Perception vs reality

painterlad's picture
November 15, 2013 at 9:18a
27 Comments

Ohio State doesn’t play anyone. Kentucky would win the Big Ten most years*. The Big Ten is slightly above the MAC and well below the ACC.
These are the new mantras of the sports media outlets. Many writers and/or voters are dropping Ohio State from the title game not based upon losing (they haven’t) but simply upon the perception of weakness. “Anyone,” they argue, “would win those games because their conference is so bad and their non-conference schedule is a joke.” In fact, one AP voter that has OSU at 8th and Clemson at 6th, claimed that Clemson getting killed by Florida St. at home was more impressive than Ohio State beating a ranked Wisconsin. “A quality loss to a quality opponent,” he claimed.
While it is true that Ohio State’s non-conference games were against weak teams, is the BIG really that bad? Should a historically strong conference be punished because the conference happens to be down right now?
To answer the first part, yes, the Big Ten is bad. Personally, I would put the top three BIG teams (OSU, MSU and UW) up against any other leagues’ top three. After that, however, there is a disgusting drop-off. Minnesota is an average team looking good in a bad league, Nebraska is pulling a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde every week and Michigan…well, let’s be generous and say the team up north isn’t meeting historical standards. Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois, Penn St., Purdue and Indiana are just gawd awful.
But what about the part of it hurting Ohio State’s ability to play for a national title? After all, OSU has dominated the bad teams like they should and has beaten the ranked teams. For the past two seasons OSU has beaten every team they have faced, whether they be the good, the bad or the ugly. No other team can claim that distinction. Last season, Alabama was beaten at home by a team with three losses. Yet they still played for (and won) the national title. The year before that, the Tide’s best win was an ugly loss at home in which they couldn’t score a single touchdown. Not only did Alabama not win their conference, they didn’t even win their division! Yet they still played for (and won) the national title.
I guess perception trumps results.
Most OSU fans would tell you that the greatest time frame in their storied history was the years 1968-1975. During that period, OSU went 73-11-1, with two national titles (only one AP title), while Michigan went 74-11-1. It was at this time that the Big Ten was known as the Big Two and Little Eight. Michigan and OSU utterly dominated the rest of the BIG. How bad was their domination? Let me throw some numbers at you.
In that eight year span, Ohio State was ranked in the top ten 7 times, with an average ranking of 3.6. Michigan was ranked in the top ten during that same period 7 times as well, with an average of 7.3. The rest of the Big Ten? Not so good.
From ‘68-‘75, a total of 51 BIG teams finished below .500, for an average of 6.3 a season. 6.3! More than half of the BIG didn’t win half their games! During that span, a grand total of 3 other BIG teams finished ranked in the AP top 20. To put that into perspective, the MAC finished with 6 teams. That. Is. Bad.
And yet neither Michigan nor Ohio State suffered from such lousy competition. No one looked at their schedules and voted them down due to poor schedules. Instead, they looked at the results of the games. They saw how both OSU and Michigan blasted teams they should blast. They saw rosters filled with top-shelf talents. They saw a legendary coach and a legend in the making roaming the sidelines. And at no point did people vote against them because of who they played.
So what has changed? Why is the BIG now the new Mountain West?
Some of it is due to lousy performance with historically great programs. Michigan has tanked since 2008, along with The Horror loss in ‘07. Penn St. has had the most revolting scandal in football history and may not be back for some time. Nebraska seems to think that pre-Bob Devaney football is the way to go. And Ohio State…well, back-to-back flops in the title game doesn’t help with the perception.
Personally I think that a lot of it is due to a certain sports network having a financial stake in promoting a certain southern conference. The perception is that the SEC hasn’t lost to a team from the Big Ten part of the nation since a team lead by Sherman ran an option play throughout the Deep South. The reality is that the BIG is 19-19 in bowl games against the SEC during the BCS era. Yet ESPN puts down the BIG and promotes the SEC because there is a ton of money to be had for television rights to highly ranked (and thus perceived as great) football teams duking it out in balmy October weather. (November is when the SEC takes a break from their NFL-like schedule and plays the giants of the sport like Chattanooga and North Texas Tech.)
Even though I think that at least three times in the last seven years an SEC team shouldn’t have even been in the title game, the fact is they have won seven in a row. That is reality. To change that reality, someone needs to knock them off. As an Ohio State fan I am disheartened that simple perception will most likely eliminate the Bucks from having the chance to do it this year.

*This denotes a common theme from SEC fans, not actual educated people.

Comments

buck-I.8's picture

I get your point, but source the motif that "Kentucky would win the B1G most years", because I haven't heard one pundit say that, let alone multiple. 

Buckataltitude's picture

When I lived in Lexington, that is all I heard. "Kentucky would win the B1G in football.....B1G sucks....tOSU is overrated......You guys are too slow.....We play in a tough conference that's why we dont win games....blah, blah, blah" 
 
It comes from SEC fans riding coattails of Bama, Florida (not so much this year), and LSU.

Maestro's picture

Again, an undefeated team from the Big XII is not one, but two spots below OSU in the rankings.  If the Bucks roll through the rest of their games and Wisky/MSU keep winning the perception will slowly shift more positive.

vacuuming sucks

painterlad's picture

Imagine if OSU was in just about any other conference right now. They would be second and in control of their own destiny. The fact is OSU was dropped because a) they didn't exactly kill their early competition and b) voters saw winning by only 20 points as a weakness due to whom they were playing. Few voters/pundits are looking at the results and instead are focusing on perception.
Also, Baylor started the season where? OSU started at 2 and only got back to three because Oregon lost.

To err is human. Really sucking requires having yellow stripes on your helmet.

WildBear Buckeye's picture

Imagine if OSU was in just about any other conference right now. They would be second and in control of their own destiny.

If Ohio State was in another conference right now, their schedule would have been completely different. What conference did you have in mind? Whom would Ohio State have already beaten or would still play in the regular season?
I still doubt it though, unless Ohio State was in the SEC and had already beaten multiple top 15 ranked teams (insert here how LSU/SCAR/Georgia/whatever other SEC team doesn't deserve to be ranked where they're ranked).

The fact is OSU was dropped because a) they didn't exactly kill their early competition and b) voters saw winning by only 20 points as a weakness due to whom they were playing.

It's not simply "winning by only 20 points". A 20-0 win over Buffalo would have been very different from a 40-20 win. It's the fact that OSU was repeatedly unable to prevent sustained scoring drives by inferior opponents until the last two games.

painterlad's picture

Not pundits, no, but SEC fans tell me that on a regular basis. I will correct that now.

To err is human. Really sucking requires having yellow stripes on your helmet.

cplunk's picture

I agree that ESPN has a stake in the SEC, but frankly the number one reason for the "B1G is bad" narrative is B1G teams getting slaughtered on New Year's Day. Look at the overall bowl record all you want, but it's losing four or five games on the biggest bowl game of the year that really matters. The number two reason is, unfortunately, our two championship losses. Number three is TSUN and Penn State recently getting railed by Bama in the opening weeks of the season.
nobody looks at anything other than the top teams, which leaves us:
1) our two championship game losses by wide margins
2) our second and thIrd most historical franchises (pre-Nebraska) being beaten easily by Bama early in several seasons
3) our top non-BCS games teams getting beat in bunches on New Year's day
4) Wisconsin representing us in the Rose Bowl and losing three times in a row
The B1G is not actually as bad as the perception, but frankly can you blame anyone for having the perception? 
 

Maestro's picture

Great post.  The truth does certainly hurt.

vacuuming sucks

cplunk's picture

Unfortunately. 
There is a way out for the future:
1) whatever b1g teams make BCS bowls (likely just us) have to win
2) B1G teams have to do well on New Year's day
3) The B1G has to win the big name early games next year:
us versus virginia tech
wisconsin vs lsu
michigan state vsOregon
michigan vs Notre dame
penn state vs ucf
nebraska vs Fresno state
Those are the B1G's name programs in big games early next year. Lose most or all and frankly I don't think we can count on the B1G champ making it into a four team playoff. Even if it is us.
 

Maestro's picture

Those big games, look OUCH for the B1G.  Certainly the fact that 2 of the better B1G teams weren't able to play in bowl games killed the bowl season last year, and the B1G plays an incredibly difficult slate of bowl games year-in and year-out but the trend has been NEGATIVE for a long time now.  Like you stated the B1G has to put up or shut up at this point.

vacuuming sucks

cplunk's picture

I'm worried about those big games. Next years playoff hopes could be over by week 3. I hate being reliant upon the other B1G teams to carry their weight.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

We could make very similar looking lists of failures for the ACC and B12. When that was pointed out to Herbie, he tweeted that he expected more from the Big Ten than to be (+/-) on par with other non-SEC major conferences. I do, too, but we also need to keep things in perspective. The Big Ten might actually be better than both the ACC and B12 this year and neither FSU nor Baylor play decent non-conference schedules.

Maestro's picture

Very true Fido, which likely has affected Baylor to this point.  
FSU has had bigger WOW moments against Clemson and Miami (even though they suck).  OSU's WOW moments came against Cal (who REALLY sucks).  The Bucks had a national audience against NW and trailed most of the game.  Miller turned the ball over a few times and the Bucks escaped with a nice win that looks less and less impressive each week.  
Unfortunately there are 3 undefeated teams that matter at this point.  Let's just stay in that small group and good things will happen.

vacuuming sucks

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Maestro, you make several good points and FSU has undoubtedly been impressive.
Let's assume an in-depth comparison between Ohio State and FSU, which involves watching the games closely, handicapping the two teams' respective strengths and weaknesses, in-depth data analysis, looking closely at respective opponents, etc. I'd have no issue with someone doing that and then concluding that FSU should be ranked ahead of Ohio State.
My issue, though, is that if we had 100 hypothetical experts engaged in that level of analysis, we might expect 70 or 80 of them to rule in favor of FSU - not 98 or 99 out of 100, which is essentially what we're seeing. That suggests to me that there is more at play than pure "objective" analysis. 
Not only that, but for a few weeks there it was almost considered absurd, beyond the pale, to make the case for Ohio State.
The narrative is beginning to shift a bit lately and we'll have to see how the rest of the season plays out.

Maestro's picture

No doubt it makes my blood boil to hear the vast majority of talking heads speak about OSU as if they are second class, but I have been around this game long enough to know that perception is reality.  Perception is about as deep as most people are willing to go.  
What benefit is there for the talking heads to speak up in favor of OSU?  I can't think of any besides being adored by us, the OSU fanbase.  I am choosing to try my hardest to watch the season play out and pray/hope that the Bucks WIPE THE FIELD with all of their remaining opponents.  Chips will fall where they will fall after that.
I have been fighting the battle against the national perception for years in the best way that I can.  Through talking to anyone and everyone who is willing to listen and by spending WAY TOO MUCH time touting the Bucks on-line (time well spent IMHO).  Perhaps I am tired or perhaps I have decided that no matter how many solid posts I make or how loud I scream the perception isn't going to change until the Buckeyes win that crystal trophy.
Glad to have a great place like 11W to let me know that I am not alone.  Keep fighting the good fight everyone. 

vacuuming sucks

WildBear Buckeye's picture

Not only that, but for a few weeks there it was almost considered absurd, beyond the pale, to make the case for Ohio State.

I'm not sure where this exact sentiment was expressed, but if you're talking about Sept. 28 - Oct. 19 or so, it's not hard to see why. Oregon was giving up some points (24 to Washington, 38 to Wazzu), but generally blowing teams out by 20+ and never trailing. FSU gave up 34 to BC, but was never really threatened. After that they nuked Maryland and Clemson. In the mean time, OSU trailed at the half against both NU and Iowa and went into a shell at the end of the Wisconsin game to make it close, while giving up huge receiving yards. And the NU game was effectively 33-30 - OSU just barely escaped. Most importantly, OSU's defense looked badly exposed. So yeah, not surprising that people thought OSU was substantially behind Oregon and FSU, not to mention Bama. Was that unreasonable? Most of us thought so too - just look at the threads from back then.

painterlad's picture

I'm not saying that the perception hasn't been mostly earned. I am saying that when the BIG was really, really bad from 68-75 it didn't hurt Michigan or Ohio State because back then results were more important than perception. That is the point of this blog.

To err is human. Really sucking requires having yellow stripes on your helmet.

cplunk's picture

Fair enough, and true.
Very different era. It was still perception, but it was perception of individual teams. The BCS turned it into perception of conferences instead of teams. 
It'll be interesting to see if playoffs shift it back or if conference perception remains the primary driver of the national narrative.

d5k's picture

It wasn't the BCS really.  It was Urban politicking his way into the game successfully then demolishing us followed by 3 other SEC teams winning titles in their streak.  The "SEC speed" mantra was quieter before the '07 national title game.  USC and Texas falling off didn't help as this streak is what is really causing the conference affiliation reputation impacts.

Hovenaut's picture

Nice post, PainterLad.

College football is cyclical.....the B1G will find their way back one day.

Let the SEC enjoy their recent success, while it lasts.

I am not very smart, but I recognize that I am not very smart.

WildBear Buckeye's picture

I don't buy that the B1G finding their way back is even necessary for OSU to be perceived as dominant. The Pac-10 wasn't particularly great when USC dominated. OSU just needs to make the most of their big stage opportunities. 3-4 games are plenty to change perception for years. I would argue that beating USC in 2008 and 2009 would have mitigated the damage from NCGs in 2006 and 2007. But getting blown out and then losing at home when USC had a freshman QB sealed the deal (and frankly, rightfully so). And even with that, had OSU looked all this year the way they looked against last two games, they'd be ranked #2, pushing for #1. Do you remember the talk over the summer. People WANTED to see OSU dominate in Urban's second season.

Dirty419Boy's picture

That 19-19 record versus the SEC you refer to is all games I believe, not just bowls.

painterlad's picture

Nope, just bowls. Michigan alone has beaten SEC teams 20 times.

To err is human. Really sucking requires having yellow stripes on your helmet.

BuckeyeGroove's picture

I personally think that a lot of it is mental, I think that these teams in the B1G feel like they lost before they even take the field sometimes. I also think if the Buckeyes do their thing and destroy an SEC team in particular, you will see the tide, (no pun intended) start to turn. 

RedsBuckeyeBoy's picture

It blows my mind that Stanford is so close to us in the BCS standings. I never thought I'd see the day when an undefeated big ten team (going back to the end of the 2011 season no less!) would have a 1 loss PAC(10, 12, whatever) team breathing down its neck.
I have a bad feeling that letting Illinois hang around so long before eventually winning by 25 is going to be viewed as worse than losing to a terrible Utah team. 

Poison nuts's picture

Great post Painterlad, I think there's real validity to what you say, as well as some validity to some of the commentors see things a little differently. The truth in my eyes, is that there is a combination of varying degrees of bias in much of what I've heard in the media along with the fact that this is genuinely a down year in the B1G. I just don't think the conference is quite as bad as it has been portrayed. 

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

popeurban's picture

Until the B1G schools start shelling out the money to hire big name head and assistant coaches, who can recruit big name talent, there will be the gap we see today.  As a lifelong Buckeye and B1G fan, this is the worst I have ever seen the conference.  JMO, but true to me nonetheless. 
 
AS much as I don't like Brian Griese, he made a good point yesterday about how pathetic Tim Beckman has been at Illinois.  He "might" be able to coach, but he and his staff sure as heck can't recruit.