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December 4, 2012During the 1998-99 campaigns, the Big Ten went 10-2 in bowl games, including Michigan's 2-0 mark against Arkansas and Alabama, with the conference staking a claim to be the nation's best. Since then, however, the Big Ten is only 34-52 in the postseason, finishing with a winning record in just two of 12 seasons (5-2 in 2002 and 4-3 in 2009).
While the Big Ten has floundered, the SEC has dominated, and this year the two conferences will go head-to-head in three contests - the Outback, Gator and Capital One bowls - with South Carolina (4.5 points), Mississippi State (2.5 points) and Georgia (8.5 points) favored over Michigan, Northwestern and Nebraska, respectively.
"I like it; it's a big chance to make the Big Ten the main conference in the NCAA," senior defensive tackle Will Campbell said. "There is more at stake this year with Big Ten teams going against the SEC."
In 2011, the Big Ten went 4-6 in bowls and was just 1-3 against the Southeastern Conference. The league went 1-4 against teams currently in the SEC in 2010, and hasn't finished with a winning record since going 2-1 against the SEC in 2006 - Penn State beat Tennessee, Wisconsin beat Arkansas while Ohio State fell to Florida.
"You're playing for Michigan, and your seniors first, but we're proud to be in the Big Ten," said U-M head coach Brady Hoke, knowing comparisons will be made between the two conferences.
Michigan is one of the few teams in the Big Ten with a winning record against the SEC, going 7-5 overall, including a 41-35 triumph over Florida in the 2008 Capital One Bowl. Iowa (5-2), Minnesota (2-1), Nebraska (10-6) and Penn State (12-5) also boast winning marks against foes from the Southeastern Conference.
"Every time you step on the field you have something to prove; you want to win," senior quarterback Denard Robinson said. "Everybody on this team is competitive, all the coaches and on our staff.
"When we step on this field everyone will be ready to compete and play harder then them, try to outcoach them, do whatever it takes to win. This is an opportunity to showcase ourselves."