The Big Ten, is presently, in 2009, not an elite collegiate football conference.
For the most ardent of Big Ten enthusiasts, if I’ve officially empowered the enemy with my defeatist, self-fulfilling prophecies of doom and despair, I also apologize for nothing, but implore you to reserve judgement for at least approximately 90 more words before jumping to any further conclusions.
Today, seemingly more than any period in my admittedly comparatively short tenure in this world, American college football’s national landscape has far more embraced a narrow-minded, xenophobic, regionalist fervor. Whether the specific origins of chanting one’s conference’s name instead of (or to supplement) that of one’s school dates back to Alabama’s 1993 Sugar Bowl victory over favored Miami, an LSU College World Series past, or beyond truly makes no difference, as particularly within the college football landscape, you’d be hard pressed to find any remotely attentive follower of the sport who would be unwilling to give credit where credit’s due and recognize the SEC’s success at the pinnacle of the sport for much of the past decade, especially the last 5 years. Perhaps I’m being naive, but wouldn’t spending the better part of a half decade marked by virtually unrivaled success be more rewarding celebrating the achievements, hoping towards one’s own school’s continued (or for the less fortunate, hoping yours lies just ahead) high level of success than spending each year revisiting an in reality very much non-existent collective chip on one’s shoulder just to hold it over so-called doubters heads in the event fate plays out in “your” favor yet again? SEC football, particularly at the upper echelon of conference, is played near weekly at some of the most exciting, highest levels, and with a flare for the dramatic up there with the best across athletic competition you can muster. Can’t the joy of the actual contests be enough, rather than constantly looking over one’s shoulder, feeling a constant need to use a just completed game for the ages to defend one's brethren against what may or may not usurp the throne in the not too distant future? Instead, articles like this are far too oftenly interpreted as napalm in a deep wound, rather than just July watercooler boredom banter extrapolated to a national level for the sake of just that.
And if the Big 12 does indeed wind up being the consistently most exciting, strongest conference in the 2009 football season, how does that in anyway cause degradation of what the SEC team you hypothetically root for also accomplishes this same season? If Florida runs the gauntlet for the first time in their school’s mindbogglingly impressive leap to the echelon of college football during the course of the last 2 decades and brings home a 3rd national title in 4 years, but the Big XII goes 8-1 in bowl games, is that in anyway going to realistically matter in any tangible sense given what they've accomplished? As a Texas Tech fan, would you really thump your chest if Oklahoma wins the national crown in convincing fashion over a USC or an Alabama while the SEC or Pac-10 wins at an over 80% clip another time this decade? I’m not going to pretend I don’t enjoy watching football from all of the above conferences, but I’d be kidding myself if my enjoyment of the 09 season and beyond in anyway turned to usher in any kind of dramatic sea change or if the opposite is the case, and the logical conclusion to a relatively static, business as usual close to the 2000s wraps itself up.
Lest we forget our heart of the land in the form of the rest of what’s around in the Pacific 10, Big Ten, Big East, Atlantic Coast, Mountain West, Conference USA, Western Athletic, and Sun Belt conferences. As we continue to make broad, all encompassing assumptions from incredibly selective, statistically insignificant samples, the Pac-10 would likely be closer to the aforementioned two conferences in terms of relative quality, where as the others remain arrangeable per your discretion, biases, and any other arbitrary, short sighted, capricious forms of arrangement. But regardless of some sort of ordered system for wondering where the conferences stand with relation to one another, the bottom line is, regardless of some sort of national perception of what they bring to the table, the conference games that may or may not interest you on paper, have every bit as much potential to make your TiVo Do Not Erase list, pedantic game of the year lists as any of the others. Heaven forbid a national champion or multiple BCS bowl winners actually arises from any of these "second rate" citizens.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if your conference hasn’t won a Rose Bowl in a decade or if they even have a BCS tie-in at all: a football’s a football flying at 30,000 feet and there are some 1500 unplayed games without predetermine outcomes still to transpire. If Ohio State beats USC by 4 TDs this September and you’re still set in your ways that the Big Ten sucks, I’m willing to bet a single result, no matter how dramatic, is hardly going to change your world view. And how about if Rutgers takes down a 10-win LSU team in their own backyard in early 2010? I’m not really sure we’ll really be all that willing to concede the Big East was a sleeping giant waiting to take down a paper tiger at a moment’s notice. Can Danny Hope coach at all at the FCS level? Can Rich Rodriguez make the same leap he’s made at every other college he’s been at in the 2nd year? Will Jim Tressel ever go for 4th-and-inches inside his own 30 ever again? I’m fairly certain the only thing we know is that in this moment about an indeterminate future is we know nothing at all.