The Big Ten is going through the definition of rough times right now. Let's just look at their stats. They have two schools on probation, three losses to the MAC, three losses to the PAC-12 and three losses to Notre Dame.
That doesn't include how it all opened up with their only notable non-conference win against Boise (which honestly does not look that impressive right now), a loss to an in-state rival and a humbling courtesy of Alabama.
The non-conference schedule has been a disaster for this conference. The good news is that it is wrapping up and the conference schedule finally starts. That means somebody has to win.
The best team in this conference might be Ohio State, but the problem is they are one of the two teams on probation. The two dark horses might be Northwestern and Purdue, who have quietly looked good. The Wildcats are unbeaten and have played three teams from BCS conferences, while Purdue's only loss is a last-second heartbreaker to Notre Dame. Northwestern opens against Indiana on Saturday.
The Boilermakers actually came closer to beating Notre Dame than either of the two Michigan schools. They have one more non-conference game against Marshall before opening against Michigan in a game that could have a huge impact on the Big Ten championship.
Many want to get on the Minnesota Gophers bandwagon, as they are also unbeaten. However, they have played only Syracuse from the Big East and the rest are mid-majors and FCS. They need to show more before they can be considered contenders. They open at Iowa, who has been a disaster by not only losing to in-state rival Iowa State, but also Central Michigan from the MAC.
Illinois opens at Penn State in a game between two 2-2 teams. That would be insignificant, if not for all the attention Penn State gets these days.
The two biggest games are probably Ohio State at Michigan State and Wisconsin at Nebraska. That is a chance at redemption for three of the teams for early season losses. They have a chance to get a big win and start off on the right foot in the Big Ten. For the Buckeyes, it is really about nothing more than pride and being the spoiler to every team they play.
Michigan has a bye this weekend, and that is probably a good thing after their game in South Bend last week.
Finally the Big Ten can focus on it's season and not how they get beat by all the other teams. These next two months are big for the conference, which will have to get redemption during bowl season if it wants to be taken seriously.
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