The Big Ten has an impressive history, but the future looks bleak for the conference and that does not bode well for Michigan’s chances to compete nationally in the near future.
The Wolverines entered this season with extremely high hopes that now seem more like visions of grandeur. Checking in at No. 8 in the preseason poll, the team was given a harsh reality check when now No. 1 Alabama dismantled it in a 41-14 blowout.
It is now clear that the only Big Ten team worthy of preseason praise was Ohio State, which is now 10-0.
In the current BCS standings, only No. 16 Nebraska and No. 24 Northwestern are featured, although the Buckeyes would certainly have cracked the list if not for the sanctions placed on them this season.
Schools such as Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin have had disappointing seasons, and this has severely damaged the Big Ten’s reputation.
ESPN Stats and Info has published power rankings for each conference this season, and unsurprisingly, the Big Ten ranks fourth behind the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12. However, the rating system used shows a massive gap between the Pac-12 in third and the Big Ten in fourth.
This gap is also reflected in Jerry Palm of CBS Sports' bowl projections.
His predictions place only Nebraska in a BCS Bowl, as the Big Ten champion receives an automatic bid to the Rose Bowl. Meanwhile, each of ESPN’s top three conferences will have two representatives in the marquee games, assuming Palm’s guesses are correct.
Given the Big Ten’s decline, it is unlikely that two teams from the conference will make their way into BCS games next season, either. Therefore, as the NCAA moves toward a playoff system, the picture still looks bleak.
When looking at the level of dominance that Alabama, Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame—the top four teams in the nation—have displayed, in addition to the difficulty of their schedule, it is hard to imagine that Michigan will be able to reach the four-team playoff.
Going undefeated in their Big Ten schedule may be the only way for the Wolverines to get a ranking this high, and even then, the team would likely need an impressive non-conference win on its schedule.
This is where Michigan’s future looks even more dismal, as going undefeated in the Big Ten does not appear likely with Ohio State waiting at the end of every season.
Braxton Miller is only a sophomore, and Urban Meyer is achieving remarkable success in Columbus during his first year. Meyer has proven to be a fantastic recruiter and one of the top coaches in the country, and with a program like Ohio State behind him, the Wolverines’ arch rival is on its way to being a national powerhouse.
While OSU’s success will give the Big Ten a slight boost, it will still need other teams to step up and prove to be serious contenders. Looking across the conference, there does not appear to be a program capable of doing that.
A loss to Ohio State will likely limit Michigan’s hopes to a second-class bowl game each season, and that is not a bright future for the proud program.