Tonight the Nebraska Cornhuskers play the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten Championship game. It’s a bit of a nightmare scenario for the conference.
Nebraska is not a bad team. They’re 10-2 and have only lost one game in the conference — although it was a crushing loss, a 63-38 spanking at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Wisconsin, on the other hand, is a different story. The Badgers are 7-5 overall, and only 4-4 in the conference. Wisconsin lost three of its last four games, all in overtime.
Wisconsin is not a bad team, either — but what does it tell you when a .500 team in the conference makes it to the championship game and has the chance to play in the Rose Bowl? The reason, of course, is that undefeated Ohio State, easily the best team in the Big Ten, isn’t eligible to play due to NCAA sanctions.
Not surprisingly, there’s not a lot of interest in the game. Many tickets are for sale at a steep discount from face value, and organizers are expecting a number of empty seats. I’m confident that the Rose Bowl organizers, too, are holding their breath and hoping that Nebraska wins, so the Granddaddy of all bowl games doesn’t feature a team that barely has a winning record.
I’m sure the Badgers will play their hardest and will be proud to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl if they win. I’d feel that way if I were a Badger, too, but for the rest of us Big Ten fans this game is an embarrassment. It’s a pathetic conclusion to a year that — thanks to the sanctions imposed on Ohio State and Penn State, weak teams, a less-than-stellar out of conference record, and uninspired play by teams like Michigan State that were expected to be powerhouses — has been an embarrassment for the storied Big Ten conference.