Wednesday, October 1, 2008

An Oddysey: Recapping the Big Televen's Progress in Changing the National Perception

I can't say that it was a good run through the non-conference schedule for the Big Ten Conference, but to borrow the motto of my old boss, "It could be worse!"

Let's recap the steps I thought the 11 Big Ten teams needed to take to improve the image of the conference:
1) Win the games you should ABSOLUTELY Win.
2) Win the games you are supposed to Win.
3) Beat Notre Dame.
4) Win MOST of the BCS Buster games.
5) Be Competitive in the Marquis Matchups.
6) Represent in the bowls.

Step #6 can't be accomplished until after the season, but as the non-conference schedule pretty much finishes up, I see a lot of lost opportunities for the Big Ten.

Step #1: Win the game you should ABSOLUTELY Win. CHECK. No Appalachian State this year. No North Dakota State this year. Good job on this one.

Step #2: Win the games you are supposed to Win. Almost a CHECK. The only hiccup here was Indiana's loss to Ball State. However, it can be somewhat disregarded in this category as Ball State is a significantly improved team this year and is actually undefeated right now. So, I will consider this part of Step #4 the BCS Busters. Witht that, Step #2 is a CHECK.

Step #3: Beat Notre Dame...FAILED. Let's face it, Notre Dame still isn't a great football team. Clausen isn't fully matured, their two-deep depth chart is littered with freshman, and Charlie Weis is still fat and sucks. But they absolutely embarrassed Michigan and Purdue this year, and that speaks volumes about the Big Ten's depth and competitiveness this year. The worst part is that this isn't the biggest failure of the Big Ten this non-conference season.

Step #4: Win MOST of the BCS Busters games...3-2 record...CHECK. Well, 3-3 if you count the Ball State beatdown of Indiana. However, UW beat Fresno, Iowa beat Iowa State, and Penn State dominated Oregon State. Iowa was even competitive at Pitt, although it turns out Pitt is a terrible team this year again. Michigan was embarrassed by Utah, and let's just move on...this step was a relative highlight for the Big Ten.

Step #5: Be competitive in the Marquis Matchups...FAILED. Sure, MSU was competitive at Cal, and Purdue took Oregon to the wire in overtime. The problem with those two games is that both could've and probably should've been wins...especially the Purdue game. You can't blow a 20-3 lead and consider it a success. The other major this step was a failure was that the most recognizable team in the conference laid an egg in a primetime game...again. USC absolutely embarrassed OSU in the colisseum, and the whole country watched.

So, looking back on the non-conference slate, I've got to give the Big Ten a C+ for their progress. The good news is that they took care of business in the games they should have won, and they managed their BCS Buster games relatively well. The big thing that has held them back is the primetime games. As long as Notre Dame plays on NBC and beats the Big long as OSU keeps flopping on big long as Big Ten teams continue to lose non-conference games played at 8 EST on ABC...they won't gain too much ground in their oddsey back to respectability.

But in my old boss' words..."It could be worse!" The Big Ten could be the Big East or the ACC...that's just terrible football right there.

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