Tuesday Question: Is the Big Ten That Bad?

Is the Big Ten really that bad? The Big Ten publishers answer...

Tuesday Question

Is the Big Ten really that bad?

Q: Is the Big Ten really that bad?

By Josh Harvey

- Big Red Report

t wasn’t obviously the Big Ten conference’s week, but I think it’s unfair to judge the landscape of college football after just two weeks. I agree with commissioner Jim Delaney that there is a lot of season left and a Big Ten school could still make the college football playoff. What a lot of people probably don’t realize is for the perceived flop – the conference still went 8-5 on Saturday.

Michigan State lost to a very good Oregon team – maybe the best team in the country? I also believe it did beat Stanford within the calendar year for a Rose Bowl. Nebraska can say the same thing about its win over Georgia in Gator Bowl in January, but with similar talent returning on both rosters, notice the team ranked inside the Top 12 to start the year?

The conference definitely has some concerns regarding their play on the field the last five years, but I wouldn’t peg it as one that doesn’t have a good chance in the future. Recruiting at many schools seems to be on the rise. It features quite a few really good, maybe even great coaches in Urban Meyer, Mark Dantonio, and James Franklin. Even a guy like Nebraska’s Bo Pelini has won at least nine games in all six seasons of being at the helm.

Saturday didn't go as well as the conference was hoping for - no doubt about it. It’s over and the damage can be fixed.

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Oh, yeah. And it’s not a knee-jerk reaction based on one weekend of collaboratively noxious performances.

The Big Ten has been teetering on the tipping point of mediocrity for years. In Week 2, it keeled over into rock-bottom territory, at least a rung or two below the other Power Five conferences. Sure, last weekend was a worst-case scenario, an unholy alignment of the planets over the Midwest. But more important than concerns about earning a playoff berth in 2014 is the reality that the Big Ten’s depth is undeniably horrendous. After Michigan State, still a legit top 10 team, the conference tailspins quicker than Brady Hoke’s career. Even when Big Ten teams have won games in the first two weeks, they lost clout and respect. See: Nebraska, Illinois, Iowa and Penn State. Oh, and adding Rutgers and Maryland in the offseason broadened the TV footprint, yet watered down the overall football product.

The Big Ten is bad, as it pertains to the Power Five measuring stick. Any other assessment couldn’t possibly have factored in the evidence from the first two weeks of games. But alas, good news is just around the corner. It won’t be long before league members get to play one another rather than opponents from the Pac-12, the SEC … or, gulp, the MAC. 

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Is the Big Ten really THAT bad?

If we are measuring success by results on the field, then yes the Big Ten absolutely has some ‘splaining to do. And while the divide between the SEC and Pac-12 teams might be overblown to some degree, it’s still there, and only the homer of all homers can still dig his heels in and argue otherwise.

Look, it’s not like the Big Ten hasn’t sent very good and productive players to the NFL. I’ll even give you the argument that there are legitimate former Big Ten superstars with athleticism and speed playing on Sundays. Still, when we discuss what occurs on the field in college, the Big Ten conference as a whole is whiffing at a rate higher than Oakland strike out kind Adam Dunn.

And the league has noone to blame but itself.

There have been plenty of big-stage games over the last few years to get the monkey off of the proverbial back with little success, and when looking at the schedule this year, the conference apologists (heck, I am one of them) had to be giddy at other opportunities to reel back in public perception. It was a chance to build off of the Michigan State win over Stanford in last year’s Rose Bowl. Instead, the pool of fish that the conference teams have been swimming in have stolen the bait, gotten off the hook and laughed in retreat back to warmer waters.

For further examination Inspector Clouseau, let’s look at the evidence?

Wisconsin upchucked a game it had in hand against LSU in the second half, Michigan couldn’t stand a prayer against Touchdown Jesus, Ohio State was the victim of a sack party loss at home against an unranked Virginia Tech, and Michigan State literally got outrun by a faster and more athletic Oregon squad. And that’s after only two weeks.

You add that to the otherwise dismal displays of other Big Ten “heavyweights” like Iowa, Penn State, and Nebraska, and folks in the Midwest might be ready to turn the page early and start looking at prognosticating the upcoming basketball season.

And don’t give me the argument about the top of the conference being young. That’s fools gold at best. While true, LSU is as green as Wisconsin, and the Hokies are ushering in just as much new blood as a Buckeye team with more than enough raw talent. Both the Tigers and Hokies found a way to bring home the bacon despite adjusting to the learning curve. No, instead the teams in the Big Ten just aren’t as good as the rest of the nation. Simple. End of story.

But before piling on too much, let’s remember that there’s still time to get things turned around in the land where the corn grows high and winter’s chill comes early and often, but it needs to happen quickly. Because right now, at this moment, the Big Ten’s perception is headed towards an all-time low. And with the inaugural College Football Playoff looming, that’s not the real-estate Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany bought at a premium with all the conference expansion and lucrative television deals.

Your move Big Ten.

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