The Big Ten surprises everyone with depth in bowl play

As the bowl season is finally coming to an end some lingering questions were answered, while other questions came up after questionable performances.

First, the Big Ten did better than even the biggest of advocates would have expected. The conference went 7-1, with some close wins for teams and some other games that were just routs. The 7-1 was by far the best out of the power conferences. It sheds some light on a league that some feel was overlooked for the playoffs or hasn’t gotten much respect in recent years.

The Big Ten cemented itself as the best conference in college football, and I can’t remember the last time that was the case. On the other hand, nobody saw the Pac-12 being this weak, only going 1-7. Although, that may be misleading with 4 of those losses coming to the Big Ten. On a side note, the Sun Belt had four times as many wins as the Pac-12 by going 4-1. 

Go figure.

Despite the strong performance from the Big Ten, I still believe that the best four teams in the country were selected to the playoffs. Ohio State was the closest Big Ten team to making it, but title contenders don’t give up 50-plus points to Iowa.

I also generally ignore the idea of expanding the playoffs. I don’t hate it, but there is always a ‘first team out.’ There is also one team that screams and yells after being left out, and that doesn’t matter how many teams are included.

See March Madness.

But I’m going to disagree with myself right now. Having an eight or 16-team playoff would be a lot of fun. Central Florida showed that it did belong in a game that wasn’t as close as it seemed against Auburn on Monday, and the Knights finished as the only undefeated team in the country. Central Florida could have at least given any team in the country a run for their money.

The other one that left me wondering was the performance of Michigan State at the end of the season. Not that I would expect that team to make a run in a 16-team playoff, but with the way that the young team was improving down the stretch it would have been interesting to see just how much they could improve. The 10-3 season for the Spartans looks even better now after the big bowl win and the conference’s dominance, and the questions about Mark Dantonio are now something of the past.

MSU was one of the seven Big Ten teams to win. The only team that didn’t win a bowl was Michigan.

The Wolverines blew it.  There’s no other way to put that performance in the Outback Bowl. It was like watching a car crash on repeat for the entirety of the second half.

The same problems plagued Michigan that have all season on offense with the poor quarterback play, and an atypical performance by the secondary helped the team squander a big lead to South Carolina. Brandon Peters showed his youth again at quarterback, but at this point in the season one would have thought he would be further along in his progression.

With the loss the team dropped to 8-5, the fewest wins in Jim Harbaugh’s three seasons. The team finished fourth in the Big Ten East, and Harbaugh is 28-11 in his first three seasons in charge. Brady Hoke was a similar 26-13 in his first three seasons, and he lived his entire life on the hot seat.

I’m beginning to wonder if Michigan fans are getting nervous about the future of Harbaugh at the school. Could he end up being another Hoke? Or could he bolt next season after dealing with what should be a strong Big Ten East once again?

It’s tough to speculate, but this is starting to look like the same old story in Ann Arbor.

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Posted by Brian Fogg

Brian is the sports writer for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3110 or bfogg@pioneergroup.com.

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