It seems all the talk in college football these days surrounds the Big Ten's apparent free fall. Ohio State appears on the verge of getting its breakthrough win versus a team from the SEC, then a scandal hits the program and appears to threaten the availability of several of its star players, including its starting quarterback (Terrelle Pryor) and leading running back (Daniel Herron). Due to a loophole in NCAA rules, the pair is allowed to play in tomorrow night's game, along with DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, and Solomon Thomas, also found guilty of selling memorabilia and accepting discounts on tattoos. While this ensures that the Arkansas Razorbacks will face an Ohio State team at full strength, many contend that both the NCAA and the OSU have placed a higher emphasis on the almighty dollar than the integrity of the Sugar Bowl.
Then, to make matters worse, over the past weekend the Big Ten's shoddy performance in Bowl games has many people revisiting OSU president Gordon Gee's "Little Sister's of the Poor" comment. For those of you that don't know, more than a month ago Gee basically put his foot in his mouth when he said " teams such as TCU and Boise State could not hang with the Big Ten, because it's murderer's row every week in that conference, while teams such as TCU and Boise play 'the little sisters of the poor.' The past two weeks have not been kind to the Big Ten in bowl games. Iowa and Illinois are the only teams with victories in bowl games thus far, and the state of Michigan was outscored by almost 100 points. Add to that losses by Northwestern, Penn State, and Wisconsin, and the Big Ten is now 2-5 in bowl games this season. Making matters worse is that Wisconsin lost to one of Gee's aforementioned 'Little Sisters of the Poor', TCU, 21-19 in the Rose Bowl.
On the flip side, the SEC has come out smelling like Roses. Urban Meyer resigns as head coach of the University of Florida Gators, citing declining health, and no one bats an eye. Nevermind that at 7-5 Meyer had the worst team he's ever coached. Now his health may be an issue but don't be surprised if you see him coaching somewhere else in the near future. Just look at Mark Dantonio, head coach of Michigan State. He had a heart attack during the middle of the season, sat out for a couple of games, and I have yet to hear that he is not coming back for next season.
Then there is the Cam Newton scandal/saga. It has been widely reported that Newton's father, Cecil, shopped the services of the Auburn starting quarterback to the highest bidder. The NCAA and Auburn did what they concluded to be a thorough investigation on the matter and concluded that while the elder Newton was in the wrong, Cam Newton was absolved of any wrongdoing. These findings were independent of an ongoing FBI investigation into claims that the Newton's tried to extort money from any university. I must admit that I have not read up on all of the NCAA bylaws, but it seems even to me to say that Cam Newton did not know his father was shopping him around to different universities is just plain ludicrous.
By this time you're probably wondering: what's my point? I am glad you asked. Because it seems that in mainstream media today, the SEC can do no wrong, and the Big Ten can't even tie its collective shoes without doing something wrong. And this has become a disturbing trend. And I think I have figured out why. One reason is the unaminous hatred for anything Ohio State. Mainstream media cannot stand that Ohio State is consistently in the discussion of the nation's elite teams. They will try to use every different angle they can to tear down the Buckeye program. To be fair, Ohio State may not be the number six program in the country, as some would say they lost to their only quality opponent, but if you look at the programs below them you could make an argument that not one of them has a win that puts them decidely(sp) above the Buckeyes.
And the next reason the media has it in for the Big Ten follows from the first, with the recent decline of the University of Michigan football program, there has not been a consistent challenger to Ohio State in the conference. Many will argue that with the addition of Nebraska University next season that will change. While that may be true it doesn't change the current reality Wisconsin knocked Ohio State from its perch this year, yet some people still wonder had Ohio State been able to cover the opening kickoff if the outcome would have been the same. The media argues that the SEC is the tougher conference because no one really knows from year to year who will take the crown. Sure Florida has taken two of the last four BCS titles. But sandwiched in between are also titles by LSU and Alabama, and, potentially, a third title from Auburn. But in the Big Ten there has only been one team to consistently make it to the BCS: Ohio State. Ohio State's struggles in recent BCS contest(s) (they have lost three of their last four games, two to teams from the SEC) only further the media's opinion that the Big Ten is watered down.
So maybe Big Ten expansion isn't such a bad thing after all. Because maybe it will restore some parity to the conference, and bit by bit repair its image in the eyes of mainstream media.