A B1G Bowl Problem

By Chad Peltier on January 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm

The Big Ten is looking to change its automatic bowl tie-ins with the introduction of the playoff system in 2014. 

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It's clear that something needed to change – a 2-5 conference record simply should not be considered a successful bowl season. 

Critics will argue that the Big Ten simply cannot hope to compete in matchups with the SEC teams that the B1G is usually matched up with. ESPN's Big Ten blogger, Adam Rittenberg, argues:

... a .500 bowl record for the Big Ten equates to a .750 bowl record in most conferences when you factor in the game sites and the opponents. The Big Ten has won just one Rose Bowl since the 1999 season.

...and that one Rose Bowl win was by Ohio State. 

There is no way that this season's Purdue-Oklahoma State matchup was anything close to parity.

While the Buckeyes will look to be in the playoff picture each year of the Meyer tenure, increased flexibility for bowl matchups will certainly help the lower-tiered B1G teams. 

The problem isn't just that Big Ten teams are often overmatched – fans and players are tired of traveling to the same locations: 

Right now, the Big Ten's bowl lineup contains heavy doses of SEC, Big 12, Florida, Texas and Jan. 1. The selection order is fairly rigid. As a result, we've seen teams go to the same bowl in consecutive seasons (i.e. Nebraska at the Capital One in 2012 and 2013) or to the same state for a number of years.

Can you believe the Buckeyes went to Arizona four times, three of which were Fiesta Bowls, in five years? 

"I used the term bowl fatigue," Ohio State AD Gene Smith told ESPN.com. "When you go back to the same place multiple times … the novelty is lost."

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I'm sorry, but I find it hard to imagine Wisconsin fans are complaining too much about simply getting out of frigid Wisconsin to go to Florida in January of each year. 

Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips agrees: 

"It's been documented that repeat institutions and repeat bowls and repeat matchups is not a recipe for success. People want fresh and new and exciting matchups. Any way we can do that with those bowl tie-ins, I would be in complete favor of that."

Instead, I think fans and players are tired of just losing the same bowl matchups year in and year out. Don't get me wrong – I'm entirely in favor of increased flexibility and the potential for conference collaboration and "sharing" bowl spots:  

Delany has mentioned the possibility of collaborating with other leagues on bowl tie-ins, essentially sharing the spots depending on the year and the attractiveness of the matchup.

But I don't think it's simply "bowl fatigue" that is driving this change. Instead, the Big Ten is simply, and rightfully, tired of losing too much. 

Contrary to what you might read, Jim Delany is not a dumb man. He knows that the current Big Ten has fallen behind the SEC and maybe the Big 12 and Pac-12 as well. Increased flexibility for bowl matchups is just one piece of the puzzle for a renewed Big Ten, fitting in nicely with increased conference revenue, better head coaches, and more money for assistant coaches and recruiting coordinators. 

However, Delany might end up benefiting most from something he ultimately couldn't strategize – Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke. Even if (when) Urban defeats Hoke every single year that they both compete in the Big Ten, a strong Ohio State and Michigan are exactly what the Big Ten needs. 

Meyer and Hoke are already outclassing the rest of the Big Ten in recruiting. A dominant, Alabama-challenging Ohio State is exactly what Delany needs to renew the perception of the Big Ten. When Ohio State and Michigan are good, the rest of the Big Ten will benefit. 

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