There's no other BCS conference that the Pac-12 locks horns with more than the Big Ten, and with five non-conference match-ups lined up for 2013, it doesn't look like that is going to change anytime soon. Since most Pac-12 fans probably don't follow every Big Ten program that closely, and vice-versa, we teamed up with SBNation's Big Ten site, Off Tackle Empire and their editor Jesse Collins, to do a little Q&A about our respective conferences and 2013's Big Ten/Pac-12 non-conference match-ups.
You can check out the other half of the discussion at OffTackleEmpire.com.
JF - It seems like going into the season that the national perception of the Big Ten in 2013 seems to be Ohio State, and then everybody else. Are there any teams that you could see challenging Ohio State for the title, and getting into the BCS Championship Game conversation?
JC - Actually challenging Ohio State for the title? Yeah, I think there is a possibility of that. Getting into the BCS Championship Game? Probably not... Ohio State has a lot of things going for them right now. They came off an undefeated season, they have a recruiting juggernaut, their coach is arguably the best in the conference and one of the best in the nation, and the schedule really is aligned to make a crazy run. Unfortunately, as Oregon fans probably know, if you are in a BCS conference with a lot of rivalries and tradition, bad things happen all the time.
I honestly do not think Ohio State loses its division with Wisconsin and Purdue breaking in new staffs, Penn State on probation, Indiana being Indiana, and well, Illinois. However, a late loss to Michigan at the Big House could put a damper on the Buckeyes run to the conference title. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Ohio State goes undefeated and loses in the B1G CCG because it's really difficult to run the table two years in a row. Not a lot of teams do that.
With that in mind, it's the Buckeye's conference to lose and as of right now, they're the only complete team in the conference who will be making a run at the BCS Championship Game.
JF - The Big Ten's overall national perception in overall strength and style seems to have really suffered in the past 10 years. Do you think these judgments are justified? And do you think the conference has worked on addressing them in recent years?
JC - It's funny. I am a Nebraska fan by trade - or something like that - and I admittedly have taken part in the #BashTheB1G party over the last decade. However, when you are forced into the conference, you do realize that the perception is not always indicative of reality. I think the top end of the Big Ten has been lesser than some of its contemporaries as of late. You can see a corresponding trend with coaching being down at times, recruiting being down, and Ohio State losing those BCS games against the SEC. It just looks bad, but the middle of the conference is as strong as anyone's in the country. With that said, it is important for the conference's football playing abilities - at least in my opinion - that they get better and you are seeing an investment along the lines of the big spenders. New facilities, better coaches, better assistant pay, more money in recruiting, and a push to spend all that beautiful BTN money.
Bottom line, the perceptions are there for a reason - justified or not - and the money is there to do something about it. I think the conference is on the right track.
JF - The Pac-12 has played well against the Big Ten in recent years (Pac-12 is 35-21 against the Big Ten during the past 10 years), do you think the Pac-12's style of play matches up well against the Big Ten's?
JC - These things are always hard for me to answer. I truly believe the Pac 12 seems to currently have the B1G's number overall, but I don't know if it's completely style of play or more the match-ups aren't always a good setup.
Last year, I thought the match-ups - esp Wisconsin-OSU and Nebraska-UCLA - looked good for the weaknesses that would be found out by both Big Ten teams. Since I am still relatively new to the B1G however, I can't say this is always so. The passing offenses of the Pac 12 do seem to do a lot better against the Big Ten teams and maybe that has to do a lot with being built to withstand punishing run games, and perhaps getting ahead early forces Big Ten schools to go against their game plans more often.
I'll honestly try to send over all the Off Tackle Empire commenters who will tell you whether this is a good or bad perception.
JF - The Wisconsin at Arizona State game is going to be huge for both programs to launch their seasons and get themselves on the national radar, and I'm sure that Sun Devil fans are hoping that the Badgers are going to be hurt by losing Bret Bielema. Do you think they will?
JC - My current favorite feud going on is between Barry Alvarez and Bret. Sure, he was a really good coach and it was a, "black eye," on the conference - although not really - when he left for the SEC, but as far as what he accomplished at Wisconsin vs. what they can still do, I think you'd be crazy to think there isn't still a lot of potential left.
Bielema to Andersen is an interesting transition, but it sounds like it has been going great. If this was later in the year, I think the coaching change might matter less, but Week 3 should be interesting in cementing what the year will look like. Still expect a punishing ground game, but hopefully with a few more wrinkles in the passing game. I know I haven't really answered the question fully, but it's just hard to say. Gary Andersen is a good coach. Biels was also a good coach. In my opinion, the talent in place can help negate the issue for now. Only time will tell.
JF - Cal gets two of the Big Ten's best at home early in the season in Northwestern and Ohio State. Do you think that the Bears have a legitimate shot against either?
JC - Cal will be an underdog in both games, and with the depletion of talent and insertion of a brand new coaching system, I just don't see them winning either. However, weird things happen on the West Coast. I do not see Ohio State dropping that game or even letting it be nearly as close as it was last year. Their front four are stronger, their secondary is stronger, and their offense looks like it could be a juggernaut. I just do not see any possibility of them dropping that game.
Now, Northwestern is an interesting team. In a similar manner, every weakness from last year seems to be stronger, and I can only imagine that the Wildcats are looking for some respect this season after finally winning a bowl game. With that chip off their shoulder, they want to win the conference, and there is definitely a possibility they can. Something that is always infuriating about them, however, is that they have consistently let teams be closer than they should. Letting a fast paced offense hang around for too long can be costly and I am reminded that every time I think the Wildcats are primed for the next step, they do something silly.
So, no I don't see Cal winning either, but if I had to put money on them, it would be in the Northwestern game. I now expect the Golden Bears to win both.
JF - The Big Ten has lost nine out of the last 10 Rose Bowls that they have played in, do you think this is a testament to the fall strength of the conference? Or simply just the result of poor match-ups for the conference?
JC - A little of Column A, a little of Column B? Match-ups always play a part in bowls. The Big Ten has very often played up in their agreements, and while that's something silly to hide behind because you play who is in front of you, it also points out the obvious - upsets are hard. With that in mind, I think there have been some interesting teams sent to the Rose Bowl over the years that plays into the game. Illinois and Michigan played as runner ups against the stellar USC teams in 2006/2007, Wisconsin won the Big Ten Championship Game convincingly but no one is arguing they were the best team in their division even, and so on. So yeah, the Big Ten hasn't always gotten to send its best.
Even so, I think this ties back into the national perception thing. The Big Ten's top teams have not been quite as good as the very top of some of the other conferences for a while, and until that changes, the perception will be that this conference isn't as strong as it used to be. The Rose Bowl, as a stage, is as big as it gets and winning that needs to be a focus no matter who they play.