It is definitely not a good time to be a fan of Big Ten Football.
First, there was the really long offseason for Penn State and all the nonsense they had to deal with. Then when the season started it was a rough first weekend. Michigan State opened against Boise and did beat them by a score of 17-13, but neither team was impressive.
That was supposed to set the table for Michigan in their showdown in Dallas with Alabama. Nobody really expected Michigan to win, but they were expected to put up a fight. The Crimson Tide pounded them to the tune of 41-14, and it really wasn't even that close.
It became even worse in Week 2. Iowa lost to in-state rival Iowa State. Then, there was a trio of PAC 12-Big Ten matchups. The Big Ten was owned, as Arizona State beat Illinois 45-14, UCLA upset Nebraska 35-30, and Oregon State shocked Wisconsin 10-7.
Then in Week 3, Michigan State was supposed to carry the ball for the conference in their epic showdown with Notre Dame. Instead, the Fighting Irish completely dominated the Spartans and shut down Le'Veon Bell. The final was 20-3 in favor of Notre Dame.
Now, it is Michigan, who already failed in their first game to Alabama, that must travel to South Bend and try and carry the flag for the Big Ten against Notre Dame. It will be interesting to see how that works, because Michigan wasn't really impressive against Air Force and their massacre of UMass doesn't count. However, Denard Robinson has been a nightmare for the Irish the past two meetings.
With all the problems and disappointments in the conference, there have actually been two teams that have been very impressive. Of course, you think I am talking about Minnesota and Ohio State, who are both 3-0. However, neither of those teams have impressed me at all.
Minnesota might be 3-0, but it includes a triple-overtime victory against UNLV, a five-point win against Western Michigan, and an FCS opponent in New Hampshire. Therefore, they have really not played any team of significance and have barely beaten the mid-majors.
Ohio State is the only Big Ten team to beat a PAC 12 team, but it was against California. They are not exactly the top tier of that conference. The Buckeyes' other two wins have been convincing, but were against UCF and Miami (Ohio). That is not exactly much for Urban Meyer to boast about.
Braxton Miller has been great, but there is still not enough information to tell how good the team is. It doesn't really matter anyway since they can't play in the Big Ten title game or a bowl this year.
The teams in the Big Ten that have really impressed are Northwestern and Purdue.
Let's start with the Wildcats. While most Big Ten teams schedule one tough non-conference opponent and then beat up on the MAC and other smaller conferences, Northwestern has played three teams from BCS conferences.
While Syracuse, Vanderbilt, and Boston College aren't exactly the cream of the Big East, SEC, and ACC respectively, they are nice matchups for a team like Northwestern. The Wildcats have defeated all three of them. This week, they have a little easier game in South Dakota State before opening the Big Ten season.
There they will start with three winnable games (Indiana, Penn State, and Minnesota) before they face a really tough test against Nebraska. They need to go one game at a time of course, but a 7-0 record heading into that game with the Cornhuskers is certainly a strong possibility.
Now looking at the Boilermakers, unlike Michigan State, they took the fight to Notre Dame. The game came down to a last-second field goal. Even though they lost, Purdue gained a lot from that game.
Even though their other two games were against an FCS team, Eastern Kentucky and a MAC team in Eastern Michigan, there is just something about how Kewan Short and the rest of the defensive line played in South Bend.
Even with the loss of Robert Marve, the Boilermakers are fine with Caleb Terbush. They have a bye this week and then a game against Marshall before opening the Big Ten in a tough way against Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. The schedule does soften up down the stretch. Therefore, with an upset in one or two of those three tough games, they have a chance to win the Leaders Division.
It is still early, and the meat of the season doesn't even start until the Big Ten season kicks off. However, while it has been a tough stretch for most of the Big Ten early, Northwestern and Purdue have lots of reason to be excited. That is not to say that they will play in the Big Ten title game, but I would not be surprised if they did.
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