Big 10 Problem: Ohio St., Iowa Causes For Concern; Penn St. Provides Hope

Evan NesbittContributor ISeptember 5, 2009

For most BCS teams the first week of play is supposed to be a cake walk.  You play some teams with a coordinate or two in the name, a team with a hyphen in between two words or even a team whose subdivision reads FCS.

That is most teams, but that is not Iowa.  That is not Ohio St.  That is not the Big 10.

Two years ago we saw the Mountaineers of Appalachian State go into the Big House and stun the then fifth ranked Michigan Wolverines.  Now a day we give every underdog team a shot no matter how unlikely an upset seems.  Maybe, we're right to do so.

Over the past five years or so the Big 10 has taken its fair share of doubts as to whether or not the BCS conference was legit with only Ohio St. consistently in the Top 10.  Last year we saw both Penn St. and Ohio State make it to BCS bowl game only to have both teams lose.  For Penn St. it was a 38-24 loss to USC in the Rose Bowl.  For the Buckeyes it was a 24-21 loss to Texas in the Fiesta Bowl and Ohio St.'s third straight BCS bowl loss.

Saturdays game between Iowa and Northern Iowa, of the FCS Missouri Valley Conference, was not a game that was considered a must see by many.  However, the matchup by the two instate teams proved to be more informative then originally assumed.

So, just what did we learn?  Perhaps the Hawkeyes are just a bit overrated.  Now yes, sophomore back Jewel Hampton is out for the season but that does not explain the two lost fumbles and only being 3-12 in third down conversions.  In terms of passing the two teams had very similar stats with Iowa having a total of 242 passing yards and Northern Iowa throwing for 270 yards.  Much like the passing game, the rushing game produced almost identical results with Iowa out rushing N. Iowa 87 yards to 84.

No, Iowa did not lose this game but they didn't exactly run away with it either.  In fact, the Hawkeyes had to block two straight field goals to pull out a 17-16 victory, something that doesn't bode well for the Big 10.  Going forward the Hawkeyes need a good showing against a weak Iowa State team to not only boost their appeal but also that of their conference. 

As for the Buckeyes they didn't impress much in their opener either.  Like Iowa they won.  Oh, but did I mention it took an interception on a two point conversion to win?  And did I mention that they were playing Navy?  If not, I apologize but all the same the Big 10 needs work. 

Now no one will say that Ohio St. hasn't done its part in representing the Big 10.  After all, they did beat Texas in 2006, only to lose to Florida in the National Championship game.  To be fair they did lose star back Beannie Wells and defensive superstars James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins so they are rebuilding.  But, they are ranked sixth in the country.

The good news for Ohio St. is that statistically they won the battle 363 yards to 342 yards.  The bad news is that they only won by twenty one yards.  For most teams this game would have been considered a hard fought battle and a well deserved win.  For the Buckeyes, this is an unacceptable disappointment.  Harsh?  Yes.  Reality? Yes

Even though the games in Columbus and Iowa City did not go exactly as planned, the Big 10 did have some bright spots.  The conference beat opponents a combined 275-123 points as Penn St. defeated Akron (31-7), Michigan St. beat Montana St. (44-3), Michigan beat Western Michigan (31-7), Minnesota beat Syracuse (23-20 OT), Northwestern beat Towson (47-14), Wisconsin defeated Northern Illinois (28-20) and Indiana beat Eastern Kentucky on Thursday (19-14).  Unfortunately Illinois fell to Missouri 37-9. 

Overall this week could have been worse for the Big 10 but it also could have been better.  Next week Ohio St. has a pivotal game against #4 USC in Columbus which, if won, would do wonders for this conference.  As for the rest of the conference they just need to win as none of them face powerhouse teams.  I do believe that the Big 10 will get back on top.  However, it won't be this year.