Should Big Ten Be Encouraged by Rose Bowl Win or Demoralized by Other Losses?

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor IJanuary 9, 2014

Jan 1, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Michigan State Spartans linebacker Kyler Elsworth (41) and quarterback Connor Cook (18) celebrate after the 100th Rose Bowl against the Stanford Cardinal. Michigan State defeated Stanford 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The annual disappointment that is New Year's Day in Big Ten country was not so disappointing this year, thanks to Michigan State winning the Rose Bowl and the conference going 2-2 on the day.

Instead of its usual drubbing, the conference could actually hold its head high when the Rose Bowl Trophy was presented to the winner.

Before you get overjoyed, though, let's remember the conference couldn't win any other game besides Nebraska beating Georgia in the Gator Bowl. 

Jan 1, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Michigan State Spartans coach Mark Dantonio (left) and quarterback Connor Cook (18) hoist the Leishman Trophy after the 100th Rose Bowl against the Stanford Cardinal. Michigan State defeated Stanford 24-20. Mandatory Credit
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

So, should we be celebrating the Rose Bowl Trophy making its way back to Big Ten country for the first time since 2010, or should we be sad that once again the conference couldn't represent itself better when it was all said and done?

The answer comes in the details of what took place during bowl season. 

Yes, the Big Ten went 2-5 and the lasting memory was that of Ohio State walking off the field as losers in the Orange Bowl, but let us remember that the Big Ten didn't exactly embarrass itself this go-around. 

If there is a silver lining in this bowl season, it's not just the Rose Bowl win—it's that the Big Ten actually gave it the good old college try. 

Outside of Michigan not showing up to play in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, the other four defeats for the conference all were by 10 points or less. 

Wisconsin lost by 10 to South Carolina, Minnesota lost by four to Syracuse, Iowa lost by a touchdown to LSU and Ohio State went down by five points to Clemson in a crazy Orange Bowl. 

Some of the best games played all bowl season involved the Big Ten—it just so happened the league representative was on the losing end of those close games.

But let's also be honest—silver linings are for losers, and well folks, that's just what the Big Ten was for the most part in the 2013-14 bowl season.

Yes, be happy to see the Big Ten get a major Rose Bowl victory in the final year of the BCS, but also remember that for yet another bowl season, the conference's best efforts weren't good enough against other top conferences. 

The reality of how pundits like myself see college football is based on the only true measure of where a conference is—matchups between each other. 

If the Big Ten wants to repair its image and be known as one of the best conferences out there, it needs to flip those close losses to close wins and the occasional blowout in its favor.

Just imagine what the rest of the media would be saying had Iowa found a way to take advantage of LSU's mistakes or Ohio State's defense found a way to slow down Sammy Watkins just once. 

What if Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave doesn't throw an interception off his offensive lineman's foot and the Badgers score on that drive? How about if Minnesota could've found a passing game against a soft Syracuse defense?

Again, therein lies the problem—the Big Ten is left playing the "what if" game for another offseason, and at some point it just becomes too painful to take. 

For this writer, though, the 2014 bowl season showed that the Big Ten was drawing closer to respectability—rather than slipping another rung on the college football ladder.

Come the 2014-15 bowl season, things will look a lot different thanks to a new lineup of bowl games, and the Big Ten won't be at such a scheduling disadvantage.

Now it's time for the league to prove that with more even competition it can beat the big boys of the SEC, ACC and Pac-12. 

At least, that's the hope of those in the Big Ten offices in Rosemont, Illinois.

Call me crazy, but as the saying goes, "I'll believe it when I see it."

Talking about improvements is great, but in the world of college football, W's do the walking, and until that happens, Big Ten fans have every right to be demoralized.


*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.