The worst part is that it's not even a surprise. We looked at the rankings coming into the week of play, and only Michigan State had any shot at making the Top 25. Then, the Spartans choked away a 19-16 overtime loss to Iowa, and with a 4-3 record, no poll was going to rank them.
The Big Ten's absence is thanks to two stubborn, unyielding facts: Ohio State is ineligible for the postseason (and thus the BCS), and the rest of the Big Ten is just plain not very good.
The only postseason-eligible Big Ten team with fewer than two losses is Northwestern, and while the Wildcats are on the brink of being ranked in several polls, even a 6-1 record can't overcome a rather poor strength of schedule. Yes, technically, Northwestern has five victories over BCS-conference teams, but none of those teams have received a single vote in any AP poll this year—to say nothing of actually being ranked.
Who will be the first Big Ten team to break into the BCS Top 25?
Other than Northwestern, you've got Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin all in various positions of pursuit of the BCS Top 25. All have at least two losses, which is a crusher this early in the BCS chase. Just as crippling to the teams' BCS dreams is the fact that the quality wins just aren't there.
Michigan hasn't beaten anybody better than, say, Purdue—and the Boilermakers' profile has dropped straight off a cliff over the last two weeks. Similarly, Wisconsin has some quality losses against Nebraska and Oregon State (seriously), but in terms of registering a big win, the best is...what? Purdue again? Utah State?
Nebraska has a win over Wisconsin, but the computer polls don't like the Badgers. Michigan State's got that big-time win over Boise State, but a 4-3 record is radioactive to human and computer polls alike.
The good news is that with all of these contenders playing each other—Wisconsin misses Michigan and Northwestern, and those are the only matchups between those aforementioned five teams not scheduled in the regular season—the cream's going to rise. With quality wins guaranteed to be parceled out somehow between those teams when they play each other, someone's going to make the BCS Top 25—barring pure parity pushing each team to 8-4 or worse.
|Week 8 Rankings||Coaches||Harris||Sagarin||Billingsley||Colley|
NOTE: the rest of the BCS polls have not updated their websites as of this post going up. Also, Iowa is 31st in the Billingsley rankings and 37th in the Colley Matrix; otherwise, these five teams are the top Big Ten teams in the polls.
So here we see five Big Ten teams in close proximity to the rankings. Again: Once they all start playing each other (only the Nebraska-Wisconsin game has taken place), the quality wins have to go to someone, and that's going to raise that team's profile.
For now, we have a Big Ten that's utterly devoid of BCS Top 25 teams. Is it a dis? Sure it is, but that doesn't mean it's illegitimate. Indeed, the thing that makes disses sting the most is when they are legitimate. So take the lumps this week, Big Ten. Better weeks are coming.