"Any given Sunday." That's the well-know mantra of the NFL. A league driven by parity, with a hard salary cap to allow any team, in theory, to be competitive.
"Any given Saturday." That is quickly becoming the mantra of the Big Ten, and most of the college football world.
This week was no exception.
Michigan State, one week removed from the ultimate high of beating Wisconsin on a miracle hail-Mary pass, was crushed by Nebraska and held to just three points on Saturday afternoon.
A Minnesota team, who entered the weekend with just one win on the season, handled Iowa who was looking to become bowl eligible.
Ohio State, who replaced their quarterback after managing just six points and 13 passing yards against Miami, stunned No. 12 Wisconsin.
And finally, No. 21 Penn State managed just 10 points, squeaking by Illinois by the score of 10-7.
Is it parity? Or, is it a lack of quality teams?
I believe it is a little bit of both.
For one, the conference lacks dominant teams. Gone are the days of Ohio State and Michigan entering the last game of the season undefeated, playing each other in a de facto Big Ten championship game.
This season it looked as if Nebraska and Wisconsin would be dominant teams in the conference. However, Wisconsin was stunned last week, and this week dropped its second straight game.
Nebraska has just one loss, but the fashion in which the team was crushed by Wisconsin demonstrates that this Nebraska team is not dominant at all.
Other top Big Ten teams in Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State have all shown inconsistency this season. Michigan was a play away from losing to Notre Dame, while PSU nearly dropped a game to Temple.
The second thing to look at is out-of-conference play.
Michigan State was hammered by Notre Dame, who at that point was 0-2. It's no shame losing to Alabama, but Penn State got them at home and could not get anything going, losing 27-11.
Iowa lost its out-of-conference showdown with Iowa State, who is just 4-4 on the season and one of the Big XII bottom feeders.
The only team with a quality out-of-conference win is Illinois, who defeated Arizona State at home earlier this year.
Finally, the Big Ten's second division teams are flat out awful.
Teams like Michigan and Penn State have built gaudy records by taking advantage of their schedule. Of Michigan's seven wins, three have come against Purdue (4-4), Northwestern (3-5) and Minnesota (2-6).
Penn State has victories over Indiana (1-8), Northwestern, Purdue and Iowa (who is .500 in conference).
So, it's a bit of both the parity and the pathetic.
There are some quality teams, terrible teams at the bottom and no dominant team in the Big Ten this season. It does make for some exciting football though!
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