After the announcement that Ohio State would in fact not be playing in the College Football Playoff, reality sank in.
For the first time, a B1G team will be in the Playoff. Of course many pointed to the B1G’s consecutive Playoff shutouts as a reason why OSU was ultimately shut out of the final spot. That had nothing to do with it, but it didn’t change the B1G’s reality.
For the third straight year, no B1G team will score a point on college football’s biggest stage.
That hurts the conference’s reputation from the top down. Anyone who makes the argument that the B1G is the premier conference in college football can have that stat thrown back in their face and it’s game over.
So no, that isn’t changing this bowl season. What can begin to change, however, is the B1G’s reputation as the conference that chokes in the postseason. Fair or not — teams win and lose games, not conferences — it’s a cloud that hangs over the B1G on a yearly basis.
The numbers back it up, too. In the last 10 years (starting with 2007-08), the B1G is 33-52 in the postseason. A bowl game winning percentage of 0.388 doesn’t exactly scream “power conference.” The SEC is 65-36 (0.644 winning percentage) during that same stretch. That’s before the national title disparity is taken into the equation.
But this isn’t about B1G vs. SEC (the conferences only have two bowl games against each other this year). This is about the B1G having one of those postseasons like it had in 2002-03 when it posted a 5-2 mark. That was the only time in the 21st century that the B1G posted the best winning percentage among conferences with multiple bowl participants.
These aren’t just lazy media narratives. Stats like that add fuel to the dumpster fire that’s been the B1G in bowl season.
Remember last year? You know, when the B1G had four teams vying for Playoff spots heading into the final weekend of the regular season? Besides the fact that Ohio State’s 31-0 debacle happened, the conference went just 3-7 with just a 1-3 mark in New Year’s Six bowls.
This year, the B1G has a favorable chance to change that. B1G teams are actually favored to win six of eight bowl games, and Purdue is the biggest underdog among B1G teams at +3.5:
- Boston College vs. Iowa (-3)
- Purdue vs. Arizona (-3.5)
- Michigan State vs. Washington State (-3)
- Kentucky vs. Northwestern (-8)
- USC vs. Ohio State (-7)
- Washington vs. Penn State (-1.5)
- Wisconsin (-6.5) vs. Miami (FL)
- South Carolina vs. Michigan (-8)
In other words, going 2-6 with this slate would be a major, major blow for the conference. On the flip side, if there was ever a year for the B1G to pull off a 7-1 run in postseason play, this is it. That’s the benefit of not drawing matchups against any teams ranked among the top seven nationally.
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Every B1G opponent — even the three New Year’s Six foes — already has at least two losses. Handing them a third loss isn’t going to shock anyone. And even if the B1G goes 3-0 in the New Year’s Six bowls with a few blowout wins, there will still be the “yeah, but what about the Playoff?”
As long as this current system is in place, that’s going to be the first thing discussed as it relates to conference supremacy. It should be. If your conference doesn’t have teams winning national titles, how can it claim to be the best?
That argument won’t change for the B1G this bowl season. It might not change next postseason, either. All that can change is that the conference quiets some of that no-Playoff argument with a 6-2 or 7-1 mark. People will remember that more than the fact that the B1G failed to win a non-conference game against a team that entered the postseason in the top 25.
Perspective is everything in life. Right now, perspective doesn’t favor the B1G. It likely still won’t when yet another non-B1G national champion is crowned.
But winning a whole bunch of “meaningless” bowl games would still be pretty meaningful.