Big Ten Bowl history shows dismal records

The problem of Big Ten bowl results have become a hot topic in recent years because as a whole the conference has faired rather miserably overall, winning just one game on New Years Day this past year and going 2-5 in 2010. Add in the fact that the conference hasn't had a winning record during Bowl Season since 2005 and things are a bit bleak. However, things get even more troubling when you take a trip into the way back machine and it really begs the question – Do Bowl Results really matter all that much?

Yes, it's a question that's been asked a billion times before, but it's one that seemingly only has been asked after another bad showing on New Years Day. Instead we're examining this before we begin a season where the Big Ten is a Vegas underdog in all 7 of their bowl games. 

That got us thinking, hmmmm… Perhaps there's some historical reason beyond just what has happened in the past two years? We did some digging and it's true, the Big Ten is downright awful in their bowl history as a conference. Just how bad? Well, let's take a look at the records of each of the schools in question, shall we? 


School Bowl Game Record
Illinois 8-9
Indiana 3-6
Iowa 14-11-1
Michigan 20-21
Michigan State 8-14
Minnesota 5-9
Nebraska 24-24
Northwestern 1-9
Ohio State 19-23
Penn State 27-15-2
Purdue 9-7
Wisconsin 11-12

So, yes you are seeing that right, only Iowa and Penn State (10-6 as a member of the Big Ten) currently have winning bowl game records in their overall history. That just tells us the whole losing phenomenon during bowl season isn't a new thing for the Big Ten, it's about as old as our affiliation with the Rose Bowl. 

In fact, when you take a look at the history of the bowl season and the Big Ten the Rose Bowl could well be the issue. Why do I say that? Well, if you know your history of bowl games in the Big Ten then you would know that until the 1975 season no Big Ten team played in a bowl game outside of the Rose Bowl. 

Not only that but no Big Ten team could represent the conference in the Rose Bowl in back to back years from the 1947 to 1972 games, which means that in some years the Big Ten wasn't sending it's best teams out to Pasadena (or #Pasathreena if you're a Badger fan this year). 

While that is a small explanation of the Big Ten's bad bowl record it also has to do with some of the agreements and teams that the Big Ten has ended up playing in bowl games as well. Often times the Big Ten does find itself in situations where it's playing teams that aren't exactly their peers because of the BCS or other agreements to bowl tie in's. 

One could point to the fact that outside of the Rose Bowl the conference doesn't play another game against the rival Pac-12 during the bowl season and is often times playing against the SEC and Big 12, two of the best conferences for the past 20 years. 

No one can accuse the Big Ten of being scared of the schools in these conferences, but there is a lot that also goes into these bad records beyond just the upper level competition. It's not as if we are taking on the middle of the ACC or taking on a Big Least school in some our bowl matchups. The only way it could be questionable on the bowl side is if the Big Ten has enough teams eligible to fill a slot in the Little Caeser's Pizza Bowl against a MAC school.

There's also the fact that outside of the now named Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl the Big Ten plays schools every year directly in their backyard. Whether it's a game in Texas against a Big 12 school or a game in Florida against an SEC school, it's never easy playing in destinations that are climatically so different. 

Sure, the teams do go out early and get used to the atmosphere and the climate and of course the training staff is doing their parts as well, but there's no substitute for living in those conditions or similar ones on a 365 day a year basis. 

Imagine a team from Florida, Mississippi, or West Texas coming up and playing a game at Soldier Field in the bitter cold and snow. You can't tell me the elements wouldn't have an effect at some point on those players.

Look, I'm not saying it's the only factor, but it is at least a small one that has to be accounted for. 

There's also the fact that for whatever reason the Big Ten just doesn't show up well when it comes to bowl games. You can blame the weather, playing out of region or playing better competition than any other conference but when it comes down to it the conference simply hasn't shown up when it counts. 

So, as bleak a picture as it paints it still begs the question – do Bowl Season results really matter? Ultimately what kind of measuring stick is Bowl season anyway? 

If you really take a look at all the factors involved in bowl games their is a massive advantage for the west coast and southern schools in the country and until we get a system where the SEC is traveling outside of their little bubble more than once a season or the Big 12 is traveling more than one or two teams outside of their region annually it's impossible and completely ridiculous to put stock in one off games that come an entire month after the last games of the regular season have been played. 

Momentum is killed for a lot of teams and when you have coaches talking about how they don't care as much about the game as they do getting the extra practices, that's all this writer needs to know as to just how much credence you can take away from Bowl season. Really, if you are the Big Ten the only games that matter annually are the Rose Bowl and the BCS National Championship when the conference sends a school to play in it. All other games and wins are just gravy on top of the season. 

At the end of the day it's fun to enjoy bragging rights, but these are glorified exhibition games at best and actually putting real stock in the results of bowl games means squat. It'll especially mean squat come 2014 and beyond when the regular season will really matter more and more with quality matchups happening more frequently than less as the playoff finally comes into fruition. 

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, as well as Publisher of Big Ten site