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The Voice: Here's to cheering for the common good

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The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgSome of the pundits have mentioned it already, and it is best to assume there is more on the way. They are saying that this is a very important bowl season for the Big Ten.

Two years ago, the conference performed well in the postseason. Wisconsin was among the winners with an impressive showing against Miami in Orlando, but in the months that followed, the big news was the announcement that Nebraska would join the Big Ten.

Even though the games were still a year away, the Huskers' story seemed to overshadow a good holiday season for the league.

Last season, the Big Ten went 3-5 in bowl games, with Jan. 1 being an especially tough day. The conference went 0-5, including the Badgers' 21-19 loss to TCU. While the result was disappointing, the game was highly competitive, unlike Michigan and Michigan State's performances in the Gator and Capital One bowls, respectively.

The marquee win came from Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, but of course that became tainted with the Buckeyes' NCAA violations.

Fair or unfair -- and one can make an argument either way -- a conference's image is formed by postseason play. How the teams fare in September non-conference games can help too. While there were some exciting finishes, such as Michigan's rally to beat Notre Dame, and Illinois holding off what most thought at the time was a very good Arizona State team, the Big Ten was lacking in signature victories.

Which leads me to suggest something that might be difficult for Badgers fans to do, but I will give it a try. It is never a bad idea to root, root, root for the home team, which in this case means the Big Ten Conference.

What? Lepay is asking me to pull for Michigan State? Is he nuts? (in keeping with the holiday spirit, don't answer that). Why would I care whether Michigan or Ohio State wins?

I understand what you might be thinking. Sports, especially college football, are about cheering for your team and the heck with everyone else. That goes double for rivals.

But hear me out. If Michigan can beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, and if the Spartans can take care of Georgia in the Outback, it looks good for the Big Ten.

Nebraska draws South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl. For one day, Wisconsin fans can root for the Big Red of Nebraska to defeat Steve Spurrier, aka the "Ball Coach."  

It sure would be a boost if Iowa can slow down the high-powered Oklahoma Sooners in the Insight Bowl.

The list goes on and on. The conference is sending a record 10 teams to bowl games this year, and while some are more under the radar than others, the more the Big Ten can win the better.

That certainly is true for the bigger stage games. Once again, the Badgers have the biggest stage by playing Oregon in the Rose Bowl. For the first time this season, it appears Wisconsin will be a decided underdog. I kind of like that. Think of what a Badgers victory would do not just for them, but for the league.

Understand, I grew up in Ohio, so rooting for Michigan is not exactly in my blood. But for now, I say "Go Blue!"

There is a genuine rivalry between the Badgers and Michigan State, but on Jan. 2, I say "Go Green! Go White!"

Is this crazy? Maybe, but the Big Ten is a proud conference that must be getting a little tired of being a punching bag to critics. I know fans in these parts are weary of the all the SEC love.

There is one way to change it. In the next few weeks, each of the ten Big Ten teams in bowl games will have a chance to do its part.

Then, on Sept. 29, 2012, when the Badgers open conference play at Nebraska, feel free to return to your regularly-scheduled dislike for everyone else in the league.

1 Comment

I grew up in Madison a Badger fan. I always root for the Big Ten conference player in all other games. I'll be attending the Hunger Bowl, rooting for Illinois over UCLA. Go Big Ten, and go Badgers: stay on game, eat the clock, hold the line and don't allow Oregon to wear you down with razzle dazzle. They can be beat, and if we do it, this will credit the entire conference.