The Big Ten. Slow. Conservative. Bad.
Uh. Check that.
Make that. Fast enough. Aggressively enough. Not half bad.
So just what happened? Last year, the Big Ten went 1-6 in bowl games and, after Ohio State's back-to-back drubbing in the BCS national championship games the previous two seasons, the conference was officially written off as an anachronism.
But the 2009 bowl season is bringing a Big Ten renaissance. The conference is 3-2, having won the Rose Bowl and lost a 1-point game and in overtime. Two more teams have yet to play, with Iowa in another BCS game against Georgia Tech, in the Orange Bowl.
(Check out the Guru's Bowl Chart, breaking down how the conferences are doing against each other.)
Ohio State's win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl should really not be that surprising. The Buckeyes have made up ground on the BCS elite in the past two years. They lost a heartbreaker to Texas in the Fiesta Bowl last year and nearly defeated USC (when the Trojans were actually good) earlier this season. They came out with the perfect game plan to throttle the over-confident Ducks, who managed just 17 points.
The "fact" that the Pac-10 has dominated the Rose Bowl is really misstated. The reality is that USC has dominated the Rose Bowl, and the rest of the Pac-10 anything but. Since Washington won back-to-back in '90 and '91, USC is 5-1 in the Rose Bowl (the loss was to Texas, of course) and the rest of the Pac-10 is 1-9.
The Big Ten couldn't handle the Trojans, but they do just fine against everybody else. Somebody forgot to mention this to the Ducks, who thought they'd just show up and collect the trophy.
Playing in the mud in Orlando, Penn State took care of LSU, the third-best team in the SEC. Northwestern nearly knocked off Auburn, who gave top-ranked Alabama fits. And perennially too-slow, too-plodding Wisconsin (yeah, I said that), just ran roughshod over Miami, also in not-so-warm Orlando.
By the way, I have no problem with Pat Fitzgerald's decision to run that fake field goal to try to win the game in the Outback Bowl. His kicker was hurt. The scheme was good. The only problem was maybe the "fumblerooski" developed too quickly. To carry this one out, the guy with the ball usually needs to count to three before moving, to better create an over-pursue by the defense.
While the Big Ten is doing well enough, it's not going to outdo the Mountain West, which has clinched the Bowl Challenge Cup (its third in six seasons), with only TCU's Fiesta Bowl date with Boise State remaining. The conference that has egg on its face is the one that won the Bowl Challenge Cup last season with a 5-0 record.
The Pac-10 has been absolutely abysmal in this bowl season, wrapped up with Oregon's loss in Pasadena. It went 2-5, with only USC's lackluster win over Boston College and UCLA's comeback against Temple to show for it. Arizona and Oregon State, who tied for second in the conference, were utterly embarrassed.
So all that stuff about the Pac-10 being the best conference from top-to-bottom in 2009 ... uh, I will get back to you on that one.