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Tuesday, March 17, 2009
What makes the entire Big Ten turn green?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

After examining what makes each Big Ten team turn green with envy, our St. Patrick's Day celebration turns to the entire league.

Competition between conferences has escalated in recent years, particularly among fans, and each league has something the other leagues covet.

Once the envy of all other conferences, the Big Ten finds itself on the other side after several subpar seasons. Despite boasting tradition-rich programs and an always-relevant brand name, the Big Ten has dropped six consecutive BCS bowls and five consecutive Rose Bowl matchups.

The prolonged struggles have made Big Ten Nation turn red with anger, and green with envy. Here are three reasons why.

The Big Ten envies the Big 12's quarterbacks: Arguably no factor has driven the Big Ten's downturn more than quarterback play, and the Big 12 boasts a surplus of talented signal-callers. Five of the nation's top 10 passers from last season came from the Big 12, including Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and Heisman finalist Colt McCoy of Texas. The Big 12 easily could have had another Heisman finalist in Texas Tech's Graham Harrell, and Missouri's Chase Daniel entered the season as a Heisman candidate. Seven Big 12 quarterbacks finished ahead of the Big Ten's top-rated passer, Penn State's Daryll Clark.

The Big Ten envies the SEC's recruiting base: Speed trumps size in today's college football, and there's much more of it to be found in the South and Southeast. Big Ten coaches are racking up more frequent-flier miles these days, but they're competing against SEC schools located much closer to the talent source. The speed argument at the skill positions is overblown, but it's hard not to notice the differences in line play between the Big Ten and the SEC. Speed and cold-weather football can mix, but it's a tougher sell for the Big Ten, especially given the two league's recent BCS bowl results.

The Big Ten envies the Pac-10's premier program and Rose Bowl proximity: If it wasn't for USC and the Rose Bowl, the Big Ten's national reputation would be a lot better these days. USC's rise has signaled bad news for the Big Ten, which has dropped eight consecutive games to the Trojans, including four Rose Bowls and an Orange Bowl. Many Big Ten fans now regard the Rose Bowl as a virtual road game and wonder how their teams can adjust their playing style after competing in poor weather in October and November. USC's success and proximity to the Rose Bowl feeds the argument that the Big Ten will always be at a major disadvantage in the postseason.