Monday, September 7, 2009
Big Ten...Big Trouble
I can’t do it anymore. The Big 10 is a bad conference right now.
Minnesota needed an overtime field goal to beat a Syracuse team quarterbacked by a kid who played basketball for Duke for the past four years. Iowa needed not one, but TWO blocked field goals to escape with a win against FCS (Division I-AA) Northern Iowa. At home. Illinois got destroyed by a Missouri team that lost its all time leading passer and best receiver. Wisconsin held off a late rally by MAC stalwart Northern Illinois for a 28-20 win. In an outcome that might be considered an upset to some, Indiana was able to squeak by almighty Eastern Kentucky 19-13.
Even the conference standard bearer, my beloved Buckeyes, had to depend on a rare defensive two point play to assure victory against Navy. While Navy is no doubt a solid football team, and is consistently the best of the service academies in football, it was still NAVY.
In defense of the Big Ten, Northwestern beat Towson (who?), and Purdue beat Toledo, giving up 31 points in the process. The only three teams that took care of business without too much excitement were Penn State (31-7 over Akron), Michigan (31-7 over Western Michigan) and Michigan State (44-3 over Montana State).
In a conference trying to make a statement and regain some respect, big wins over Akron, Western Michigan, and Montana State don’t exactly capture the imagination. When you need overtime to beat one of the worst teams in all of Division I football, and another FCS team comes within a whisker of beating a team that’s ranked in the top 25 and expected to contend for the league title (sound familiar, Wolverine fans?), you have issues.
Couple with this the Big Ten’s abysmal bowl record over the past few seasons (1-6 last year, 24-38 since 2000) and propensity to be embarrassed on national TV in big games, the Big Ten is clearly reeling right now. Oh, did I mention that the Big Ten is 0-6 in it’s last 6 BCS bowls, has lost five straight bowl games against the Pac-10, and is 1-11 in bowls against the Big 12 and SEC?
The good news? The Buckeyes can take a big step toward re-establishing some conference pride by beating USC in this year’s “Game of the Century” this Saturday night in Columbus.
The bad news? If USC comes to Columbus and steamrolls the Buckeyes again on prime-time national television, it will be a long time before anyone takes the big Ten seriously again. And rightfully so.
After a while, the evidence becomes too overwhelming to refute, even for a Big Ten homer and die hard Buckeye like myself. A couple of losses in a row, maybe even a couple of seasons of losses in a row, can be written off as a “down period”, or even a statistical anomaly. This is turning into something much larger than that.
As a major player in college football, the Big Ten is on life support right now. With a big win this Saturday in Columbus, USC can effectively pull the plug.