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Ohio State win caps impressive bowl season for Big Ten

Matt Zenitz
Contact ReporterBaltimore Sun Media Group
A common cry after Ohio State won the national championship: "Respect the Big Ten!"

The statement was strengthened with each of Ezekiel Elliott's runs through Oregon’s defense and each time Ohio State stopped the Ducks’ touted offense.

The Big Ten deserves respect.

For months, this was perceived as a down year for the conference, the latest season that the top teams in the Big Ten looked to be clearly inferior to the top teams in a conference such as the SEC.

For months, that belief was justifiable.

Ohio State lost, 35-21, in September to an average Virginia Tech team that finished 7-6.

Michigan State fell, 46-27, against Oregon, the victims of a 21-0 Ducks run to end the game.

Michigan lost, 31-0, to Notre Dame and fell to Utah. Nebraska needed a miraculous play from star running back Ameer Adbullah to beat McNeese State, and Penn State had one of its weakest teams in recent memory.

Ohio State's loss to Virginia Tech was probably the low point, one of the Big Ten’s strongest teams pushed around by an unranked squad with modest expectations.

But, on Monday night, Ohio State put the exclamation point on an impressive run for Big Ten teams during bowl season, one that showed Big Ten teams are on par, and superior, to many of the top teams in college football.

The Big Ten East, Maryland’s division, was 5-1 in bowl games. The lone loss belonged to the Terps, who fell to a heavily favored Stanford team that beat No. 8 UCLA, 31-10, in its previous game.

In games that were played on New Year’s Eve or later, dates typically reserved for the more prominent bowl games, Big Ten teams were 4-2.

Wisconsin beat No. 19 Auburn, 34-31, in the Outback Bowl. Michigan State came back from a 20-point deficit to win, 42-41, over No. 5 Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. And Ohio State beat No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon on its way to becoming the first Big Ten team to win a national championship since the Buckeyes during the 2002 season.

Despite being relegated to using third-string quarterback Cardale Jones, Ohio State led throughout the second half against Alabama and may have beaten Oregon even worse than 42-20 if not for four turnovers.

Green Bay Packers tight end Andrew Quarless, who played at Penn State, was one of many players, analysts and fans to post a similar reaction on Twitter following Ohio State’s win Monday: “Respect the Big Ten!”

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