In a world where perception matters most, Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes of 2013-14 appear to be paying the price for the Big Ten's mediocre past.
Unfair or fair, it is reality—and it has been that way for a while now.
How else do you explain a team that is 20-0, has the longest win streak in the country and yet isn't considered by most pundits to be worthy of playing in the national championship?
The Big Ten’s past failings are unquestionably holding the best teams back on the national stage, and unfortunately it could be Ohio State's turn to pay for the sins of the past in the Big Ten.
It doesn't help when the biggest goals you set for yourself as a conference—getting to and winning the Rose Bowl, playing for national championships and winning bowl games—are all failures in recent memory.
That's what happens when you go 1-9 in the last 10 Rose Bowl appearances as a conference.
That's what happens when you haven't had any of your teams win a national championship in a decade.
That's what happens when the Big Ten goes just 47-59 in bowl games since the start of the BCS era in 1998.
It's hard to get respect when all of those things are adding up around you, regardless of your own good track record.
Ohio State has a 6-3 record in BCS bowl games and is the last team to win a national title from the Big Ten.
Of course, the Buckeyes haven't helped their own case much either as of late, losing BCS National Championship games in the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
Perception is reality sometimes; just take a look at how that is affecting the standings on a week in, week out basis this year alone.
Just two weeks ago, the SEC had all eight of its teams with winning records in the Top 25, while the Big Ten managed just two of 10 teams with winning records themselves.
That's how much past perception of a conference can affect teams.
For instance, ask yourself this question. When Michigan got beat by Penn State on the road in Happy Valley, what was the narrative?
It wasn't that the Big Ten was an ultra-competitive league with teams capable of winning any game on any given Saturday.
Instead, it was that Michigan wasn't any good anymore and proved its doubters right by losing.
Now, flip that same question on its head, and apply it to the losses that have occurred in recent weeks across the SEC.
Notice the lack of a "well this team stinks" mantra and an abundance of "wow, the SEC is really a deep league this year," instead?
...and its not just from fans either:
However, this isn't a new problem for the Big Ten.
It has suffered from a perception problem for a few years now, despite an increase in competitiveness from teams like Minnesota, Indiana and now Iowa as well.
That brings up the dreaded word, parity.
Is having a deep conference and thus a chance at parity a good thing? Or is it better to have three or four dominate teams on an annual basis?
This question of parity helping or hurting the Big Ten, isn't new though—as it was asked way back in 2011 by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg.
His conclusion? Try this (from the article):
"The Big Ten can't be credited for cannibalizing itself when it has been the prey more than the predator in the major matchups with other conferences," according to Rittenberg.
Fast forward two seasons and that statement could still ring true; and it proves one big point—it takes time to change perception.
Win a few Rose Bowls, beat the SEC in more than one bowl game and then maybe the perception of what happens on Saturday's in the fall will change.
Only then can a Nebraska lose to Minnesota or Michigan lose to Penn State on the road and have the nation chalk it up to the depth of the league.
So, as much as it may be unfair or even untrue—the perception of the Big Ten today is holding back Ohio State.
*Andy Coppens is the lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.
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