The great Big Ten Rose Bowl debate
Three teams with identical 11-1 records, each with merit, each fairly desperate to get a whiff of Roses on Jan. 1. So which one is most deserving?
Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin finished tied for the Big Ten Conference championship with 7-1 records in conference play. Since head-to-head results and overall records can't break the tie, the conference bylaws call for the team that finishes highest in the BCS standings to be rewarded with the Rose Bowl bid.
But which team is really most worthy of representing the conference in Pasadena on New Year's Day? We've brought in distinguished panelists from FOX Sports Detroit, FOX Sports Ohio and FOX Sports Wisconsin to help us settle this debate.
Michigan State beat Wisconsin, which beat Ohio State, which didn't play Michigan State.
Michigan State's Sparty Gregory Shamus
"If we were playing tic-tac-toe, we'd be going (to the Rose Bowl)," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said with a grin.
Dantonio has seen all the projections -- Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl, Ohio State to the Sugar Bowl and Michigan State left without a BCS bid and going to the Capital One Bowl -- and he's frustrated by all the assumptions.
"Why not us?" Dantonio asked. "There are three co-champions. I'm not trying to diss any of the other programs. I'm just looking for a little respect. Let's just talk about it as opposed to saying it's a done deal.
"That's the only thing I want to do, raise awareness. I'm just trying to do the best I can for our football team. I think that's warranted in this situation."
You would think Wisconsin earned the right to the Rose Bowl by beating Big Ten co-champion Ohio State head-to-head. But that’s just reality. And we all know the BCS and reality are often two very different things.
Ohio State's BrutusJamie Sabau
Of course, a flawed system isn’t the only reason Ohio State deserves the Rose Bowl nod over Wisconsin (and third co-champ Michigan State). There are several other factors to consider.
Wisconsin lost to Michigan State. If the Rose Bowl bid is based solely on head-to-head matchups, then the Badgers would have to concede to Michigan State, regardless of the BCS. After all, the Spartans mostly had their way with the Badgers back in early October. As Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said: "We are the only team that’s beat Wisconsin. And, I might add, convincingly."
On the other hand, the Spartans didn’t beat the Buckeyes — as the two teams didn’t play.
Two years ago, people were calling for Bret Bielema to be given his walking papers. Now, fans are demanding the University of Wisconsin give him more money so he doesn’t consider openings at schools like Miami.
Wisconsin's Bucky Getty Images
Times have changed at Wisconsin the past two seasons in terms of attitude, accountability and mentality. And it’s no surprise those changes have yielded a change in production.
"Everybody is just always focused," Badgers senior safety Jay Valai said. "We’re scrappers. This is the most scrappy team I have ever been on. One thing about our team in general, we love to fight for each other, go out and play aggressive football and have each other’s back."
After its 70-23 victory over Northwestern on Saturday clinched the school’s first conference championship since 1999 and 12th overall, Wisconsin moved up two spots to No. 5 in the BCS standings and, more importantly, widened its lead over conference rival Ohio State to .0553 from .0540. Those numbers mean the Badgers are almost certainly guaranteed a place in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.