Physical and sluggish. Overrated and strong. It’s a mixed bag of insults and compliments when it comes to the national perception of Big Ten football.
During various media days, ESPN.com spoke with players from each conference to get their perceptions of the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, and SEC from other BCS conferences. And those mixed feelings were quite clear.
Here are a few words that jumped out or, noticeably, didn’t:
Big guys who were not athletic enough to play in the SEC: Maybe this is also the right time to make note of “corn-fed” in the upper left-hand corner? Perhaps there’s a correlation. Perhaps not. But there’s no way to get around the fact that if the SEC is speed, then the Big Ten would be size. Not every Big Ten position group has bigger guys than in other conferences and not every Big Ten position group is less athletic than guys in similar positions in the SEC, but that does seem to be the perception. Most Big Ten teams enjoy fielding big, nasty offensive linemen, and it has been a staple of the conference for decades. That reputation has apparently spilled over into other position groups now, too.
Running: Those kind of big bodies allow for a tough run game generally. And between the “downhill running,” “running,” “cold weather running,” “run game,” and “aggressive run,” you’d think most BCS players believed that a Big Ten quarterback had never attempted a pass. And while that’s not true, it’s still the conference that produced top backs like Heisman winner Eddie George, Heisman winner Ron Dayne and two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin.
Michigan-Ohio State: No surprises here. A recent SportsNation ranked Michigan-Ohio State as the best rivalry in college football. The two teams dominated the Big Ten during the infamous Ten Year War, making Bo and Woody household names, a rivalry-feel being resurrected by Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer currently. While many players look to the Big Ten and hate the idea of cold, snowy games, there just seems to be something about that last Saturday in November that draws national eyes to watch two old foes battle it out. Even in seasons when one team is (or both teams are) down and out, it still is a game that everyone seems to want to be a part of.
Noticeably absent: respect. Not the word itself, but that general feeling. Looking over the words, it’s clear that BCS schools don’t really look at the Big Ten as a huge national threat. While Ohio State technically did or did not (depending on how you look at it) go undefeated last season, the Big Ten hasn’t received a ton of respect nationally. That’s not a huge surprise -- the last time a Big Ten team won a national title was when most of these players were in elementary school (2002, Ohio State).