It’s holiday season and bowl season, which means the national media and college football fans are frothing at the opportunity to jam down another helping of honey ham, and then slam the Big Ten for bowl game failings.
And this season, Big Ten haters have an additional advantage: Two of the top teams in the league are ineligible for bowl play.
The usual disadvantages usually are enough to bury the Big Ten: Bowls frequently are played in the backyard of the Big Ten’s opponent (such as the Rose Bowl, against the Pac-12 champ), and most of the Big Ten’s matchups are against the two best conferences, the SEC and Big 12. Six of seven matchups this year are against the SEC or Big 12. Not a cupcake in the lot.
With the Big Ten’s top team, undefeated Ohio State, as well as Leaders Division runner-up Penn State, under NCAA sanctions and out of the bowl picture, several league teams thus moved up a slot or two in the bowl pecking order - and into more challenging games. Heck, it’s a little surprising the Big Ten even managed to get seven teams bowl-eligible considering OSU and PSU were a combined 14-2 in league play.
The end result: Every Big Ten bowl team - a perfect 7-for-7 - is a betting underdog this week.
The lineup of fearsome foes includes the No. 6 (Georgia), No. 8 (Stanford) and No. 11 (South Carolina) AP-ranked teams. The Big Ten’s bowl teams are walking a tightrope on a windy day over a pit of alligators.
The odds are stacked against the conference. But not quite as much as the experts think. The Big Ten’s recent history of bowl shortcomings has led to exaggerated point spreads this season.