The Buckeyes won the national championship game for the first time since the 2002 season on Monday night, also grabbing the first title for a Big Ten team since that fateful win against the Miami (FL) Hurricanes. So cue the music and let the celebrations begin…
…Except unlike the famous refrain and chant we’ve heard year in, and year out for the past seven years from that conference down south, there was no such conference pride being shoved down the throats of the rest of the country on Monday night.
We didn’t hear the B-1-G chants ringing out from AT&T Stadium as the Buckeyes hoisted the championship trophy, instead it was the famous O-H…I-O chant, and rightfully so.
Ohio State fans celebrated like Ohio State fans should, after all it wasn’t the Big Ten’s national title win, it was Ohio State’s to own and celebrate.
However, it is also hard to ignore the fact that the national media and many pundits across the Big Ten bagged on the conference for most of the last seven years thanks to bad bowl games and Ohio State’s back-to-back losses in national championship games.
It was also hard to not remember that fateful day back in September…You know, Sept. 6, 2014, a.k.a the day the Big Ten died.
So, having a Big Ten team win the national championship game certainly reverses the narrative. Gone are the jokes about the conference choking on the biggest stage and gone is the narrative of the Big Ten being “the worst” of anything.
As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats and one just needs to look at Mississippi State and Ole Miss being in the top 4 for most of the season this year as a great example of what can happen when the conference reputation is at the highest of highs.
[quote_left]”Maybe the Big Ten isn’t that bad,” Meyer said, via CBSSports.com. “Maybe the Big Ten is pretty damn good, or certainly getting better. The mind is a fragile thing. … There’s no doubt that when we saw Wisconsin beat Auburn, that was a major, major moment for us to win this game.”[/quote_left]
However, don’t be the $-E-C and start puffing out your chest as a fan of a team in the Big Ten just yet.
We’re talking about the big boy of the Big Ten winning a national championship here. We aren’t talking about Michigan State or Wisconsin shocking the college football world and winning the golden rod…err College Football Playoff national title trophy.
Therein lies the problem for the Big Ten. It can celebrate the fact that one of its teams has won a national championship for the first time in 12 years, but if the conference wants to be the big dog on the field like it is in the financial arena there is plenty of work to be done.
Winning one national championship is great, but it doesn’t cure all that ails the Big Ten by a long shot. Ohio State has laid down the gauntlet to the rest of the Big Ten contenders and after witnessing what the Buckeyes did to the likes of Michigan State and Wisconsin there is a lot those teams have to do to get on the Buckeyes’ level.
First up is actually being able to beat Ohio State on the field, something that hasn’t happened in regular season conference game since Urban Meyer arrived on the Columbus, Ohio campus. The fact is, Ohio State is 24-0 in regular season conference play and its only loss to a Big Ten team came to Michigan State in the 2013 Big Ten championship game.
That’s not to suggest the conference is completely dead behind the Buckeyes though. After all, the conference did go 3-1 on New Year’s Day and got wins over the top three teams it played in No. 19 Auburn, No. 5 Baylor and No. 1 Alabama on the same day.
That may be the most important part of the Big Ten getting more national respect right there. Having the three teams who run the conference right now also performing well when all the eyes are on them makes a huge difference.
A potentially huge feather in the cap for the Big Ten will come next season when Michigan State gets Oregon at home, Ohio State gets a crack at revenge against Va Tech and Wisconsin will also get Alabama on a neutral field.
One good season or bowl season does not a conference reputation make or break. Continuing the winning habit established this January in to next season will help more than even Ohio State’s national title game victory on Monday night.
It is hard to deny that Ohio State’s national championship win helps push aside the negative perception of the conference. It is equally difficult to not see that there is a decent sized gap between the Buckeyes and the rest of the Big Ten right now.
The good news is that it seems like the rest of the top three in the league are coming along for the ride, and coming closer to the top of the national heap than the middle.
Next up, getting a Big Ten champion not named Ohio State in to the College Football Playoff and competing for national championships as well.
That’s the biggest difference between where the Big Ten is, despite the OSU win tonight, and where it needs to be if it wants to rule the boardroom and the field of play too. It can’t be just Ohio State and everyone else going forward, the conference needs multiple teams capable of stepping up to the plate on the national stage.
Until that happens, the Big Ten isn’t as mighty as the glory of Monday night’s win may suggest.