Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, September 10, 2012 at 9:37 PM
Every season…the Big Ten gets hyped as a power conference for reasons that have had serious analysts scratching their heads year after year. Once again…by mid-September, the league is dealing with embarrassments up and down the ledger.
It’s true that OHIO STATE has held up its end of the bargain. They didn’t cover against Central Florida this past Saturday…but they didn’t embarrass themselves either. That win plus the blowout of Miami of Ohio suggests to this point that new head coach Urban Meyer has things moving in the right direction.
Of course, Ohio Stat isn’t eligible for the postseason this year…and the teams who were supposed to make a run at the top are quickly sinking in quicksand.
Let’s start with Ohio State’s “Leaders” Division of the Big Ten. One of the following four teams is going to represent this division in the Big 12 championship game in December:
WISCONSIN, who lost badly to what is probably a mediocre at best Oregon State team this past weekend…after barely surviving Northern Iowa the prior Saturday. The Badgers don’t have Russell Wilson at quarterback any more. And, former offensive coordinator Paul Chryst is the head man at Pittsburgh. That move may have hurt BOTH programs! Wisconsin’s play calling (and lack of swagger) vs. Oregon State bore no resemblance whatsoever to recent Badgers teams. Pittsburgh has looked awful out of the gate.
ILLINOIS, who got obliterated on the road at Arizona State last week because quarterback Nathan Scheelhause couldn’t play due to injury. They struggled in the second half the prior week when he first got knocked out. Even WITH Scheelhause, Illinois was projected to rank in the 45-55 range nationally this year. Without him they might be in the 60’s or 70’s.
PURDUE, who did bring a feisty effort against jet-lagged Notre Dame, but who isn’t likely to be anywhere near the top 25 once we’re deeper into the season. Of course, if the Big 12 schedule turns out to be a breeze because hardly anyone is any good…then Purdue may sleaze their way to a misleadingly good record.
INDIANA, who lost their starting quarterback for the season last week to a broken leg. Indiana was supposed to rank in the 80-100 range with their starting quarterback. They have shown multiple signs of improving on those low hopes this year…but they’re not somebody who should be taken seriously as a conference threat.
Yet…with shorthanded and 0-2 Penn State ineligible for the postseason along with Ohio State, we’re looking at Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, or this newly struggling Wisconsin team as a divisional champ. Amazing!
Now…it’s not uncommon for there to be unbalances of power in split divisions. The SEC West has dominated the SEC East in recent years. The Big 12 South had a big edge over the Big 12 North back when that league had a dozen teams. We may be seeing the Pac 12 South move away from the Pac 12 North this year given showings last week from UCLA, Arizona, and Arizona State. Let’s see what’s going on over in the Big Ten “Legends” Division.
MICHIGAN STATE is undefeated, though they almost lost to Boise State in their season opener because of multiple turnovers. If you’re only looking at yardage and power in the trenches…then then Spartans are shaping up to be the class of the conference. Unfortunately, young QB’s can break your heart with mistakes at the worst possible time. Big game this week with Notre Dame (which we’ll be previewing for you Saturday here in the NOTEBOOK) in terms of establishing true legitimacy for this team in 2012.
MICHIGAN was supposed to be a top ten team, with one pollster tabbing them as #1 in the country before the season started. The Wolverines were obliterated by Alabama in the season opener at a neutral site, and then was lucky to get past Air Force at home this past Saturday as a huge favorite. This isn’t a great Air Force team this year…and many observers felt the dog got robbed by some questionable calls. Michigan is currently playing at a level about 40-50 spots below preseason projections.
NEBRASKA was upset as a road favorite by UCLA in a game that much of the nation watched because they’re going to keep their TV channel wherever Erin Andrews is. Nebraska was lucky to lose by only six according to the boxscore stats. The defense came nowhere near living up to their reputations. The offense did nothing in the second half when the game was on the line.
That’s your big three right there in this division. It might be a big one! If Michigan State turns out to be a pretender, then there will arguably be no nationally relevant teams eligible for the Big Ten title this season.
We have a few more teams to mention…
IOWA, who has completely fallen off the map in recent years, lost to Iowa State the week after barely surviving Northern Illinois. Yes, that equates them with the bottom few spots in the Big 12, or as a possible contender in the lowly MAC. The worst fear of Wisconsin fans right now is that they’re turning into Iowa! If the Hawkeyes creep up to the top of this division, it will be a strong indictment indeed of the caliber of play across the conference.
NORTHWESTERN has been playing some entertaining football…and shouldn’t be painted with the brush of gloom at the moment. Of course, if you’re playing entertaining football against Syracuse and Vanderbilt…well, given what those teams did against Southern Cal and Vandy, maybe Northwestern IS a team to pay more attention to down the stretch. Look out Sparty, here come the Wildcats!
*MINNESOTA wraps this division up. That’s the team that had to go overtime to beat a UNLV side that lost on the same field the next week to Northern Arizona. Enough said.
Last week we talked about the opening week debacle for the Pac 12. The guys out West went 2-9 ATS the first week (Oregon State didn’t play)…but surged to 5-7 ATS in Week Two. How did that happen? Some got to play the Big 12! UCLA, Arizona State, and Oregon State won and covered against Nebraska, Illinois, and Wisconsin…meaning the Pac 12 was 2-7 when not playing the Big 12, to fall to 4-16 ATS for the year vs. other conferences.
Time will tell if the Pac 12 and Big 12 are going to be linked together all season as overrated media creations. There’s still time for the Big 12 powers to stub their toes, and for the SEC superpowers to fall back to mere mortality. Just remember that handicapping involves the REALITY of college football, and is most profitable when it’s exploiting illusions in the market created by media hype.
JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK has been proving that to you firsthand ever since this website started many years ago….and he was proving that to clients going back many years even before the internet started! We do the homework, you enjoy the BIG, JUICY WINNERS!
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