In their 31-28 loss to South Carolina, at least the Ohio State University Buckeyes didn't totally embarrass themselves. Losing by a last-second field goal to a higher ranked team was not the worst outcome that Jim Tressel could have suffered in his first New Year's Day bowl game as head coach. Compared to the trouncings received by three of the other bowl-bound Big 10 teams -- Michigan, Illinois and Purdue -- OSU's loss to the Gamecocks almost looks good.
If there were two glimmers of light in Big 10 football, they were the Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl victory of Iowa over Texas Tech 19-16, thanks to another last minute field goal, and Michigan State's beating 19th-ranked Fresno State 44-35 in the New Year's Eve Silicon Valley Classic. (Though we're not sure how a bowl game in its second year can call itself a classic.)
The Silicon Valley Classic was played in San Jose State University's Spartan Stadium. However, part of the deal in MSU's getting the invitation was not also being Spartans, but rather promising to take 10,000 tickets and fill 3,000 hotel rooms. Now there's competition.
Lack-luster post-season: Still, aside from the game in San Jose and remembering the Alamo Bowl, there was a lot to forget about in the Big Ten's lackluster post-season performances.
The University of Illinois finished the season atop the Big 10 with a 10 -1 record. But at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans' Superdome, the Lousiana State University Tigers rolled up a record 595 yards and beat the #7 Fighting Illini 47-34. The outcome for the University of Michigan was far worse. The #8 Tennessee Volunteers, who, stung by a loss to LSU, missed out on a really big bowl game -- read National Championship -- squeezed the juice out of the 15th-ranked Wolverines in the Citrus Bowl 45-17.
There was little in the Midwest to cheer. After all the years of Pac 10-Big 10 rivalry, culminating in the New Year's Day Rose Bowl, the only one match-up this year between the two conferences was in the Sun Bowl. Washington State, ranked 13, knocked off Purdue 33-27 to become one of two Pac-10 team to win a bowl game this season.
The other Pac-10 team? The Oregon Ducks, whose decisive victory over Colorado 38-16 in the Fiesta Bowl showed up the foolishness of the entire BCS system.
Under BCS rules, which ever team wins tonight's Rose Bowl -- Nebraska or Miami -- will be declared college football's national champion, despite the fact that Nebraska, which might upset Miami, lost to Colorado which lost to Oregon. Got it? It's a system only a statistician could have any fondness for at all.
A true post-season tournament would not permit the travesty of a national champion being declared by computer rather than on the field of play.