It could’ve been better.

Those 4 words describe the year that was in the B1G. Or maybe there are 4 better words to describe the B1G in 2019.

A year that finished with Indiana blowing a 13-point lead in the final 5 minutes to lose to Tennessee in the Gator Bowl certainly wasn’t a “shout it from the mountaintops” season. The SEC is having the closest year to that.

I know. That’s not exactly what B1G fans want to hear, but the numbers are what they are. It’s the SEC who went 7-2 in bowl season and was the only conference to post a winning record against the top 25. The B1G, meanwhile, was 4-5 in bowl season with a .500 record against ranked teams.

Is bowl season everything? No, but it certainly doesn’t help when the B1G went 1-2 in New Year’s 6 Bowls and the conference was left out of the College Football Playoff National Championship for the fifth straight year. On the bright side, at least Ohio State scored a point in a Playoff game, which marked the first time a B1G team did that since the Buckeyes won it all in the 2014 season.

Had that continued this year with how good Ohio State was in the regular season, I would’ve really questioned if the B1G was ever going to score another Playoff point. So hey, at least that punchline is gone. Baby steps, I suppose.

And here’s the other thing. The final Associated Press Top 25 will come out next week, and in all likelihood, we’re going to see 6 B1G teams in there. And just for fun, why don’t I guess where they’ll end up:

  • No. 3 Ohio State
  • No. 10 Penn State
  • No. 11 Wisconsin
  • No. 13 Minnesota
  • No. 15 Iowa
  • No. 19 Michigan

There’s a decent chance that’ll tie the SEC for most teams ranked in the AP Top 25 (it would essentially take Texas A&M cracking the poll for that to happen). That’s a noteworthy feat compared to the ACC, which will likely only have 2 ranked teams in the final poll.

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So what does that mean? Well, it sort of means exactly what’s been the case for much of the Playoff era. The B1G has as many good teams as anyone in America, but it lacks the handful of contenders one needs to be considered the premier conference. In all likelihood, LSU, Georgia, Florida and Alabama will all have a fairly decent shot of being ranked in the top 10 (that Alabama vs. Penn State argument is interesting).

The B1G accomplished that feat in 2016, but somehow did so without having a single top-5 team. So, that prompted me to do a little digging. I went back and looked at every final AP Poll and found that the B1G has never had a year in which it boasted 4 top-10 teams with at least 1 who finished in the top 10. In other words, the SEC is in position to do something this year that’s never been done by the B1G in the history of the AP Poll, which dates back to 1934.

Yeah, that’s something.

I’d still argue that 2019 proved once again that there’s more depth in the B1G than there is in the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12. This will likely mark the third consecutive season in which the B1G finished with at least 5 ranked teams. Assuming that doesn’t happen this year — it would take a minor miracle for 1 of those conference to end the year with 5 ranked teams — those other 3 conferences will have failed to have accomplished that feat for the third straight year.

Yeah, that’s something, too.

What does that equate to? The B1G is clearly the No. 2 conference, and for one reason or another, this wasn’t the year for one of those magical runs like Ohio State went on in 2014, or even like the run LSU is on now … with a former B1G backup leading the charge.

Call me crazy, but with all of those solid teams, I get the feeling that the B1G is due for one of those LSU-like years. Like, one of these teams that’s consistently in the top 15 — Ohio State and Penn State are the most likely choices there — will finally have the stars align.

But maybe the conference’s limitations are internal. This year was another reminder of why the B1G scheduling is foolish.

The 9-game conference schedule is great from an entertainment standpoint, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve yet to see a team with a 9-game conference schedule win the College Football Playoff National Championship (remember that the Buckeyes still had the 8-game conference schedule back in 2014 before the conference switched in 2016). In fact, 2014 Oregon was the lone team with the 9-game conference schedule to even reach the title game.

And for whatever reason, the 9-game conference schedule still exists in the majority of Power 5 conferences. Instead of addressing the fact that the B1G failed to make the College Football Playoff National Championship for the fourth consecutive time since making the switch, you know what you’ll hear at B1G Media Days? Coaches and new B1G commissioner Kevin Warren will likely brag about the high level of competition and throw subtle shade at the 8-game conference schedule. That’s completely backwards, in my opinion.

Am I saying that’s the only thing holding the B1G back? No.

We can’t expect Wisconsin to win a national title if it can’t even sign a top-25 recruiting class, and Michigan is going to continue to get dominated by teams with NFL-ready receivers who run right past single-high safeties. Iowa isn’t going 14-1 and beating Clemson en route to a national championship, and as close as Ryan Day’s team was, Ohio State would’ve pulled off an unbelievable feat had it been able to win a national championship with a first-year head coach AND a first-time starting quarterback.

The B1G had about as good of a year as one could’ve expected. The anti-B1G people will throw in some joke about the handful of ugly Group of 5 losses that happened in early-September. Falling to the likes of Nevada, Eastern Michigan and Temple wasn’t the best look, and at the time, that brought on the naysayers.

Well, the anti-B1G crowd will point to that or they’ll say “but Alabama doesn’t get to play Rutgers every year.” That’s rich considering Arkansas had 1 conference win in the last 3 years (Rutgers had 3), and Arkansas lost 4 games to Group of 5 teams (Rutgers lost 2). Those are also the same people who refuse to acknowledge that a team that hasn’t had the best last 30 years like Minnesota beat Auburn in the Outback Bowl. But hey, you didn’t hear that from me.

Elite teams and depth are what define a conference. Ohio State was elite, but not quite elite enough to overcome a couple of, um, “questionable” calls against the defending national champs. Perhaps this year-end conversation would be different if the Buckeyes were still playing or if the B1G could’ve had a better bowl showing altogether.

It definitely could’ve been better.

Well, I guess those 5 words should define the B1G in 2019.