.

If the Big Ten follows these six steps back to respectability, the season will be fun, exciting, and fulfilling. But SSSHHHHHH!!! Any chest-puffing, bragging, and big win crowing will decimate any respect the Big Ten earned throughout the season. And we all know what happened the last time our teams were too hyped...

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