Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Can you feel the Big Ten love? But things aren't always rosy in this conference, especially on Jan. 1 in Pasadena (OK, bad joke).
Here are five things I don't like about the league.
Unbalanced schedule: I doubt I'll get much opposition on this one. It's hard to get a true gauge of a league when teams have two conference byes every season. With 11 teams and only one division, the Big Ten has the screwiest schedule in all of college football. There's really no way around it without adding a 12th team and splitting into two divisions. The latest genius proposal calls for 10 teams to play nine conference games and one team only eight. Huh?
The bowl-weather argument: I get that cold-weather football provides unique challenges in terms of scheme, strategy and even recruiting. But they're not going to move a BCS bowl game to Chicago, Detroit or Milwaukee. No one wants to visit those places in January. So when Big Ten teams don't perform in major bowl games, please stop whining about the weather. It's a futile argument used by those who struggle to accept reality. The Big Ten signed on to play in big-boy bowls and has done so more than any other conference. The players and coaches need to step up. End of story.
Playoff opposition: It's foolish to believe the Big Ten represents the sole resistance to a playoff system, but the league certainly plays a significant role. And the reality is the Big Ten doesn't need to budge on this. Despite increasing fan demand for a playoff and its own struggles on the national stage in recent years, the Big Ten remains an extremely powerful brand with an extremely powerful commissioner and an extremely loyal fan base that fills up extremely large stadiums. But sometimes it's important to look past the dollars and recognize what make sense for the good of the game.
Sissy scheduling: This doesn't apply to every Big Ten team, and it's certainly a problem in other BCS leagues (Big 12, SEC). And yes, I get the whole thing about the economy and the reluctance to give up revenue-generating home games, especially those played in mega stadiums. But it wouldn't take much to improve the league's nonconference scheduling. Why not play more teams from the Big East or ACC? Would it kill a Big Ten team to schedule a home-and-home against the SEC? Penn State steps up with Alabama in 2010-11, but don't get me started on the Lions' non-league slate for 2009.
The Land Grant Trophy: The funny thing is Penn State-Michigan State might soon replace Ohio State-Michigan as the premier game on the final Big Ten weekend. But the trophy the teams play for is downright lame. With all due respect to George Perles, I think some bowling league wants their trophy back. You could probably get something similar at a yard sale.