Wednesday, November 30, 2011
How relevant is this year's B1G title game?
By Adam Rittenberg
The event features the Big Ten's top two teams meeting on a historic night with a Rose Bowl berth at stake.
The inaugural Big Ten championship game, played Saturday night at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium, has no shortage of story lines and intrigue. There are national award candidates like Wisconsin RB Montee Ball, two excellent senior quarterbacks in Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson and two of the Big Ten's rising coaching in Bret Bielema and Mark Dantonio.
But one thing is missing: national title implications.
The Big Ten championship game has no bearing on which two teams meet for the crystal football Jan. 9 in New Orleans.
How much does this matter? Should Big Ten fans care?
"It's a different game," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. "When it has a national championship implication, it tends to draw more interest. I don't think there's any doubt about that. ... I don't think it would be real accurate or real smart to say the game wouldn’t have more involved if one of the teams or both of the teams were looking at a championship opportunity.
"Having said that, I would say playing in the Rose Bowl has been and continues to be on everybody’s checklist, every player recruited here, every player who coaches here and every fan of the school."
Fan turnout for the title game became a hot topic Wednesday, mainly because of a Craig's List post requesting "seat-fillers" who would be paid for a major event in downtown Indianapolis. The Big Ten denied having anything to do with the posting.
Michigan State quickly sold its allotment of 15,450 tickets for the game, but Wisconsin hadn't sold its allotment as of Tuesday. Single tickets for the game are available on Stubhub.com for as low as $7.99. The Big Ten on Monday announced that approximately 2,000 tickets were being made available to the public, priced from $80-$175.
The Indianapolis Star reports Wednesday that the secondary ticket market is soft for the game.
"Michigan State sold their allotment in a day and a half," Delany told ESPN.com on Tuesday morning. "We haven't heard back from Wisconsin yet, but we're optimistic they’ll have a sellout. If not, there may be a few tickets available."
The game undoubtedly will attract interest in the Big Ten footprint, but the absence of national title implications could make it tough to move the needle nationally.
"Internally, it probably makes no difference," Delany said. "Externally, it might make some difference. But from a fan perspective, a player perspective and a coach perspective, I don't think the kids will play any harder or be more ready. From the standpoint of people in Oregon or Alabama or Washington D.C., it may affect their view of it."