Bowl season is off to an ugly start for the Big Ten, as we get set to head into New Year's action tomorrow. Purdue fell behind Maryland early and was never able to make a game of the Champs Sports Bowl on Friday night. Tom Kubat of The Journal & Courier explains why the Boilermakers are nursing a bowl hangover. That same evening, Minnesota looked like they were ready to get the conference off to a good start. Instead they made the kind of history you don't want to make. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune provides the breakdown of how a 31-point lead was lost.
Iowa acquitted itself well yesterday against Texas, but still faltered 26-24. Ryan Suchomel at Hawk Central says the team's effort can't be faulted, but he isn't so generous about the play-calling. The performance in non-New Year's Day/BCS games is alarmingly similar to last year when the conference got off to a lousy start. But fans can take heart in one thing--it was a near-miss by Iowa against a big-time name program last season (Florida in the Outback) that started the tide turning, and set the stage for Wisconsin, Ohio State and Penn State to ring up wins.
Overall though, the Big Ten's play in the minor bowl games hasn't been positive for a long time now. If you throw out the BCS games and also the Capital One and Outback Bowls, the conference record in these holiday week games is problematic. The Big Ten is now 7-11 in the 21st century.** This includes the Alamo, Sun and Music City bowls, the latter two of which the conference had committments in prior to this season. For a league that has traditionally prided itself on great top-to-bottom strength, even in years where no dominant team exists, this performance will blow apart a few illusions.
**I'm marking the 21st century starting in 2001, as any mathematics geek will tell you the new century propery started.