Why the Big Ten will rise again

Meyer, Hoke, Bielema offer conference a quality foundation to build upon

Updated: September 18, 2012, 12:36 PM ET
By Brad Edwards | ESPN Insider
Brady Hoke/Urban MeyerAP PhotosSolid coaches such as Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke are reasons the Big Ten will rebound.

In the past 10 years, the Big Ten has shown the college football world the power of teamwork. With contributions from every member of the conference, the Big Ten has been digging itself a hole … and has kept digging … and digging.

Since winning its last national title with Ohio State in 2002, the Big Ten has gone 31-53 (.369) against ranked, nonconference opponents. And, in that same span, the league has a 26-42 bowl record, which is the worst of any BCS automatic-qualifying conference.

Now, just three weeks into the 2012 college football season, the Big Ten already has been rendered irrelevant in the BCS championship race, thanks to humbling losses by the Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans, Nebraska Cornhuskers and Wisconsin Badgers.

The conference has just three teams with an undefeated record remaining, and two of them -- Northwestern and Minnesota -- still haven't cracked the Top 25. The other, Ohio State, is ranked 16th but is ineligible to compete for the conference title or play in a bowl game. The Big Ten has just four wins against other BCS AQ teams so far this season, and three of them belong to Northwestern.

After nearly a decade of digging, the conference might have finally reached rock bottom.

But, as crazy as this might sound, the Big Ten is well positioned to make a quick climb back to being one of college football's best conferences.

• Analyzes college football and the BCS as part of ESPN's Stats & Information Group
• Analyst for both College GameDay on ESPN Radio and the ESPN College Football app