The Big Ten Is Back
One of the first songs played in the movie Evita has Antonio Banderas singing loudly about the life of Eva Perón. The song is called "Oh What a Circus" and, while it starts out detailing the good things Perón did, it quickly spirals into all the things she did or didn't do in the latter stages of her life.
In a way, that song could be used to describe the Big Ten until last year. All the great things the conference was able to do – house arguably the greatest rival in college football with Ohio State and Michigan, be part of the Rose Bowl, keeping all the schools together during the realignment shifts – were met with the cacophony of media pundits declaring the Big Ten as the weakest of the power conferences.
To a degree, the pundits were right.
In the latter stages of the BCS era, the Big Ten struggled mighty in postseason play. Ohio State lost two national championship games – while being the only representative from the Big Ten to play in that game since the turn of the century – and Michigan was gradually sliding down a slippery slope that dumped them into the abyss missed expectations.
After Florida demolished Ohio State in the 2007 BCS Championship Game, everything became an SEC world. The SEC ran the table up until Florida State escaped the 2014 BCS Championship Game in Pasadena, Calif. Even then, the SEC was arguably the top conference in the land.
Even though Ohio State won a title in 2003 (while knocking down mighty Miami) and Michigan was a contender for what seems like an eternity, people all of a sudden had short term memories.
And then last year happened.
Ohio State – who had their championship hopes put on life support after a surprising loss to Virginia Tech at home– found a way into the National Semifinal at the Sugar Bowl, and downed Alabama. Then the Buckeyes tore apart an Oregon Ducks team that was quarterbacked by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.
Michigan State, who lost to both the Buckeyes and Ducks, wound up in one of the "New Year's Six" bowl games, and pulled off a wild victory against Baylor. Actually, wild is an understatement. The Spartans blocked a Baylor field goal late to help cap off a 21-point fourth quarter comeback to win the game 42-41.
Then you have Wisconsin. The Badgers were rocked 59-0 in the Big Ten championship game by Ohio State, yet rose up in the Outback Bowl to beat Auburn 34-31.
Post season collapses are a thing of the past for the Big Ten. Like anything –winning, losing, playing Coldplay's Viva la Vida on repeat– you go through trends. Some are more prominent than others.
For the Big Ten, it was perpetual letdown after perpetual letdown every postseason. But, they've outgrown it and, with Jim Harbaugh coming, it won't be long until Michigan claws their way back into the championship picture.
This season brings high hopes and expectations for the Big Ten. Something that wasn't said that much before the start of 2014.
Then again, it's a whole different era for the Big Ten. This is a Big Ten that wins in the postseason.