The Big Ten used to set the standard of a college football conference. Due its recent futility, the Big Ten is now a joke among college football fans across America.
Ohio State, the class of the Big Ten, rode an easy conference schedule to get back-to-back blowout losses in the national championship game. In BCS bowl games, the Big Ten's losing record (8-9) includes four straight Rose Bowl losses.
When excluding Ohio State, that record drops to 4-7. Their overall bowl performance is just as bad, as the conference has 3-5 and 2-5 bowl record the past two seasons. The newly formed Big East has even outperformed the Big Ten in recent seasons.
The Big Ten (except for Ohio State) also has lost recruiting battles to schools in more warm weather climates. A more enjoyable college experience to attend school in a warmer climate, the ability to practice year round (for NFL draft), and recent success of the Pac-10, Big 12 South and SEC team have drawn recruits south.
As a result, the Big Ten has lost a step and their teams lack the team speed of schools from other conferences. Programs such as Iowa, Penn State, Purdue, Minnesota, and Michigan have also fallen in standing to create a sea of mediocrity under Ohio State and Wisconsin. Overall, the Big Ten has lost its national standing and now competes with the ACC as the worst BCS conference in the nation.
What can the Big Ten do to restore its credibility as a top BCS conference? First they can start by having tougher non-conference schedules. Ohio State has taken some initiative by playing USC in a home-and-home series, but other teams in this conference just load up on home against mid-major cream puffs or Notre Dame (see Michigan, Indiana, and Penn State).
By inflating their records, mediocre to bad teams make bowl games. Scheduling is not enough; the Big Ten also needs to win these games and do better in bowl games in order to gain respectability.
Within the Big Ten itself, schools in the conference need to acquire more speed players, and rival schools need to do a better job recruiting against Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin so the Big Ten is one again competitive.
Winner: Ohio State and not even close
Ohio State is the class of the Big Ten and returns their quarterback, star running back Beanie Wells, wide receivers, and offensive line. The Buckeyes also return nine starters on defense led by Heisman candidate James Laurinaitis. They should improve by returning a team that appeared in last year's title game.
With the rest of the conference weakening as a whole, Ohio State should dominate the Big Ten with an undefeated record, but playing USC will ultimately cost an appearance in the BCS title game.
The Big Ten is a pretty predictable and mediocre league outside of Ohio State and Wisconsin. Penn State and Illinois are slightly above the rest of the league, but other than that, no team seems to have potential to climb out of mediocrity this season.
Michigan State has a chance to breakout, but they historically fizzle out after October. No one can unexpectedly drop in the league, because none of the teams were high enough to begin with (Michigan is expected to have a down year due a severe loss in talent). It is a year of mediocrity in the Big Ten. Expect to see several 7-5/6-6 teams do battle in the standings.
Ohio State vs. Wisconsin: This game will determine the Big Ten championship. Also, this is the only game in the Big Ten where two top-tier programs face each other.
Ohio State vs. Penn State
Michigan State vs. Michigan: This game is a litmus test for the Spartans. Michigan State has not beaten the Wolverines since 2001, and a win can catapult MSU to a surprise run in the Big Ten. For Michigan, losing this game can cost them a bowl berth.
Projected Big Ten Standings:
1) Ohio State 11-1 (8-0) Rose Bowl
2) Wisconsin 10-2 (7-1)
tied 3) Penn State 9-3 (5-3)
tied 3) Illinois 8-4 (5-3)
tied 5) Purdue 7-5 (4-4)
tied 5) Michigan 7-5 (4-4)
tied 5) Michigan State 7-5 (4-4)
tied 5) Iowa 6-6 (4-4)
9) Minnesota 4-8 (2-6)
10) Indiana 5-7 (1-7)
11) Northwestern 2-9 (0-8)