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Big Ten puts itself back on national stage with huge New Years Day

Just as Auld Lang Syne, the Big Ten disappointing fans has become New Years tradition. However, on Jan. 1, 2015 that all changed as the conference reeled off three massive victories and went 3-1 on the day.

Not only did the B1G win the day, it managed to get wins in a New Years Six bowl game, beat an SEC West power and most importantly a College Football Playoff semi-final. Wins over Alabama, Auburn and Baylor surely are big notches in the Big Ten’s belt this season, one that looked to be pretty empty as the season got off to its start.

Only Minnesota’s inability to hang on to the football kept the conference from a perfect 4-0 New Years Day performance.

After years of futility on the day the entire college football is watching, the Big Ten took to the biggest stage and finally stepped up to the plate.

Making it even sweeter is the fact that Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin all erased deficits in the second half to win their games.

All of this for a conference that was left for dead after a disastrous Week 2 performance. In fact, many people left the conference for dead on Sept. 6, 2014.

It was hard not to considering Big Ten teams suffered losses to Oregon, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.

It was troubling because Ohio State looked shaken without Braxton Miller against a quality defense (or so we all thought at the time) and many questioned if J.T. Barrett would be the answer. In the weeks to come the Buckeyes and the rest of the big boys in the Big Ten quietly went about their business, with the trio of winners losing just two games in conference play.

The questions about Wisconsin came to the forefront once again after a 59-0 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.

Instead of curling up in a ball and giving up, the Badgers used the loss to win a bowl game for the first time in six years and did it against a team that many thought could’ve played its way in to the College Football Playoff.

Of course, the Big Ten also did in the most Big Ten way possible — running all over its opponents when needed.

Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon led the way with 251 yards and three touchdowns, while Ohio State got 230 yards and two touchdowns from Ezekiel Elliott and Michigan State got 162 yards and three touchdowns in winning efforts.

All against teams thought to have superior talent, speed and athleticism.

The question is, just where does a performance like this leave the Big Ten now? Surely the Big Ten isn’t all the way back to the top of the mountain, but it has climbed a rung or two on the perception ladder at the very least.

Ohio State finishing it off in the College Football Playoff national title game would certainly change things in a big way.

Now the conference just needs to take the momentum built-in perception and win a few of its big non-conference games in 2015. That means Wisconsin (vs. Alabama) and Michigan State (vs. Oregon) have a chance to really set the conference on an upward course in national perception come early in the 2015 season.

For now, just enjoy the fact that the Big Ten isn’t the butt of jokes as New Years Day comes to a close.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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