It can always get worse. Remember that; tell yourself that in the best of times and the worst of times. If you think things can't get worse, then you're only lacking for imagination, because it can always get worse.
We just didn't expect that new rock bottom to happen for the Big Ten in Week 4.
Despite an easy-as-cake slate of opponents—one where, aside from Notre Dame, the two BCS-level opponents were Temple and Syracuse—the Big Ten absolutely rolled over and died on Saturday. Sure, the 7-3 record was better than the 6-6 we saw from the Big Ten in Week 2, but make no mistake: It was the worst week we've seen yet from the Big Ten as a whole.
Here's the difference between Week 2 and Week 4: The Big Ten actually tried to challenge itself in Week 2. Yes, Notre Dame was on the Week 4 slate. Notre Dame also hosted Purdue in Week 2, so that's a wash at best.
On the whole, seven Big Ten teams hit the road in Week 2. Week 4? One: Michigan. And we know how that ended up.
And the losses? Good heavens, the losses.
Yes, Michigan dropped its road date with Notre Dame. It was about what Vegas expected, so you can't heap too much criticism on the Wolverines for the loss. Yes, it was awful to watch, but at the very least it was essentially expected.
Central Michigan beating Iowa, though? And looking thoroughly better coached in the process? That's horrifying. It's not as if Dan Enos is a fan favorite in Mount Pleasant. And it's not as if Iowa has a reputation of being a sloppy, underachieving shell of talent.
But it might be time to start thinking that way—especially when two Iowa players watch an onside kick roll by them before a CMU player recovers, and then DT Joe Gaglione earns an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and helps the Chippewas get into field-goal range with seconds to spare.
Over in Champaign, the reigning WAC champion came to town in the form of Louisiana Tech. And Louisiana Tech beat the living hell out of Illinois, 52-24. It wasn't an upset. Not even close. It was what good teams do to bad teams.
It's one thing if it's Arizona State administering that blowout in Tempe. Fine, a Pac-12 team can do that. A WAC team with zero AP Poll votes coming into the year, though?
Chicago, we have a problem.
The most damning aspect of the weekend, though, was the Big Ten's wins. Sure, they count as one in the win column and zero in the loss. For what they mean for the future, though, it's at best depressing.
Ohio State hosted a UAB team that hadn't won a game all year—including a 10-point home loss to Troy to open the year. UAB spent nearly the entire game within single digits (and led for 22 minutes of the first half) before bowing out bravely in a 29-15 defeat.
Michigan State was losing to Eastern Michigan—a team that came into the game 0-3, including a 38-point loss to Purdue and a 17-point home loss to FCS Illinois State—until late in the third quarter.
Sure, the Spartans ended up winning 23-7. Congratulations. You beat winless Eastern Michigan by 16. QB Andrew Maxwell looked bench-worthy in the game, but MSU has no other serious options, so Maxwell it is!
Oh, by the way, if your feet are wet, it's because the rest of the Big Ten is salivating.
Wisconsin struggled again, this time winning by 11 points against a UTEP team that has utterly nothing going for it past a 13-point win over New Mexico State this year. Sure, the Badgers were hampered by Montee Ball going out with a head injury in the second quarter. But Ball's 4.4 yards per carry were below what the team averaged as a whole (40 rushes, 213 yards, 5.3 YPC), so it's not as if the offense went down a gear.
But, hey, at least Nebraska ran up 73 points against Idaho State, which is apparently a real school. And at least Northwestern beat South Dakota by 31 whole points. And Minnesota flattened fellow BCS conference team Syracuse, 17-10.
Here's the root message of the Big Ten's performance this week: It belongs in the FBS. It's better than non-FBS teams. We can safely say that.
In terms of anything past that, though? In terms of being demonstrably, unquestionably better than the mid-major teams that populate the landscape of the mid-majors like the MAC and the Sun Belt? On that front, the Big Ten utterly broke down this week. It looked like a league that could barely defend its own castle against the most meager of challengers, an empire in great disrepair.
It looked like a conference not worth watching.
But, hey—at least now all these mediocre-to-terrible teams are going to start playing each other instead in conference play!
You excited? Of course you're not.
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