I've never been able to wrap my mind around the conference superiority debate in college football. It seems to be a phenomenon of the last several years in that every victory and defeat by a given team is also a win or a loss for their given conference, their rivals, and that entire region of the country. I honestly have never been able to understand it. When I hear friends and family tell me they're rooting for Big Ten teams come bowl time, I would always shake my head and wonder how an Ohio State fan could root for Michigan or Northwestern or Michigan State on January 1 when rooting against them for the other 364 days of the year.
Furthermore, it seems to be a phenomenon exclusive to college football. How many fans were chanting "SEC! SEC! SEC!" when Kentucky won the national championship in April? How many columns are being written right now about the dominance of the Big Ten at the top of the college hoops rankings? Go to baseball or soccer or any other sport and this regionalized turf war doesn't exist the way it does in college football.
What's the root cause of the need for conference superiority in football? Maybe with the SEC's string of national championships there is a rise in regional pride (although living in the Midwest I don't remember a day of mourning or flags being lowered to half staff after the Big Ten's abysmal New Year's Day performance). Maybe it's the thrust of conference realignment and the arms and money and power race in college football. Maybe it's the increased passion and popularity of the sport. Maybe it's because I live in the North instead of the South.
I honestly don't know where it came from. When Miami humiliated Nebraska in the early 2000's it wasn't seen as a watershed
ACC Big East moment or an embarrassment for the Big XII. And yet, these days nearly every non-conference matchup is reflected upon that league as a whole as if Vanderbilt or Kentucky actually gain anything tangible from fans in the Georgia Dome spelling the letters of their conference.
That's why it struck me as kinda funny when Bret Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas this week. The major storyline to emerge from the move wasn't one about the successful coach moving onto a new challenge. It wasn't about Arkansas AD Jeff Long making a great hire after a year in the wilderness with John L. Smith and the Bobby Petrino disaster. No, everywhere you looked, from some of the top college football writers in the country, Bret Bielema leaving Wisconsin for Arkansas was a hammer blow to the Big Ten Conference...