The first two weeks of college football have not been good to the Big Ten. Week 1 saw Penn State upset by the Bobcats of Ohio University, and Alabama destroy Michigan. Week 2, the only gems were Ohio State showing they are the best team in the conference and Northwestern beating Vanderbilt. If you forgot, the Commodores are a member of the SEC; a conference that many teams lose to on a consistent basis.
During the preseason many experts, including Stephen and Ryan, thought Michigan to be the best team in the Legends Division of the Big Ten. Let us be real about Michigan, and I can only base this on their first two games, Michigan is not good. Only supporters of the Maize and Blue really thought Michigan had a chance against Alabama, but the Wolverines did not help their case by squeaking by Air Force. Yes, Air Force is a service academy, but here is something to remember: the men on that team are on scholarship too. If Michigan was supposed to be the flag-bearer for the Big Ten, they have done a horrible job of doing so this year.
Michigan is not the only school to blame for this year’s lackluster performance. This weekend half, HALF, of the Big Ten lost. How many of those loses were to ranked teams? Two. Purdue lost to (20) Notre Dame and (16) Nebraska lost to (22) UCLA. The Purdue loss is acceptable because, like ND or not, it was a quality loss. Purdue played well the entire game and lost by three. Nebraska on the other hand was not even close. Give UCLA credit, their defense showed up and played their hearts out when I never gave the team a shot in this game. Nebraska through a season and two games has been a disappointment in the Big Ten.
Other Big Ten loses include Penn State versus Virginia (no comment needed), Arizona State over Illinois (Tim Beckman is new and needs time), Iowa State surprising Iowa (The best Iowa could do was six points?), and the biggest upset of the week is Oregon State over Wisconsin. I picked Wisconsin to win the Leaders Division because Ohio State is not eligible, but losing to Oregon State in its current form is not acceptable. Early last week Wisconsin Head Coach Brett Bielema refused to send game film to Oregon State’s Mike Riley because the Beavers’ first game was canceled due to Hurricane Isaac. Not only was that move bush league, it must have provided some motivation for Oregon State.
Today, the Big Ten has three teams that can consistently compete with almost any other in the country. One does not need to be an aeronautical and astronautical engineering major from Purdue to know they are Michigan State, Northwestern, and Ohio State. At this point, everyone else is a joke.
The Big Ten has serious issues when it finds itself with less than half of its conference finished the weekend at 85th or below in total offense. The conference, and their fans, pride themselves in their trench warfare offense; they should not. It is old and out dated, just like trench warfare. Power schools in conferences all around the country are becoming faster and more nimble, and it is time for schools in the Big Ten to get on that train. If the Big Ten wants to get respect outside of its conference it has to beat teams in other power conferences, pound service academies, and never lose to a Sunbelt opponent; or least not have those faults exposed on the same weekend.
We made fun of Michigan and Brady Hoke in their loss versus Alabama and their lackluster showing against Air Force, but give Hoke credit – Michigan isn’t stuck in 1995 Big Ten football. The conference needs to exhibit more team speed. Hoke and first-year Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer and showing what team speed can do to level the playing field. That speed needs to come from not only from the skill players, but also from those on the line. Wisconsin fired their offensive line coach two weeks into the season because they could not run the ball. Against Oregon State. Did you think you would ever see the day Wisconsin would lose to Oregon State because it could not run the ball? Welcome to the newer, slower Big Ten.
Big Ten coaches need to pay attention to what is happening in the Big XII, Pacific-12, and Southeastern Conference or they will never get any respect from anyone outside of the “Legends” and “Leaders” of the Big Ten.
Jim Delany has done a wonderful job of making the Big Ten the richest conference in sports, but his football coaches need to earn their inflated salaries and bring respectability back to Big Ten football. Respect for the conference was not lost overnight, and will not return overnight. No matter how long it takes, Big Ten teams need to adapt to the current colloege football landscape and go back to demoralizing lesser opponents before the return to glory can even begin.