As the Big Ten enters the 2013/2014 Bowl Season, the conference gets another chance to counter the narrative: "the Big Ten is slow," "the Big Ten can't compete nationally," "the Big Ten is boring:" you get the point. Nationally, the Big Ten has suffered a negative perception: likely started by the poor performances by Ohio State in Glendale and New Orleans in 2006 and 2007. Whether it is fair for the conference to still be penalized by those games is debatable (I'd argue it isn't, but many seem to disagree), but irrelevant at this point.
Most would likely agree that the last good bowl season for the Big Ten was in 2009/2010: the conference went 4-3, and won both BCS bowl games (OSU won the Rose, Iowa won the Orange). Ever since, the conference has generally struggled, and given even more ammo to the "BIG TEN SLOW LOL" argument. This all leads to the question: what would be a good result this bowl season for the B1G?
There are a few different ways to look at this. Should the conference simply aim for a winning record? Four wins: doesn't matter how it happens? It definitely wouldn't be a bad result for the conference. But should the B1G hope more for BCS wins, regardless of the results of other games? Or maybe there is a healthy medium that the B1G should aim for?
Let's consider a few things:
1) Of all the Big Ten teams, Minnesota is likely the biggest favorite to win their bowl game: all other games could be argued to go either way, or have the Big Ten team as a clear underdog (prove me wrong, Nebraska (and Iowa?)!).
2) The BCS games are going to get more attention, no matter what. Is it really a good look for the conference to go 5-0 in non-BCS games, but hypothetically get destroyed in the Rose and Orange Bowls? On the other hand, how valuable are 2 BCS wins if the rest of the bowl games go poorly?
3) That being said, would it be equally a big deal to do well vs. the SEC on New Year's Day compared to doing well in the BCS games?
4) Is the "Big 2, Little
8 9 10" meme relevant? Despite Michigan being in a lower-tier bowl, how important is it for the Wolverines to win their game in terms of conference perception? Based on the same meme, is an Orange win bigger for the Big Ten than a Rose win due to OSU's brand name (I'd say no, but some would make the argument)?
Due to these factors (outside of the fourth one, really), I would argue that a successful season for the Big Ten is to get a winning record (4-3+) and at least split the BCS games. At least one BCS win would legitimize the top of the conference. But it is also important for conference depth to be respected: therefore, wins by the middle of the conference are a must. Losses by Minnesota and/or Michigan early would not provide much momentum into January, and would not help any arguments for conference depth heading into next season.
The final point would be the performance of the conference against the SEC, which is generally considered the best conference in the country (although interestingly, some media members have considered the Pac-12 the best this year: more Rose Bowl relevance?). While the games against the SEC are important, the overall bowl record and BCS should be considered more relevant. If the conference does fine elsewhere, getting 1 win out of the three games should be considered acceptable. Essentially: avoid getting swept.
What do you consider a good bowl season for the Big Ten?