By Brian Lester
You have to wonder if the Big Ten's already-tarnished natonal repuation is in for another beating when 2009 arrives.
Before I go on, let me tell you that I like the Big Ten. I grew up near Chicago and I am a tortured Illinois fan.
I know. I'm crazy. Illinois is good for nothing but disappointment.
The beatdown the Illini suffered at the hands of USC in the Rose Bowl last year didn't surprise me at all.
I also had to laugh when several publications ranked the Illini in the Top 15 in the preseason poll this season.
Okay, enough on the Illini. They aren't even in a bowl game, which is really bad when you consider that a team really has to try not qualify for a bowl game in this day and age.
But I digress.
Penn State and Ohio State are in bowl games, and the reputation of the Big Ten is on their shoulders.
PSU is playing USC in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day and OSU will meet Texas in the Fiesta Bowl a few days later.
We already know OSU's reputation on a national stage against football powerhouses looks like it took a wrong turn down a dark alley. Florida, LSU and USC made sure of that in recent years.
So why should anyone think the Buckeyes are going to have a prayer against the Longhorns?
They are up against a Texas team that probably feels like it should be playing in the national championship game. I mean, Texas did beat Oklahoma. A close loss to Texas Tech prevented the Longhorns from earning a spot in the title tilt.
I'd like to hear what fans of the Buckeyes think about their beloved team's chances against Texas.
As for Penn State, well, the Nittany Lions did win the Big Ten.
And yes, it's great Joe Paterno has enjoyed a stellar season.
But does anyone really think the Nittany Lions can hang with USC? The Trojans are probably good enough to win the NFC West. They shouldn't have any trouble pounding a Penn State team that barely beat Ohio State during the regular season.
And like Texas, USC could make a case for why it should be playing for the national title instead of a game that could turn into a glorified scrimmage.
I'd love to see OSU or PSU pull off a stunning upset and begin the much-needed repair of the Big Ten's national reputation. I have a feeling, though, that the league's reputation is about to take two more hard hits.