If you thought the perception of the Big Ten was already at an all-time low, well, then you’re probably one of those people that trusts the steak at Golden Corral—sometimes optimism can go a little unwarranted, and you might find yourself spending the next few nights praying to the Porcelain God.
According to VegasInsider.com, the Big Ten is an underdog in all 10 bowl games this postseason, and is expected to enter 2015 reaching all sorts of new mediocrity levels (along with another prolonged slew of “B1G” hashtag jokes).
“Over the past few years, the Big Ten has taken a pretty significant hit in the perception department, largely due to its performances in bowl games,” wrote J.P. Scott of FanSided.com. “To finish off 2013, the conference went 2-5 in the postseason. The year before that? Exactly the same. In 2011, the old conference limped to 4-6.
“Given that recent track record, you’ll have to forgive fans around the rest of the country when they collectively roll their eyes and giggle when they see their team paired up with a Big Ten squad in a bowl game,” he continued. “Nowadays in college football—a sport where 12 people deliberate over who gets to play for a national title—perception is literally reality. The reality is that the Big Ten has developed a pattern of struggling against other conferences.”
Here are the lines:
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Illinois (+6) vs. Louisiana Tech
Quick Lane Bowl: Rutgers (+3) vs. North Carolina
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Penn State (+2.5) vs. Boston College
National University Holiday Bowl: Nebraska (+6.5) vs. USC
Foster Farms Bowl: Maryland (+14) vs. Stanford
Outback Bowl: Wisconsin (+6) vs. Auburn
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: Michigan State (+3) vs. Baylor
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl: Minnesota (+5.5) vs. Missouri
AllState Sugar Bowl: Ohio State (+10) vs. Alabama
TaxSlayer Bowl: Iowa (+3.5) vs. Tennessee
Although fans of the conference have a right to brace for the worst, it won’t be to the magnitude in which most might assume. Over the last eight years, Vegas has a 174-96 (.644) record in straight up picks, and has correctly predicted just 35.6 percent of all Big Ten games.
In fact, only once (2009-10) did the bookies finish with a winning record with the Big Ten, going 17-35 in all other years. If we go by these numbers, we could expect the highly criticized conference to win six games this postseason.
Wouldn’t that be something?
But let’s take a step back and play along with the fantasy that Vegas will be 100 percent accurate and it’s doomsday for the Big Ten. ESPN currently ranks it the No. 4 conference in its latest Conference Power Rankings, with the Big 12 (you figure that one out), SEC, and Pac-12 as the No. 1, 2, and 3, and the ACC rounding out the Power Five.
If the Big Ten lives up to its current billing and closes with a zero- to- three-win bowl record, it would understandably drop down as the lowest-ranked Power Five conference heading into 2015, leading to immense repercussions moving forward.
The Pac-12 and SEC are projected to go a combined 16-2 this bowl season—not including the national championship game—while the Big 12 and ACC stand at a modest 6-8. Not only would this destroy the Big Ten’s credibility (which is minuscule as it is), but it would have a short-term effect on its College Football Playoff contention next season.
For example, if Ohio State were to have a similar year to the one it has put together in 2014—12 wins with an unexpected loss—and the competition is close like it was leading into the selection committee’s final decision, then there’s reason to believe the Buckeyes—like today’s TCU or Baylor—would be left out for lack of resume. (Or any other Big Ten team that has a case, for that matter.)
I shudder at the thought of life after an 0-10 postseason, as it would be detrimental to a league that has worked beyond measure to overcome some major image adversity over the last few years.
It’s a good thing Vegas isn’t always right.