Big Ten finishes fourth in league rankings

The Big Ten may not be the strongest conference in the land. But thankfully, there is always the ACC and the Big East.

ESPN Stats & Info today released its final conference rankings for the 2012 season, and the Big Ten finished fourth, far behind the No. 1 league -- surprise, the SEC -- and the Big 12 (2nd) and Pac-12. But the league rated ahead of the ACC and Big East despite a 2-5 bowl season.

The Big Ten, in fact, was third among all leagues in computer rankings, ahead of the Pac-12. The computers say the Big 12 was the strongest league of them all. Stats & Info had this to say about the conference:

"The Big Ten is a combined 4-13 in January bowl games in the past three seasons and has been outscored by a combined 193 points (11.4 per game) in those 17 games."

That may be true, but it's not exactly a fair representation of this year's January games. Purdue lost 58-14 to Oklahoma State in a game that really has no business being played on New Year's Day (Heart of Dallas Bowl). The Big Ten went 1-3 in the other four Jan. 1 bowls, with the average margin of defeat just over eight points. Michigan and Wisconsin lost by a combined 11 points. And remember that neither Ohio State nor Penn State were eligible to play in the postseason.

It's hard to argue that the Big Ten is not weaker as a whole than the SEC or Big 12 right now, and the Pac-12 has more title contenders and beat the Big Ten head-to-head this season. The ACC doesn't have much to brag about other than Florida State and Clemson, and the Big East is falling apart. Still, the Big Ten doesn't want to settle for being merely the fourth-best conference in the land.