Michigan hopes to break from Big Ten's struggles against SEC
ANN ARBOR -- Two of its premier programs are on probation. No team finished among the top 15 in the final BCS standings. There were unsightly nonconference losses. One of its top coaches just left.
The Big Ten was beat up this year.
And now, three of its teams get the pleasure of squaring off in the postseason against the SEC, college football's most powerful conference.
No. 19 Michigan (8-4) is one of those teams, as it gets set to face No. 11 South Carolina (10-2) on Jan. 1 in the Outback Bowl. Players know they have an opportunity to help their conference's image.
"I like it -- it's a big chance to make the Big Ten the main conference in the NCAA," defensive lineman Will Campbell said. "I think there's more at stake this year. A lot of good Big Ten teams going against SEC teams. A little flip-floppy year, but it's going to be a good time."
The Big Ten has faltered recently in the postseason, going just 34-52 in bowls since 2000. It hasn't posted a winning record against the SEC since winning two of three in 2004.
It is 5-9 in bowl games against teams currently in the SEC the past four seasons. And things could get worse before they get better, as the Big Ten is expected to lose each of its matchups against the SEC this year.
South Carolina is favored by 4.5 points against Michigan in the Outback Bowl, Mississippi State by 2.5 points against Northwestern in the Gator Bowl and Georgia by 8.5 points against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.
But Michigan is one of the few Big Ten teams to have success against the SEC. It is 20-7-1 all-time against the league, and 7-4 in bowl games.
It has lost its past two games against the league, though, dropping the 2010 Gator Bowl to Mississippi State and this year's season opener against Alabama by a combined score of 93-28.
Michigan has a chance to end that skid on Jan. 1, and soften the punishment absorbed by the Big Ten this season.
"I think you’re playing for Michigan and your seniors first, but we’re proud to be in the Big Ten," coach Brady Hoke said this week. "Why we wouldn’t want to represent and have that be part of our focus, it’d be really bad for us not to feel that way about the Big Ten.”