This is not a story about moral victories.
It's a story about honest to God triumphs, and we have the scalps to prove it. Of course, nothing about a 2-2 split on college football's greatest day screams coup; unless you consider that the B1G -- our beleaguered, freckled, red-headed stepchild of a conference -- wasn't supposed to win any games at all.
Don't believe me? Just look at the lines.
Nebraska + 8.5
Iowa + 8
Michigan State + 6.5
ESPN's Football Power Index, the statistical equivalent of the French Wine Classification of 1855, paints an even bleaker picture. The No. 5 Cardinal were expected to trounce the No. 30 Spartans by a jaw-dropping average of 14 points. No. 18 Georgia was supposed to send No. 56 Nebraska to Davy Jones' Locker. Same for No. 16 LSU versus No. 43 Iowa. To be fair, No. 12 Wisconsin was given a slight edge against No. 19 South Carolina and promptly did what any self-respecting B1G milquetoast should do: crap the bed on the national stage, to the delight of 'objective' pundits everywhere.
But what the numbers don't show, what the stats can't tell you, is that when push came to shove, our little engine that could of a league more than held its own against the vaunted SEC and Pac-12. The good guys snatched victory from the all-but-certain jaws of defeat twice on New Years Day, and took every single contest down to the wire.
Don't take my word for it. According to the worldwide leader, the Capital One Bowl wasn't over until Skai Moore intercepted a Wisconsin pass in the end zone with 3:14 remaining. The Outback Bowl was even closer. LSU's Jeremy Hill sealed the deal with three long runs -- including a 37-yard touchdown -- on the Tiger's final possession, allowing the Tigers to run three minutes off the clock and go up 21-7 with 2:02 to play.
If that's not competitive, I don't know what is.
But how could this be? How could a league that's so embarrassingly backwards, so indisputably inferior, so wholly unworthy of Top 20 rankings, so entirely undeserving of the right to play for a national title, give bigger, stronger, faster programs all that they could handle in their backyards?
Perhaps we just got lucky. Maybe we played up to the level of our competition, or they played down to us. But anyone who watched the Rose Bowl knows otherwise. Anyone that watched "The Granddaddy of Them All" knows that the B1G currently boasts at least one (and possibly two) legitimate Top 5 team(s). How many other conferences can say that? Yet, for the better part of the season, all we heard about was how a one-loss team from the Pac-12 or the Big Twelve would and should jump an undefeated Big Ten Champion to earn a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. How Ohio State -- winners of 24 straight -- would finish fifth in the SEC East!
I'm not saying the B1G doesn't deserve its fair share of criticism. The league has been resting on its laurels for far too long, and its failure (with the exception of Ohio State and Michigan) to keep up with the Joneses in recruiting and assistant coaching pay, despite having the resources to do so, has resulted in a oligotrophic environment north of the Mason-Dixon.
But to treat the conference like a second-class citizen, a pejorative also ran, is lazy at best and ignorant at worst. Today's performances prove that.
But don't take my word for it.
Ask David Shaw. Or ask Urban Meyer. He'll tell you that the league isn't that far behind.
And he should know.