Illinois' loss to Cincinnati on Friday closed the book on the Big Ten's regular-season performance against teams from other BCS conferences as well as Notre Dame. And once again, the story wasn't pretty.
The Big Ten finished with a 5-9 record in those games. Only Iowa, Michigan and Penn State finished with winning records against other BCS leagues or Notre Dame.
If the Big Ten sends two teams to BCS bowls for the fifth consecutive season, as almost everyone projects, the league's bowl lineup could feature only BCS conference opponents. With two BCS entries, the Big Ten wouldn't fill the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, its lone tie-in against a non-BCS opponent (Mid-American Conference).
Not to belabor the obvious, but the Big Ten must fare better in the bowls to improve its poor national reputation.
Here's a quick breakdown of how the Big Ten fared against the other big leagues:
Comment: The ACC hardly had a banner season, but thumped the Big Ten in the only head-to-head meeting, as Virginia destroyed Indiana 47-7 on Oct. 10.
Comment: Illinois' troubles began in the opener against Missouri, a seemingly competitive game that turned into a 37-9 Tigers rout. The Illini never got on track against Mizzou and have continued to sputter.
Comment: Penn State and Minnesota both handled Syracuse, but Northwestern's loss to the Orange looks bad right now. Illinois could have helped the league by stunning No. 5 Cincinnati, but fell short.
Comment: Big Ten teams were competitive in all three losses, and both Ohio State and Purdue really wasted chances to knock off USC and Oregon, respectively. Iowa's victory against Arizona on Sept. 19 looks like the Big Ten's best nonconference victory.
Comment: It's a shame these two leagues didn't play at all during the regular season, though they'll get their fill of one another when the bowls roll around. We'll get some more SEC flavor in 2010 as Penn State faces Alabama and Northwestern faces Vanderbilt.
Comment: Michigan's victory against the Irish back on Sept. 12 looked huge for both the Big Ten and the Wolverines at the time, but Notre Dame has since fallen off sharply. Both Michigan State and Purdue had chances to beat the Irish, but fell short.