It was a great weekend to be in the Big Ten. Ohio State got what it needed when both Missouri and West Virginia lost. The Bucks only needed one of them to lose and they got both. For the second straight year, and the third time in six seasons, Jim Tressel will take a team to play for the national championship. OSU will play LSU on January 7 in New Orleans for all the marbles.
And just as Ohio State gets a second chance at the top prize, the Big Ten's runner-up will get a crack at Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl for the second straight year. When the Buckeyes got into the national title game, the Rose had an open space to fill. And that was the break Illinois needed to get off the bubble and into the BCS. This is Illinois' first Rose Bowl trip since 1983, and their first major bowl apperance since 2001. To avoid being a wet blanket, Big Ten Country will refrain from discussing the results of those last two apperances for now.
In advance of the weekend, Ohio State fans were already launching their defenses of why Tressel's troops deserved the New Orleans trip. Around The Oval has one of them. And Herb Gould at The Chicago Sun-Times reflects on how the coming trip to Pasadena caps an incredible turnaround for Ron Zook.
Congrats to both the Buckeyes and Illini! Here's hoping their fans will fill the hotels of New Orleans and Pasadena and continue to solidify the Big Ten's reputation as a conference that travels well and is well worth the invite.
The schedule of Big Ten bowl games and all BCS matchups is at the old bowl projections link. The blog will have comments on the bids onward down the conference ladder coming up this week. In the meantime, here's a few general thoughts I had as the major bowl matchups were announced:
1)Illinois' invite should eliminate any doubt that under the current format the Big Ten will almost always get an at-large bid to the dance. This was a year when everything that could have gone wrong for the league did. Michigan lost to Appalachian State, then to Oregon, but managed to rebound and finish second (tied for second, and they beat Illinois head-to-head). Notre Dame's horrible season took the luster off what would normally be nice wins for the Wolverines and Penn State. Essentially, the Big Ten did not have a single signature non-conference victory this year. Another mid-major team in Hawaii jumped out and took an at-large spot away from the power conferences. If there was ever a year the league would only get its champ to the BCS, this was it. But they still got two teams, and it's tough to imagine the cards ever being stacked that heavily against them again.
2)Can there be any more doubt that you can all but eliminate the losers of conference championship games from at-large consideration? Kansas gets in over Missouri. Georgia gets in over Tennessee. Both teams were the same division of their respective leagues. When a team is penalized for winning its division something has to change. To make matters worse, Georgia could have leapfrogged LSU to play for the national championship. There needs to be some type of rule prohibiting this sort of jumping, unless the divison winner had a horrid non-conference slate. And only conference champs should be eligible for the national title game.
3)I was absolutely stunned the Fiesta Bowl passed on Arizona State. At 10-2, the Sun Devils were BCS-worthy. They were right in the backyard of the Fiesta and would have made an excellent opponent for Oklahoma. Not that West Virginia won't, but I wonder if the Mountaineers will still travel as well as they usually do, given the absolutely devastating loss to Pitt that cost them a national title shot. I was expecting WVA to land in the Orange Bowl. Once the Fiesta passed on the Sun Devils, their appeal wasn't as strong to other games, and that opened the door for Kansas to be taken by the Orange.