|Northwestern is the only Big Ten team to have won a game in 2013. (US Presswire)|
As a conference the Big Ten has to be pretty happy to see 2012 in the rearview mirror. The 2012 season proved to be one of the weakest seasons in Big Ten football in recent years, and that includes a lot of down years as of late.
This bowl season, however, did not give anybody much reason to think 2013 or following years will be any brighter for the conference.
Overall the Big Ten went 2-5 in its seven bowl games this season, but only two of those games came before New Year's Day.
On Tuesday, with the entire world recovering from its champagne hangover, the Big Ten played five games and lost four of them. The only win came from a Northwestern team that won its first bowl game since 1949. A great story, sure, but Northwestern isn't exactly the program the Big Ten wants carrying the flag. Nor is Michigan State, which squeaked out a one-point win over TCU on Saturday.
Outside of Northwestern's win the Big Ten saw Purdue get blown out by Oklahoma State, Nebraska hang with Georgia for three quarters before fading, Wisconsin play 15 good minutes against Stanford -- and Michigan give up a last-second touchdown to a backup quarterback from South Carolina in the final seconds.
It says a lot that the most memorable moment for the Big Ten in any game involved South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney absolutely obliterating Michigan running back Vincent Smith.
Now, there are some disclaimers about the Big Ten's performance on Tuesday. The biggest one is that with two of the conference's best teams -- Ohio State and Penn State -- not being allowed to play in the postseason this year, the rest of the conference had to take a "step up" in the bowl pecking order this year.
Which is why a team as bad as Purdue was playing in a New Year's Day bowl game.
There's also the fact that aside from Purdue's 58-14 beat-down at the hands of Oklahoma State, the Big Ten's other four losses this bowl season came by a grand total of 20 points. Those losses included Nebraska hanging with a Georgia team that nearly qualified for the BCS Championship, Michigan giving up a last-second touchdown and Minnesota allowing 10 points to Texas Tech in the final 70 seconds of their game.
So, hey, if the Big Ten is looking for moral victories, there they are. You almost went 6-1 instead of going 2-5.
As we all know, though, moral victories shouldn't and don't matter. Sure, Big Ten teams had to play up due to the absence of Ohio State and Penn State, but that doesn't change the fact that the conference is 28-47 in bowl games the last 10 seasons. In the major bowl games on New Year's Day or later the Big Ten has gone 17-28 in that span.
The Big Ten has won the Rose Bowl, the game it has fought to keep at every step along the way to college football's new playoff system, only twice since the turn of the century. The Big 12 has won three Rose Bowls over the span.
Now, bowl games are not a complete indicator of a conference's strength. However, they play a huge role in the perception of a conference, and there is no sport in this country in which perception is nearly as important, if not more so, than actual performance.
And the perception of the Big Ten took another gut punch on Tuesday.
Though considering how long the Big Ten has been falling on its face in the postseason, you have to wonder if perception has finally become reality.
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