Big(11)Ten: Ode to Mediocrity
The Big(11)Ten conference’s last chance for college football respectability and relevance in 2009 went out the window on Saturday. For at least the last 10 years or so, the league has been viewed as a weak sister among what Fox Sports radio host Steve Czaban likes to refer to as “the big 6 BCS crime families”. But this season, the Big(11)Ten seems determined to lower it’s profile to new depths.
Heading into this weekend, the 8th ranked Iowa Hawkeyes were the only undefeated team in the conference. Iowa has been living on the edge all year relying on good fortune and last second victories, presumably a reflection of it’s determination and fortitude. On Saturday, they were exposed as their luck finally ran out, losing 17-10 at home to Northwestern.
11th ranked Penn St. also had designs on the conference championship, but apparently they’re affecting the Big(11)Ten’s ability to count in more ways than one, dropping their own home showdown to Ohio St. and not even close at that, losing 24-7 in (not so) Happy Valley.
Michigan, which in days of yore was a national college football power, can’t even claim to matter in a weak conference anymore (not that many around these parts mind). Michigan lost at home to Purdue for the first time since former Miami Dolphin quarterback Bob Griese played for the Boilermakers back in 1966. Mind you, this is the same Purdue team that only a week ago in Madison got completely dismantled by Wisconsin. At least Michigan fans can take solace in the fact that Purdue earlier in the year beat their rival Buckeyes. That victory double used to be a significant accomplishment and opened the door to a title. Now it only solicits a collective yawn. The loss dropped the Wolverines to 1-5 in the conference, tied for last place with Indiana, which gave our own BADgers all they could handle before finally running out of time yesterday in Bloomington.
And I haven’t even mentioned Illinois, Michigan St., and Minnesota because, quite frankly, they haven’t done anything worthy of mention. Suffice it to say that they aren’t going to elevate the level of play in the conference.
How bad is the Big(11)Ten? After this weekend, it will likely be without a team ranked in the top 10 nationally, unless voters and/or computers continue to be fooled by OSU’s legacy. The conference has a cumulative 6-17 record against teams ranked in the top 25 of the country. No Big(11)Ten team is ranked in the top 18 nationally in any of the major offensive categories. The conference does boast some top ranked defenses, but that should be viewed as part and parcel of regularly playing pathetic teams.
Despite the Big(11)Ten’s precipitous fall, the conference will still garner more bowl invitations than it merits, mostly owing to contractual obligations based on the fact that it’s fans ‘travel well’. It used to be that even in down years, the conference could rely on Ohio St., Michigan, and later on, Penn St. to attract some national exposure in at least being mentioned in the conversation for a national championship. Now it appears to have dropped all pretense to that sort of debate. It awaits only the bowl season to make it’s humiliation complete.