Wait a second! Just a year ago, I pronounced Big 10 Football as dead. What’s this? Ohio State upends Alabama in the semi-final of the playoffs, 42-35, in the Sugar Bowl? Michigan State edges Baylor, 42-41, at AT&T Stadium? Wisconin edges Auburn, 34-31, in overtime, in the Outback Bowl in Tampa? Michigan hires Jim Harbaugh as coach at $8,000,000 a year and quintuples ticket prices? Damn! This means my reputation as an ‘expert’ is now in tatters, that no one will believe a word I say on anything! Let this be a lesson to me to withhold judgment until the games are over!
Does this mean I have to send a written apology to Big 10 Commissioner Jim Delaney? I mean, I wrote here that I would not trust him to run a 7-11, much less a multi-billion Dollar industry. Well, as it was unfair of me to pile all the blame for last year’s Big 10 troubles, it would be unwise to heap all the credit on him for this reversal of fortunes. Still, as I said a year ago: When you are looking for the reason things go wrong, start at the top. The same has to apply when things start going right. So, Jim Delaney, you were positive and that helped. On one knee, I beg your pardon.
In all this, the Wisconsin football coach left after the regular season (and Big 10 playoff) ended, so AD Barry Alvarez came out of retirement to lead them to another big win. You have to hand it to this man. His program was rocked when his coach bolted for Oregon State. He kept his hand on the tiller through all that and the team responded well. Of course, being able to hand off to the unbelievable Melvin Gordon on just about every play is going to make any coach look good. But Barry Alvarez is my idea of what a coach is all about. On one knee, I honor him.
With this, I think the Big 10 is now working its way back to respectability. Other programs are taking off now: Minnesota was 8-5 and went to a bowl game; Nebraska was 9-4 and lost to USC, 45-42, in the Holiday Bowl; Illinois was 6-7 but went to a bowl game and is on the way up; Penn State was 7-6 and beat Boston College, 31-30, in OT in the Pinstripe Bowl; Rutgers was 8-5 and beat North Carolina, 40-21, in the Quick Lane Bowl; Maryland was 7-6 and went to a bowl game. Only Northwestern, Iowa, Michigan, Indiana and Purdue did not make bowl games. Hoo-rah.