COMMENTARY: Whoever won football’s national collegiate championship, Monday, rest assured it was not a Big Ten team (It was the ACC's Clemson over the SEC's Alabama, 35-31).
Whoever won football’s national collegiate championship, Monday, rest assured it was not a Big Ten team (It was the ACC's Clemson over the SEC's Alabama, 35-31). If you were like me, you watched the 40 televised bowl games of 41 that were played. In many cases, you may have been sorry you had.
Unfortunately, the team I missed watching, and much to my disappointment not seeing them in any of the bowl games, was Notre Dame’s. They received no bowl invitations. Quite frankly, with their terrible, below average, won/lost record, they deserved none.
I never thought I’d live to write that about my favorite college football team. Nevertheless, I am confident in assuming they would’ve rejected any bowl bids if any had been offered, and justifiably so.
However, both the biggest surprise, and disappointment, was the won/lost bowl record of the Big Ten Conference teams from both its East and West Divisions that did play in this year’s games.
Ten of its 14 teams kicked off in bowl games. Only three, Wisconsin with a 10-3 record, Minnesota with an 8-4 mark and Northwestern with a so-so 6-6 record, left victorious.
Eighth ranked Wisconsin defeated 12th ranked Western Michigan, 24-16. Western Michigan had entered the game sporting an undefeated 13-0 season. Minnesota beat highly favored Washington State, also with an 8-4 mark, 17-12. And unranked Northwestern topped 22nd ranked and highly favored Pittsburgh, 31-24.
Seven of those ten teams were losers. Two non-ranked Big Ten teams, Indiana and Maryland, perhaps should not have been invited to any bowl game. With identical 6-6 records, they lost to Utah and Boston College, respectively.
The Big Ten’s Nebraska, ranked 24th with a 9-3 record, lost to unranked Tennessee. No. 21 Iowa had an 8-4 record but still was annihilated 30-3 by Florida.
Two other Big Ten teams, sixth ranked Michigan, often referred to as ‘that team up north,’ lost a heartbreaker, 33-32, to 10th ranked Florida State and the fifth ranked Nittany Lions of Penn State brandishing a splendid 10-2 mark, which included defeating Ohio State earlier, also lost a nail biter to ninth ranked Southern Cal, 52-49.
But the biggest disappointment of all was the Fiesta Bowl. Earlier in the afternoon, top ranked, undefeated and heavily favored Alabama made mincemeat out of fourth ranked Washington in the Peach Bowl, 24-7. Knowing who they’d have to play for the national championship, the third ranked Buckeyes of Ohio State, who were favored with an 11-1 record over the second ranked Tigers of Clemson, just needed to win. A one point win would put them in another championship game.
Instead, they turned the game into the Snooze Bowl, losing with an embarrassing score of 31-0. Ouch! That’s right, nothing, as in nil, zero, naught, zip, zilch. They couldn’t even score a three point field goal. Not one of the other 81 bowl teams had been blanked.
What in the name of a good tailgate party has happened to the Big Ten. Once it consisted of powerhouse teams that most feared. To play Big Ten teams back then, generally required more effort than what other conference games took. But that was then. This is now. And unless these teams start to amend their snoozing ways, this could very well continue.
Unless they’re playing Notre Dame, I root for the Buckeyes. But I do expect Fighting Irish fans to be shaking a bit more thunder down from the heavens this year. If the Scarlet and Grey had renewed their rivalry with the Blue and Gold, perhaps they’d be able to take a positive step toward another championship (the school's are next scheduled to play in the 2022 and 2023 seasons).
On the other hand, if the performances of the Buckeyes and other teams were any indication of ability, the Fighting Irish could use Big Ten teams as stepping stones toward their ultimate goal.
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