Average at the top, slow in the middle, and ugly at the bottom. The good news? They get to play each other now.
Against everyone else it has been bad. Real bad. 6-9 versus BCS schools (and Notre Dame). The wins (3 by Northwestern) are Cal, Temple, Vanderbilt, Boston College, and Syracuse twice. The losses are Alabama, Oregon State, Arizona State, Virginia, UCLA, Iowa State, and Notre Dame (3 times). It is only fair to mention Michigan State did beat Boise State and Ohio State did beat UCF, both of whom could win their conferences. But then I’d have to bring up Louisiana Tech and Ohio with road wins too against Illinois and Penn State.
Overall, on the surface, it doesn’t look all that bad. The Big Ten is 33-13. It really is about how they’ve played and how they have won and who they have lost to that makes you roll your eyes. Repeatedly.
Wisconsin squeaking out wins over Northern Iowa, Utah State, and UTEP has looked anything but the recent powerhouse we’ve come to know them as. Michigan getting taken apart by Alabama and shut down by Notre Dame isn’t the stuff of a preseason top ten team. The MAC has 3 wins against the Big Ten, and nearly pulled off a couple more in the 6 losses.
Indiana playing Navy and Purdue playing Marshall are all that remain on the non-conference slate. That isn’t going to change the perception. The offenses look inept, outside of Nebraska, Ohio State, and Northwestern. It’s tough football to watch. Somebody is going to win the conference and multiple teams will make bowl games, but this looks as down as the conference has been in a long, long time.
The Buckeyes and Wildcats are the only Big Ten teams I could rank this week. The Gophers 4-0 is paper thin, and they’ll need more than a win against Iowa this week to get me to rank them. The Huskers lost to UCLA, so they can’t be ahead of the Bruins, but they are cusp of being ranked. I think Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue could also get in the mix for a trip to Pasadena, but nobody is in the national discussion moving forward save Ohio State, but they are ineligible.
Check out the Insider’s Top 25 to see how it compares to mine.
6. Kansas State
8. Notre Dame
10. South Carolina
12. Ohio State
13. Oregon State
18. West Virginia
20. Mississippi State
23. Louisiana Tech
– Admittedly, Alabama and Oregon sit atop my polls more out of respect than for accomplishment in opponents beaten this year. They’ve looked the part and nobody else has a big enough win to supplant them.
– We have officially gotten through much of the non-conference fluff, and are looking at mostly conference play from here on out. In a couple of weeks, the top 25 will actually begin to represent the best teams who have also earned their ranking, not just teams who have earned their ranking with a tougher early season schedule.
– Florida and Florida State might end up being a big game with major implications for both at the end of the year for the first time since 1999.
– I started out ripping on the Big Ten, but don’t think they are alone in a dropoff this season. The MWC and Conference USA have also both struggled more than normal. And for what it’s worth, the WAC and MAC have both faired quite well. I’d rank the conferences right now: SEC, PAC-12, Big XII ACC, BIG TEN, Big East, WAC, MAC, MWC, Sun Belt, and Conference USA.
– This is in spite of UCF. The Knights and Tulsa are the only schools with winning records. FIVE teams are winless. Another 3 have just one win, and SMU beat a FCS team for that lone victory. Conference USA has taken a major hit with coaches and talent leaving and it shows.
STIFF-ARMING TROPHY RACE:
Still need another 3-4 weeks to formulate a top ten, but it is worth mentioning that some defenders deserve some love this season. Georgia LB Jarvis Jones and Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o, FSU DE Bjoern Werner, and Alabama CB Dee Milliner are not all bound for New York City at the end of the year, but I thought I should mention them while they are still relevant in the conversation.