5 things we learned about the Big Ten this bowl season

Bowl season is a wonderful time to make sweeping generalizations based on very little credible evidence combined with events that aren’t really representative of the whole story. We love making bowl games a referendum on a team’s entire season … when other than for four of them, they’re beefed up exhibitions where you go hang out and get free stuff for a week in advance. It’s not to say the work isn’t being put in, but let’s be honest … it has no bearing on an off season nor does it tell the story of the actual season.

No one ever says that if you want the primo job interview slot, “get it scheduled at 3 p.m. on a Friday.” The last thing we see is what we remember, but it’s not necessarily the best that we’ll get. With that in mind, five things we learned from the Big Ten’s bowl season.

1. People love to grave dance on the Big Ten, even wrongly.

It comes with the territory of being successful over the long haul, but a lot of people were burying the Big Ten because Iowa and Michigan State lost their big ticket bowl games by a tune of a combined 83-16 to Stanford and Alabama, respectively. The Big Ten was dead. The only problem with that? The conference as a whole went 5-5, so we’re starting to have a very inflated idea of what we expect from the living if that is “dead.” The truth is, the Big Ten went 1-2 in “big” bowl games (Ohio State defeated Notre Dame) and people tend to look only at the upper crust bowl games when making sweeping generalizations on a group of teams based on the fortunes of one or two. It was an up and down bowl season, by bowl season standards. For every surprising ass kicking, there was a 5-7 Nebraska over then-ranked UCLA. In fact, both losing-record Big Ten teams won their bowl games. I don’t know what that says, but it certainly doesn’t mean the conference is “dead.” Ease up on your cherry picking.

2. No matter the coach, Michigan likes playing Florida. Also, here comes Michigan.

Since 2002, the Wolverines have won all of four bowl games. Three of them have been at the cost of the Florida Gators. The other was in Brady Hoke’s first year over Virginia Tech. In that time, Florida has had Ron Zook, Urban Meyer, Will Muschamp, and Jim McElwain as coaches. Michigan has had Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez, Brady Hoke, and Jim Harbaugh. I don’t know that we “learned” anything other than the fact that extra practice time for Jim Harbaugh and staff might mean total DOOM down the road for other teams, but he did mention after the season to the media that next year, the Wolverines are “going for the big one,” which presumably means the CFB Playoff. There is a high confidence there, regardless of bowl result.

3. Iowa will be back.

Bowl games long have the history of having increased importance placed on them because it’s the last thing we can reference going into a long off season, and bowl games have the false premise of “equal teams on an equal setting.” Iowa got run over, but they’ll be just fine in the immediate long run, which is something of an oxymoron in and of itself. In somewhat of a surprise decision, defensive back Desmond King announced he would return to school. C.J. Beathard will be back, more seasoned and capable of taking on an increased load. Iowa will always have a punishing running game. This stage … and maybe the butt kicking … was good for them in the sense that next time down the road to relevancy on such a stage, they’ll have an idea of how to approach it. There are lessons learned in getting your backside kicked in, and endless motivation the next time you’re in need of it.

4. You REALLY don’t want to deal with Urban Meyer in bowl games.

Ohio State dispensed of Notre Dame handily, and Meyer ran his career bowl record to 9-2. That’s a pretty staggering number for a guy who’s presided over three college football championship teams. By contrast (and not picking on him, he literally is the only other active coach with a resume close to Meyer’s), Nick Saban is currently 9-8 in bowl games as a head college coach. The old logic suggests that the longer you give an elite coach time to prepare for a game, the more he’s going to de-pants you. Because of the variables involved in bowl games, that’s a flawed argument, but Meyer’s record cannot be questioned. The truth is, if you plan on closing out your season with a W, you’d best hope Meyer isn’t the last coach you’re facing. It’s a testament to how he’s been able to keep his teams centered after successful seasons.

5. The Fiesta Bowl and Citrus Bowl need to never be played at the same time, again.

This year was the perfect kick in the unmentionables for the Big Ten, their two normally highest drawing teams playing on New Year’s Day in the 1 p.m. time slot against sexy opponents (OSU vs. Notre Dame, Michigan vs. Florida). The time slot for the Fiesta Bowl at 1 p.m. is asinine as it is, being a Mountain Time Zone game that early. The Citrus is normally one of your bigger non-“New Year’s Six” bowl games, as it pits highly ranked teams from the Big Ten and SEC. All those matching time slots do is serve to take away from eyeballs in the Citrus and then compete for eyeballs in the event a Big Ten team is in the Fiesta. There’s far too much time betwixt the end of the season and the end of the bowl games to have them jumbled up like this, and this year, it hurt the conference from getting center stage in their two most notable wins.

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