It was supposed to be a relatively drama-free weekend for the Big Ten. Sure, there were seven automatic qualifier (AQ) opponents, but that qualifier status belied the actual strength of the competition; of the seven teams, only one was ranked—and that was Notre Dame, at No. 22.
The rest of the slate? Arizona State, Iowa State, Oregon State, UCLA, Vanderbilt and Virginia—six teams without so much as a single AP vote between them heading into Week 2 action.
And then the nightmare unfolded.
What grade do you give the Big Ten for its Week 2 performance?
While the Big Ten, more or less, made short work of its non-AQ opponents (although Ohio State and Michigan struggled more than the other three Big Ten teams, as luck would have it), the flight of AQ games was a horror show.
Purdue bowed out late to Notre Dame after giving up a game-winning field-goal drive to Tommy Rees, who could not win a game of Tic-Tac-Toe if you spotted him two X's and the first move.
Iowa paid homage to its 1922 throwback jerseys by setting football back 90 years in a lackluster 9-6 loss to rival Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium.
Penn State lost to Virginia, 17-16, after kicker Sam Ficken missed an extra point and four field goals, including a game-winner from 42 yards as time expired.
Oh, it gets worse.
Wisconsin, who redefined Big Ten football physicality last year en-route to a Rose Bowl appearance, traveled to Oregon State (who went 3-9 last year) and laid a proverbial egg, losing 10-7 in a game Oregon State physically dominated on both sides of the ball.
Nebraska's defense was eviscerated for 653 yards in a 36-30 loss at UCLA.
The cherry on top of this [REDACTED BUT MOST ASSUREDLY NOT ICE CREAM] sundae, however, was Illinois' late-night beat down at the hands of Arizona State, 45-14, in a game that was supposed to be close.
All in all, only Northwestern won its game against a BCS opponent, as the Wildcats rallied for a 23-13 win over Vanderbilt in Evanston, preventing the weekend from becoming a complete disaster for the Big Ten.
Actually, you know what? It was a complete disaster.
It was an embarrassment nonpareil, as clear a message as possible that the Big Ten is not a nationally relevant football conference in 2012.
Wisconsin has gone from being a wrecking crew to simply just being a wreck. Oregon State slapped the Badgers up and down the field Saturday, and with Utah State coming into town fresh off a win over rival Utah, is there any reason to think this will be a surefire win for Wisconsin?
Michigan needed all game long to put away a gimmicky, mid-major team in Air Force (who hasn't beaten an AQ team with a winning record since 2003).
We learned Alabama's Week 1 mammoth rushing output wasn't a fluke when Air Force racked up 290 yards of its own. Although Denard Robinson looked more like the 2010 Denard Robinson (that's good!), Fitzgerald Toussaint looked more like the 1994 version of himself (a small, ineffectual child).
Later that night, Rich Rodriguez put the finishing touches on a 59-38 demolition of 15th-ranked Oklahoma State. While it's certainly not time for buyer's remorse with Brady Hoke for Michigan fans, this is still Rich Rod hanging 59 on Oklahoma State vs. Hoke hanging 31 on Air Force.
At the very least, some seller's remorse should start to be in play.
Nebraska. Oh, lord, Nebraska. The Husker defense certainly had its "Blackshirts" on, although that was only a byproduct of UCLA lighting the Nebraska defenders on fire for all 60 minutes of play.
And then there's Taylor Martinez. Remember bad Taylor Martinez? The Taylor Martinez that inspired this video. Well, he's back, going 17-of-31 for 179 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.
Referring to it as "an interception" doesn't do it justice, though. Martinez saw his receiver running a vertical route up the left sideline and short-armed a 25-yard fade to him, which is to say he actually short-armed it into double-coverage and gave the UCLA safety one of the easiest picks of his life.
T-Magic? More like T-ragic.
Okay, I stole that one. But you can have it too.
Sure, Michigan State won at Central Michigan, but all that proved was that Andrew Maxwell and his Spartan receivers would make a reasonably good MAC passing attack. We are not about to forget the egg the passing game laid against Boise State, as any decent secondary should be able to make that Spartan attack one-dimensional.
Iowa is doing what you would expect a team in an Indiana uniform to do. Indiana is doing the exact same thing, mind you, but this is the worst Iowa team we've seen since Kirk Ferentz was first rebuilding the Hawkeyes in 2000. At least that team had Bob Sanders, Aaron Kampman and Ladell Betts.
Quick, name a potential longtime NFL player on this Iowa team.
Illinois was considered to be a dark-horse contender for the Leaders Division title. We can downgrade them to "dark-mouse contender" at this point after Arizona State flogged the Illini up and down the field.
If nothing else—and this is most assuredly scant reassurance for fans of an 0-2 Penn State squad—at least the Nittany Lions played like they deserved to win again Virginia.
The special teams gods betrayed PSU in a way that even Loki would call cruel, and while it counts the same in the record book as Illinois getting flattened by Arizona State, it's at least not an indictment of the entire team's talent or will to win.
At this point, the Big Ten's hopes for national respectability lie in the hands of Ohio State, who must now venture into the postseason to regain the conference's prestige...yes, I said the postseason.
The 2012 postseason, yes, what else could I—what? What?! WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY'RE NOT ELIGIBLE? YOU'RE NOT ELIGIBLE! THE WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM'S NOT ELIGIBLE!
Err. Sorry about that. It's just that we're watching a formerly great conference drive itself off a cliff, and that seems rather inopportune.