DES MOINES, IOWA (AP) - The Big Ten spent much of the year as a national punch line.
It might get worse during bowl season.
The Big Ten could only fill seven of its eight predetermined bowl slots _ and each of those bowl-bound teams is currently an underdog.
From the five-loss Wisconsin team that still wound up in the Rose Bowl to the 6-6 Purdue squad that fired its coach, the beleaguered Big Ten isn’t expected to do much of anything in the postseason.
The league went just 1-6 in bowl games in 2008. According to odds makers, things could go even worse in 2012.
“I’m not apologizing for us to go to the Rose Bowl with five losses,” Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said during his press conference to announce he would coach the Badgers in that game. “I didn’t have anything to do with two teams being ineligible in our division. That allowed us to play in that championship game, and we soundly defeated the champion from the other side.”
That they did, thumping Nebraska 70-31.
Still, the current symbol for the league’s plight has to be Badgers (8-5, 4-4 Big Ten).
They finished four games behind Ohio State and one behind Penn State in the Leaders Division. But the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions weren’t eligible for the Big Ten title game, and the Badgers made the most of their lucky break.
Wisconsin is currently in upheaval after Bret Bielema stunned nearly everyone by bolting for Arkansas a few weeks ago. Alvarez will lead the Badgers in their third straight Rose Bowl, where they’re about a touchdown underdog to 11-2 Stanford. Afterward, he’ll resume his search for a new coach.
“It will be a great challenge for us, but I think it’s a good matchup. I think it’s a great bowl matchup. The game hasn’t changed,” Alvarez said.
The way Wisconsin manhandled the Huskers also took some buzz out of the Capital One Bowl.
Nebraska (10-3, 7-1) fell to the game in Orlando following their loss to the Badgers. The Huskers face Georgia (11-2) in a matchup that would have looked like good on paper _ in mid-November.
While the Bulldogs were within about 5 yards of beating Alabama and earning a shot at Notre Dame in the BCS national championship, the Huskers were embarrassed by the five-loss Badgers a few hours later.
Georgia is a 10-point favorite over the seemingly reeling Huskers.