The Big 10 conference had a chance on Saturday to put the rest of the nation on notice. The big dogs of the conference were slated in prime time matchups in Eugene, South Bend and Columbus and all eyes were on them. Make it out with wins and you put yourself in a good position to have teams making the cut for the four team playoff at the end of the season. This is where it gets ugly for my folks from the Midwest. The Spartans almost got a 50 burger put on them by Marcus Mariota and Oregon, Michigan got shutout by the Fighting Irish and the Buckeyes were upset by Virginia Tech in The Horseshoe. Don’t worry it gets worse. Nebraska needed a heroic effort from Ameer Abdullah to knock off McNeese State in Lincoln, Penn State was up and down against Akron and Iowa squeaked out a victory against Ball State. That’s all kinds of ugly. With the way thing played out this weekend the Big 10 suddenly finds themselves on the outside looking in on the four team playoff picture.
So what’s the issue? What’s the Big 10’s malfunction? Here’s what I think:
- Blue bloods are down.
Teams like Penn State, Michigan and Nebraska have experienced coaching changes in recent years and the programs have been in a bit of flux. There was a point and time where these schools were finishing in the top 10 year in and out and that’s just not the case anymore. Michigan has been bad since Lloyd Carr retired and they made the mistake of hiring Rich Rodriguez, Penn State was hit with a scandal and Nebraska is consistently up and down. If these teams are ever able to get back to their former glory this would help the conference tremendously.
- Middle of the pack teams aren’t very good
It’s one thing for the top teams to take it on the chin ever so often, but when the middle of the road teams in the conference are struggling it only compounds the issue. The Big 10 brought in Rutgers and Maryland this offseason and both programs haven’t been great recently. The Purdues, Iowas and Minnesotas of the conference need to be better to help out the conference’s depth issue.
- Face planting in big games
As I said earlier, the conference has a nasty habit of falling on their face in big games or losing games they aren’t supposed to. When you’re in a prime time game and all eyes of the nation on you, you have to bring your A game and nothing less. The Big 10 conference hasn’t been represented in the national title game since 2007 and haven’t brought home a national title since 2002.
The Big 10 conference is in a bit of a lull currently. I for one thought that Urban Meyer would bring home a national title to the conference when he was hired on at Ohio State, but his teams have not been able to get over the hump just yet. Michigan State has risen back up, and had a chance to make some noise this year, but Oregon put a stop to that as well. Wisconsin has played pretty good football in the past few years, but even in their best years they have taken a couple losses. With the SEC being as dominant as it has been in football and with teams out in the PAC 12 back on the rise it will be interesting to see where the Big 10 will stand with the playoff picture going forward. Until the teams at the top of the conference prove otherwise I personally can’t buy into the conference’s chances of making the playoff and bring home a title. Stranger things have happened, but as the way things sit the Big 10 has some a lot of work to do to be as relevant on the national stage as they once were.