On the morning of Sunday, September 7th, I woke up to the papers talking about the Big Ten Demise. The conference had a chance to make a statement early in the year in marquis matchups. Much as the case has been for the past 10 years, they failed in the spotlight games.
Wisconsin choked away a lead and the game in the opening week against LSU. And on September 6th in week 2, Michigan State stumbled at Oregon, Michigan was embarrassed at Notre Dame, Nebraska needed a miracle to survive McNeese St, and the Buckeyes were taken down in the horseshoe by Virginia Tech.
The obituaries were being written. And after week 2, there was already talk of the Big Ten being on the outside looking in of the first 4 team playoff.
Every conference has been measured against the SEC. The SEC looked dominant as the year progressed. Each week they had their handful of teams in the top 25 and at one point had 3 teams from the SEC West in the top 5. A writer on this blog was calling for 2 teams from the SEC in the playoff and comparing the SEC West to the NFC West.
As the season played out the SEC West was represented by Alabama in the playoff and Ohio State was the controversial choice as the 4th team.
Fast forward to the morning of Friday, January 2nd, and the feel is quite different. In the past week the Big Ten has seen Penn State win a bowl game, Michigan hire Jim Harbaugh, Wisconsin beat Auburn in the Outback Bowl, and Michigan State rallied to beat Baylor. Most importantly Ohio State stepped up and beat Alabama.
On the other side of the ledger, the SEC West has struggled. Ole Miss who took down Alabama earlier this year was throttled by TCU. LSU was beat by Notre Dame. Georgia Tech and the triple option beat Mississippi State. And as mentioned above Auburn and Alabama were beaten by Big Ten teams.
We all understand that the sport goes in cycles. The SEC still has the athletes and will get recruits. But take a step back and look at the defenses which used to the be the staple of the SEC. They were run all over the field. No longer can you trot mmassive guys out and overpower teams like Alabama used to. College has become more and more spread it out, take advantage of matchups, and run a ton of plays. Many in the SEC have struggled to adjust. However we cant dismiss the past decade of dominance.
Because of 1 week, this does not mean the Big Ten is suddenly better than the SEC. But the perception is certainly going to change. The Big Ten has been in a dark place for 10 years but after the past week, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.