Campuses are flooded with excitement and students have their books tucked away. Saturday is every one’s favorite day of the week , but in the fall, Saturday’s are even sweeter because college football is back.
The return of the season comes with high hopes and over zealous expections. The Big Ten has fallen into these categories too often. Michigan State and Ohio State sit atop the conference, but after those two there is a trail of mediocrity. The inauguration of the college football playoffs last season might have been the worst thing to happen to the conference.
The angry days of yelling at a BCS computer are gone. Decades of undefeated teams screaming their cases to the deaf ears of a computer are over. SEC teams dominating while a more deserving team gripes about the system are hopefully extinct, and an underwhelming Big Ten team embarrassing the conference on the big stage is no more.
In the words of the rapper Drake, “The real will live forever and fakes will be exposed,” and the Big Ten is about to be exposed.
The Big Ten is 23-33 against other Power Five Conference teams in the last three seasons. The Alabama routing of Wisconsin in week one reaffirmed what we already knew about the Badgers: they are too slow for elite talent. Apparently Nebraska is still learning how to defend hail marys after the BYU circus.
I’ll admit Mark Dantonio has done a fine job making Michigan State a respectable program, but being in the same division as the Buckeyes and Michigan will be an annual struggle. Speaking of Michigan, the Jim Harbaugh media extravaganza quickly deflated following his debut loss to Utah. It will take a few years for Harbaugh and company to turn it around.
Over the last five years, out of the Power Five conferences the Big Ten sits fourth in total first-round NFL draft picks, only one player more than the fifth place, PAC-12. The Big Ten is the only conference out of the Power Five not to have a Heisman winner in the last 10 years. Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith won the trophy in 2006. After the Spartans and the Buckeyes, who is truly afraid of what the Big Ten has to offer? After taking a year off, Urban Meyer’s move to Columbus proved to be brilliant. He no longer had to deal with the brutal schedule the SEC offers. After greeting the Big Ten with a 24-game winning streak against conference opponents, his squad looks primed to repeat as national champions.
Fans should appreciate the fact their one-loss PAC-12 or SEC powerhouse no longer has to face a Big Ten team in a consolation BCS bowl. One or two losses in the Big Ten is no longer an accomplishment. There’s only two teams to be afraid in the Big Ten: Dantonios’ Spartans and Meyer’s Buckeyes. As Meyer proved last year, his team belongs. For the rest of the conference? I’m not so sure.