UW Health Sports Medicine 

The Voice: Bowls are chance to showcase improved Big Ten

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It is interesting how quickly a team's perception can change based on one bad game.

Interesting, and at times inaccurate.

For weeks, as the Badgers football team was rolling along, more and more national observers were talking about how Gary Andersen's squad was underrated. The Arizona State game was incomplete.

With the Badgers on the brink of the top 14 in the BCS standings, at least some media members were projecting Wisconsin to play in the Orange Bowl.

Then last Saturday happened.

Suddenly, at least for some, the image has changed. Be it a talk show host or a national columnist or two, much of the love for the Badgers has faded.

So goes life in the Big Ten. This week the debate continues whether Ohio State is worthy of its No. 2 ranking. Yes it is undefeated, but critics point to its poor non-conference schedule and a league that remains viewed as weak.

Suddenly, the Buckeyes' win against Wisconsin loses some juice. How can OSU be ranked ahead of a one-loss SEC team? On and on it goes.

While Penn State deserves a ton of credit for coming to Camp Randall and dumping a bucket of cold water on the Badgers' Senior Day, let us not forget that UW has had a very good season.

Yes, the loss to the Nittany Lions will cost Wisconsin a chance at a BCS at-large bid, but take a look at the other two setbacks. We know what is on the line for Ohio State, but it is worth mentioning that Arizona State will be hosting the Pac-12 title game this weekend against Stanford.

While the officials botched the ending of the UW-ASU game in Tempe, it is worth noting that the Sun Devils are having a terrific season, and they are one win away from playing in the Rose Bowl Game for the first time since 1997.

To me, what is happening here is the classic case of an old saying: You are never as good as people say you are, nor are you ever as bad.

Was I surprised at last weekend's outcome? Yes, very much so. The Badgers defense had been in shutdown mode for several weeks, while the offense was taking care of its business. Penn State had just lost on its Senior Day and had yet to win a road game in the Big Ten.

The script called for another convincing victory for the home team, but PSU played one of its best games of the season, while the Badgers played their worst.

Sometimes it is just that simple. It can happen in any sport at any level. In this case it stinks, but it is reality.

As someone who has lived in Big Ten Country his entire life, I will admit to being sick and tired of the verbal pounding this league has had to absorb.

There is one sure way to stop it. Win the big bowl games.

I can tell you how I believe the Big Ten is better than many believe. I really do believe that. However, the image can only change through better postseason results.

Assuming the Badgers are headed for either Orlando or Tampa, they will play a highly-regarded SEC team. Ohio State and Michigan State will be in big-stage bowl games -- for OSU, maybe the biggest of them all.

Win those games, and the perception will begin to change.

To this observer, the Big Ten is improving. Hopefully in the next few weeks this conference will make a loud statement that can be heard nationwide.

ON WISCONSIN