There's only one way the Big Ten can change the narrative in a season that has brought little joy to the heartland. It all comes down to the bowl season.
No league needs a strong bowl performance more than the Big Ten, which has been the national punching bag since a horrendous performance in Week 2. My column assignment today explored whether the Big Ten or ACC is most in need of a strong postseason showing in the coming weeks.
The answer was pretty clear.
From today's column:
None of the Big Ten's seven bowl teams are favored to win. The league annually plays by far the nation's toughest bowl lineup, and this year's is no exception with three top 10 opponents -- No. 6 Stanford, No. 7 Georgia and No. 10 South Carolina -- on the slate, plus the standard smattering of high-powered Big 12 offenses (Oklahoma State, Texas Tech). The Big Ten hasn't had a winless postseason since 1977, when it played in just three bowls (Rose, Sugar, Hall of Fame), but few would be surprised if the league went oh-fer after a season like this one.
The Big Ten could quiet its critics, if only temporarily, with a Rose Bowl win and a 2-1 or 3-0 mark against the SEC. Remember, all Big Ten bowl victories qualify as upsets, so anything close to a .500 record would help the league put a bow on a miserable season.
The ACC could use a bowl bump, as well, but it's more important for the league to win some spotlight games. No league has performed worse in BCS bowls than the ACC, which is 2-13 after suffering two more setbacks last year -- Clemson's epic fail against West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, and Virginia Tech's overtime heartbreaker against Michigan in the Sugar Bowl.
The ACC appears to be catching a break with its BCS bowl matchup this season as Florida State heads south to play Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl. If the talent-stocked Seminoles can't beat a Huskies team many think has no business being in a BCS bowl, the ACC will once again bear the brunt. The sting of a loss would outweigh the gain of a win for Florida State and the ACC, but the Noles simply have to get this one. An FSU win coupled with a Clemson upset of LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl would be a nice way for the ACC to end a season that began with so much promise.
But make no mistake: the Big Ten needs a face-saving bowl performance more than any other league, if only to turn down the heat a bit.