The Big Ten football season came to a close last night in the Fiesta Bowl. And while Ohio State gave Texas a better run than anyone in the country was expecting in a 24-21 battle, it was another loss for the conference in a miserable bowl season.
A contrast of styles was the story of the game, with the Buckeyes doing the damage on the ground. Chris Wells rushed for 106 yards before having to leave the game in the second half due to a concussion. Meanwhile, Colt McCoy lit it up for the Longhorns. He threw for 414 yards on 41/59 passing, and directed the final game-winning drive when he hit Quan Cosby for the winning score in the final thirty seconds. Cosby was all over the place, with 14 catches and two scores. On the Buckeye side, Brian Robiskie was clutch, with 116 yards and an outstanding running catch down the sideline on third down that started the OSU rally from a 17-6 deficit.
No one can hold Jim Tressel's team responsible for the Big Ten's poor bowl showing, but that context cast the game in a different light. Had Michigan State and Penn State won, this near-miss might have been seen as a sign of the conference's true strength. But with a wipeout already well under way, it was just one noble effort in an otherwise forgettable December/January.
Over the past couple seasons, the lack of respect for both the Big Ten and Ohio State have been inextricably linked. I suspect they may have been de-linked last night. While the conference's bowl record is a matter of...well, record, I think (and would hope) that national observers took note of how well the Buckeyes played against a team many consider the best in the country. While the loss was a bitter pill for the state of Ohio, the competitive nature of the game may mark this as the first step to OSU's revival outside the confines of the Midwest.