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Is it time to respect the Big Ten?

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That's what Brian Cook asks in his latest SportingBlog post.

It's nice to see the Big Ten knocked down to the point where this topic of discussion isn't beyond the pale. Time to justify your existence - welcome to our world.

To be fair, he is correct that they have actually fared well during this bowl season, with Iowa, Ohio State, and Penn State all winning the Big Ten's three most important out of conference matchups. It's the first time that's happened in a while, so give credit where it's due.

Any Big Ten criticism has a lot more to do with just the bowl season however. Their recent failures were only a subset of a much larger trend of poor OOC performances over the past three seasons. In that time frame, it's more than reasonable to suggest that the Big Ten was, by far, the worst of the "big six" BCS confereces. It was patently unfair that the Big East remained in the crosshairs when the Big Ten and ACC had performed worse.

Those three victories at best only counteract a middling 2009 regular season. To garner any respect, they'll have to peform well in future OOC games, and I don't really see that happening until if and when Rich Rodriguez turns around Michigan. To be insulting to those yokels at Penn State as possible, the entire B10 is predicated around the idea that Ohio State and Michigan are regularly among the nation's elite. Doesn't exactly work when Ohio State loses to USC, and the Wolverines cannot play a lick of defense.

That's why it's so maddening that even today, Brian celebrates that the Big Ten is on equal financial footing with the SEC - how is that warranted at all on the merits? ESPN chooses to air dreck like the Illinois-Purdue football game over two much better Big East contests. The Big Ten's prominence is so disproportionate to their recent track record that Notre Dame would be jealous.

This is a conference led by a commissioner who proudly stands in the way of a playoff, and gleefully shakes down midwestern cable subscribers for mandatory subsidies. It's funny how Jim Delany actually is from South Orange, because those tactics are straight out of fictional Essex county resident Tony Soprano's playbook. So no, I'm not going to give the devil his due. Not when every single one Big Ten action is aimed at the end of further watering down their product and all further dilute all competitive college football in favor of cupcake kabuki.

Given how increasingly likely it's looking that Rutgers is indeed the Big Ten's favored candidate for expansion, it sure will be ironic how their partisans will bemoan Delany supposedly watering down the confernece in pursuit of buckets of Big Apple cash. As if that hasn't been the plan and M.O. from day one. Even if Michigan ever does improve to the point that Big Ten football isn't a national punchline, the conference as a whole can never fairly receive enough ridicule and disrespect.