So another crappy bowl season for the B1G is in the books. If you're counting, it's another 2-5 performance, and if you throw in the performance of soon to be conference members Rutgers and Maryland, it's a shit tastic 2-7.
Why do I root for this conference again? Sigh...let's get to it.
Michigan State: I think we can put two things to rest, permanently--conspiracy theories against Michigan State, and SPARTY NOOOOOOO!!!. Forever. Mark Dantonio has fashioned one of the best teams in America, and they are the class of the conference right now. Elite? Yeah, why the hell not. That 4th and one stop in the Rose Bowl had me up off my feet and cheering. Brady Hoke talks Manball; Michigan State lives it. To perfection.
Ohio State: I don't see how Urban Meyer doesn't shake up the defensive staff after this defensive debacle. Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd looked like they were running a glorified seven on seven drill against the Buckeyes secondary, and but for a couple of interceptions and stupid penalties, Clemson would have won this game by two or three scores. Braxton Miller would be an idiot if he went to the NFL, and if he returns, OSU will still be one of the pre-season favorites. But if both OC Tom Herman and DC Luke Fickell leave, and Miller bolts along with LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State suddenly has more questions than answers for 2014. Still, 24-2 is pretty good. It just sucks that the two were the Big Ten Championship game and the Orange Bowl. Because narrative.
Nebraska: The only other team to escape The Hunger Games with a bowl victory was Nebraska. They had a solid win over a somewhat depleted Georgia team, but they made plays when it counted and toppled a good SEC team. Bo Pelini survives for at least one more year, and he should have a team that will be on the short list to win the B1G West next year.
Minnesota: Every year Minnesota draws my ire and scorn, and this year, they waited until the bowl game. A great season was undone by a terrible performance against a bad Syracuse team in a bowl that the program and the conference really needed. Minnesota should have won that game by two scores, and there was no excuse for that performance. Still, Jerry Kill got a couple of signature wins, and the Gophers stock is on the rise. As long as either Philip Nelson or Mitch Leidner master this thing they call the forward pass.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes hung tough against LSU, and for awhile I thought they might pull off the upset. But in the end, this bowl game ended like most other B1G games--a close loss and a feeling of what could have been. Still, not a lot of folks thought Iowa was even a bowl team when the season started, and credit to Kirk Ferentz for turning things around in short order.
Wisconsin: Stop me if you've heard this before: Wisconsin underperformed in a bowl game. They were the more talented team than South Carolina, they had a running game that I thought USC would have a tough time handling, and they should have won this game. Only they didn't. Because of course. I still like Gary Andersen, and he will have the Badgers thick in the hunt for the West title next year.
Michigan: Michigan is their own worst enemy. Quit living in the past and insisting on this mythical 'Michigan Man' bullshit requirement for your program. It's one thing to respect and revere your traditions, it's another thing entirely to cling to them and insist that those traditions are what makes your team great today. It doesn't. You hired a good rah-rah coach that loves Michigan; great. He's not a good coach, and he has mediocre coordinators. It's killing your program and driving you towards irrelevancy, if you're not already there. I didn't expect a win against Kansas State; that would've been a tall order for Shane Morris. But I didn't expect the ass kicking I watched, and it was embarrassing. That's right, me, an Ohio State fan, was embarrassed for you, Michigan. Unfuck your shit, hooah.
Non bowl teams:
Penn State: This is the biggest hire in school history. Bill O'Brien was a stopgap, and I think deep down, everyone knew that. I expected O'Brien to stick around for at least one or two more years, though, and was surprised to see he left early. But like Michigan, Penn State has their own traditionalist crowd who wanted/still wants a 'Joe Paterno Guy' running the show. Like Michigan, Penn State needs to quit living in the past and get a guy that can bring back Penn State to prominence, not wrap the program in a blanket of nostalgia. Get James Franklin and don't look back.
Northwestern: 2014 should be a make or break season for Pat Fitzgerald. It won't, because he's a former player, and he's maintained a level of success that is tough to do. So he's safe to go 7-5, or 8-4, or even 6-6 for as long as he probably wants. But it's tough not to argue that maybe Fitz has reached his ceiling in Evanston, as his next signature conference win will be his first.
Indiana, Illinois, Purdue: Somehow, some way, quit sucking. If I could, I would replace Purdue in football with North Dakota State right now, and not look back. There is no excuse for a conference like this to have a team as shitty as that. Take your network money and improve facilities and pay coaching staffs. It's an arms race, and you three have been lapped. And you, Illinois, should be much better. You have pretty good recruiting grounds in your home state, yet the top guys consistently go elsewhere. It's embarrassing. At least Indiana is trying to get better. Find some guys to play defense, and then we'll talk, okay? Okay.
Maryland and Rutgers: Welcome to the shitshow. Based on your bowl performances, you'll fit right in. But at least you're rich now. So there's that, I suppose.
I'm pretty much done having any sort of expectations for this conference in bowl season. I'm sick of talking about 'well, we played higher ranked teams for a full four quarters' and sticking that on our chest like some kind of badge of honor. It's a loser's lament, and this conference needs a wake up call. Whether it's mandatory minimum spending on coaches and facilities with the BTN money, or something else, I don't know.
I do know I am sick and fucking tired of this conference getting their teeth kicked in every bowl season, and I want it to stop.