While the Big Ten Conference, with the exceptions of Ohio State and Penn State, has been disappointing as a whole this season, a number of schools still have the opportunities to have excellent seasons.
With both Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for postseason or a conference championship, the Big Ten Leaders division will likely fall to Wisconsin even if is by default. Regarded prior to the season as a team that could compete for the national championship, the Badgers have been to many, a disappointment.
If Wisconsin however, were able to rise to the occasion on December 1st and win the Big Ten, the Badgers would reach the Rose Bowl for a third consecutive season. That's something that has never been done in Wisconsin history. No Big Ten school has played in the Rose Bowl in three consecutive years since Michigan did it from 1977-79.
Michigan has been yet another disappointing team in the Big Ten, but the Wolverines are tied for first place in the Legends division. Michigan does not control its own destiny, but could get help this weekend from in-state rival Michigan State as the Spartans host Nebraska. If the Wolverines were able to win the conference, they would reach the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 2006 season. Michigan could also get the opportunity to win the Rose Bowl for the first time since its national championship season of 1997 and its first BCS game since 1999.
Nebraska at the moment has the inside track to win the Legends division and to reach the second Big Ten Championship. For Nebraska, this would go a long way toward the Cornhuskers being back as a national power. Nebraska has not played in a BCS game since 2001 when it was crushed by Miami for the national title. The Cornhuskers have not won a conference championship since they did so in 1999 as a member of the Big XII.
To illustrate how been the Big Ten has been this season, the conference leader (Ohio State) is on probation. Penn State, who is also on probation, was undefeated in Big Ten play entering last week, but had losses to Ohio and a Virginia team that is the only school yet to notch its first conference win in a weak ACC. The conference is also just 4-3 against the MAC.
But 2012 futility aside, there is still opportunity to break a number of dry spells. Wisconsin is looking to become the first Big Ten team to reach three straight Rose Bowls since the late 1970's while Michigan and Nebraska have hopes of winning a BCS game for the first time this millennium.
The season began with five teams ranked in the top 25. With the exception of Ohio State, there is only one Big Ten school currently in the top 25 and that one (Nebraska) is just on the outskirts of the top 20. While 2012 hasn't been a typical Big Ten year, winning a conference title and a Rose Bowl in the same season is something that few schools get to experience. A disappointing regular season for the conference would not do little or nothing to detract from that feat.