The Long View — Big Ten Needed Ohio State Win Last Week
First a disclaimer: this column is in no way a display of any rooting interest.
The column would have been no different had Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Iowa or any other Big Ten team been sitting at #2 in the country last Saturday.
Saturday night as Michigan State finished a big win over Ohio State, social media among Penn State fans reveled in the Ohio State loss.
I know some believe Urban Meyer ran it up in a 63-14 win over Penn State this fall. To be fair, if you believe he ran up the score — he took his starters out in the third quarter — then you have to accept that Penn State did in 1994 when they defeated Ohio State by the score of 63-14.
I know both head coaches in last Saturday's game. I respect them both and am happy for Michigan State's Mark Dantonio. He has done a remarkable job in East Lansing.
Before the Big Ten expansion put a stop to the annual Penn State- Michigan State season-ending game, that match-up was taking on greater significance because of the Spartans' rise under Mark Dantonio. In four of the last six games one or both of those teams started had a shot at the Big Ten title. Three times the victor won the Big Ten Championship.
But for those elated by the Ohio State loss, you might want to look at the big picture for the Big Ten. Long term, all the Big Ten teams could've used Ohio State wins over Michigan State and Florida State to restore the conference to national relevance.
A BCS title for Ohio State (or any other Big Ten team), no matter how much fans of other teams may despise them, accelerates the conference's return to respectability. The league is often dismissed as a non-player in the national championship race.
Don't believe me? Why wasn't ANYONE, including Big Ten Conference officials, arguing that Michigan State should have a shot to play Florida State? Why is Michigan State's 12-1 record easily dismissed as opposed to the 12-1 record of Auburn? In 2008 why was 11-1 Penn State ranked behind one-loss teams like Florida, Texas, Alabama, USC and Texas Tech (a team that played TWO FCS teams that year)?
Because week after week an SEC conference win is valued more highly than a Big Ten conference win (i.e. a win over Ole Miss is greater than a win over Iowa).
Perceived inferiority of the home conference is the biggest drag on a team in the national polls. What is worse is the conference's seeming acceptance of the argument.
In 2008 after Penn State defeated Michigan State to win the Big Ten there were still two weeks of football left to play. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney was there to hand Penn State roses despite the remaining weeks of college football and the possible upsets. The league just accepted the argument that Penn State didn't belong ahead of other one-loss teams.
Three years earlier Penn State finished the regular season 10-1 and ranked #3 behind undefeated teams Texas and USC. If Penn State had finished 11-0 the Nittany Lions would have still been ranked #3 and out of the national title hunt.
It all comes down this fact; perception matters. Humans vote in polls and easily accept the widely-held narratives.
I realize this is the last of the BCS years before next year's playoff system. But remember this; biased conference perception will have greater relevance next year. Humans will have MORE influence.
If the playoff system simply relied on the current BCS formula this year it would've pitted #1 Florida State versus #4 Michigan State and #2 Auburn versus #3 Alabama in the national semifinals.
But to quote Gameday's Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend."
In 2014 a panel of human beings, who read media reports, some of whom have never coached or played the sport, will be make the final decisions. There will a lot of attempts to influence the jury.
Would Stanford's Condoleeza Rice have chosen Big Ten Champion Michigan State over Pac-12 Champion Stanford when everyone believes the Pac 12 to be a superior conference? Would she cite the recent Stanford win over Notre Dame, a team that defeated Michigan State?
Regardless of your Big Ten allegiance a Buckeye title this year would have been good for the conference -- even if it was a bitter pill to swallow. Next year or a few years hence if your favorite Big Ten team is left out of the playoff you may regret this lost opportunity. Perceptions last.
What's done is done. The best consolation for the Big Ten would be BCS Bowl wins by Michigan State and Ohio State as well as wins by Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska over SEC teams.
For the Big Ten, this bowl season could be as important as any in the history of the conference. Looking ahead to next year, both Ohio State and Michigan State could both be back in the hunt.
What happens this next month will be critical to their chances.