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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
It's hardly a revelation that the Big Ten has fallen off a bit in recent years, but just how far?
SI.com put together a comprehensive formula to see how the power balance has shifted among BCS conferences from the first five years of the BCS compared with the last five. The Conference Power Index included: "BCS bowl record, percentage of teams in the final AP poll, nonconference performance [as measured by the RPI formula used for basketball], record in other bowl games and NFL draft picks per teams."
The Big Ten led all conferences in the first five years (1998-2003) but slipped to fourth in the last five (2003-08), the biggest tumble of any league. Here's the Big Ten breakdown. Purdue coach Joe Tiller tells SI.com's Stewart Mandel that although these things are cyclical, high school football in the Midwest has declined a bit. As the chart shows, Big Ten continues to produce NFL draft picks at a high rate, but the recent bowl record, particularly in BCS games, really hurts.
As I've mentioned before, the biggest key for the Big Ten to change its sagging national perception might not be Ohio State winning a national title, but other teams closing the gap with the Buckeyes. More bowl wins from Michigan, a return to national prominence from Penn State, a BCS bowl appearance from Wisconsin and continued progress from Illinois and Michigan State would do more for the league than an Ohio State championship. It wouldn't hurt to have Iowa back in the BCS bowl mix, either.
My only issue with the formula is I have a really hard time buying the fact the ACC improved much when I look at the league's BCS bowl record. I know the Big Ten has struggled big time in BCS bowls lately, but 1-9 doesn't scream, "Respect us."