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Fear Not That They Fail, Laugh Instead



You can't spell "mediocre" without d-o-m-e-r.

Tonight Notre Dame will try to break their nine game bowl losing streak in Hawaii. It is college football's longest streak, made even funnier by the fact that it has actually been fifteen years since they last won in the post season. So let's enjoy it, root for the Rainbow Warriors and hope Weis shows up in a mumu. This is a meaningless game, totally unconnected to Penn State; schadenfreude at its best.

Wait, what's that Rittenburg?

I cringe a bit as I type this, but the Big Ten should want Weis to succeed in 2009. The Big Ten needs Notre Dame to be good again, if for no other reason than to boost its nonconference strength of schedule. Three Big Ten teams play the Irish every year -- Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue -- and Notre Dame should present the opportunity for a quality victory. Michigan State's win against Notre Dame on Sept. 20 has lost a lot of value since the Irish sputtered down the stretch.

Of course it can't be just a game, everything that happens in the universe has to somehow be introduced as evidence in the Great Conference Debate.

While I like where Rittenbug's head is at, and he's a fine writer and does good work, I have to completely disagree.

The big misconception in college football is that you need the perennial powers to succeed in order for the sport to succeed. I don't buy it. When the Ivys eliminated scholarships after being the dominant force in the sport, college football moved on. When SMU was a successful team (claiming three MNC's including two in the 80's) and received the death penalty, college football moved on. Penn State, Miami, Florida State, and countless other "big time" programs have struggled from time to time, yet the sport has shown consistent growth.

A good example: Nebraska hasn't been relevant since 2002, and still the Big XII is considered the most talented conference this season anyway. The Big East was completely ransacked, losing the only two teams that had ever received an auto-BCS bid, yet WVU and USF were both highly ranked last year and were both given enough support from the public to control their own path to the MNC game (both failed, of course).

College football is a powerful being and when a marque team stumbles there are 118 other teams ready to fill the void.

Bringing this a little closer to the specific situation: Notre Dame only hurts the Big Ten.

  • Chicago newspapers have the difficult task of covering both the biggest name in college football and about half of the Big Ten conference. When Notre Dame is at the top they dominate the coverage, overshadowing publicity for the rest of the league.
  • Notre Dame recruits nationally but is still picking up most of their roster from the Big Ten recruiting base. If Notre Dame consistently underperformed, these kids who used to be easy pick-ups for the Irish are going to end up at Big Ten schools, thus raising the talent level in the league.
  • Notre Dame has a contract with NBC to put all of their home games on national television, however when they play on the road the games are broadcast at the option of home team's suitor . This is usually ESPN. So when ESPN has the chance to pick up a popular ND game at the expense of a Big Ten league game, what are they to do? Notre Dame fans are most dense through Big Ten Country, and if they are playing well it's unfortunately an easy call for them. This lowers the visibility of Big Ten games. If ND is struggling and lacking drawing power, the Big Ten gets the more prominent platform.
  • No one wins when Notre Dame gets a BCS bid, this won't happen if they continue to struggle.
  • Notre Dame does play several Big Ten teams every year, but it is still only 6.8% of the total OOC games the league plays.

What we need isn't for Notre Dame to become a competitive opponent, but for the the Big Ten to start winning the other 41 out of conference match-ups. Michigan State can't lose to Cal. Ohio State can't be embarrassed against USC . Michigan can't lose to a Toledo team so bad they fired their coach. Wisconsin can't beat Cal Poly on a missed extra point in overtime.

Now, playing a weak OOC slate is definitely a problem for the league, but:

(1) it's a problem in all of college football, not just the Big Ten. In fact, you could argue the situation we are in right now is a direct result of there being no common games between Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech,USC and PSU . On top of that, I'm only aware of one relatively competitive common opponent, Oregon State, and that's between 27 total out of conference games! No one is playing anyone.

(2) the three extra competitive games, a small fraction of the total non-Big Ten contests, aren't really going to help that much. Especially when you consider that, over the next two years, neither Purdue, Michigan State, or Michigan are likely to being making any noise on the national front.

So relax Penn State readers, root for Notre Dame to fail and fear not the consequences.  A Notre Dame loss...



Is a win for America.

(photos from thermocaster and MSNBC)