Can somebody please tell me what in the name of the Legends and Leaders happened yesterday? Oh, and speaking of that: It's bad enough that you foist those rather ridiculous division names on us and refuse to reconsider them, but then you not only embrace them, you give us all the symbolic middle finger by cramming the 'Honoring Legends, Building Leaders' campaign down our throat. Really?
Consider them rolled, indeed.
The last time I saw this much carnage the Inquisition was doing the two step over Spain, and football was 500 years from being invented. Or maybe it was just this past January 1st, I don't know.
Bowl games against equal or better teams is one thing, but The Big Ten suffered what can only be considered a disastrous non-conference Saturday yesterday, going 7-5 against opponents that can be described, in almost all cases, as inferior competition. There were only two games that should have been questionable for the B1G--Penn State against Alabama, and Indiana against Virginia.
After two weeks of non-conference play, I have no idea what to think. Last week, I thought the B1G had turned the corner. Everybody except Indiana and Minnesota won, most in a convincing manner, and the Gophers took USC to the limit at the Coliseum. Now? I have no idea.
Let's rummage through the rubble, after the jump.
First, The Good:
Michigan State, Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Northwestern: Well done, gentlemen. Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Illinois absolutely dominated inferior teams. They should have, and they went out and did. Wisconsin with Russell Wilson looks terrifyingly good. Michigan State looks like they are for real after struggling a bit last week, and Illinois...oh my, they might be the third best team in the conference. Nebraska struggled early, but got it together and pulled away from a Fresno State team that is far from bad. Northwestern, in some ways, has been the most impressive early on, as they won at Boston College last week and then at home this week without Dan Persa, and their defense has been downright respectable up until this point.
Next, The Bad:
Ohio State, Penn State, Minnesota: Yes, Ohio State won, but getting taken to the final minute...against Toledo...at home, that's not good. That said, Jim Tressel won some ugly games against teams that had no business hanging with OSU, so I'm not ready to bury Luke Fickell yet. But I'll be the first to admit that I have no idea what's going to happen next week at Miami, besides trading tats for hookers. IT'S A JOKE. Not very many people expected Penn State to win, but I did expect them to play a more competitive game. They did for a quarter, but Alabama just took the game over and overran the Nittany Lions from the second quarter on. The Gophers game was bad enough, but with Jerry Kill having a very scary medical episode on the sideline as the game was ending overshadowed the result. Fortunately, Kill will be okay, but his football team is not. Kill's health is obviously the most important thing, but the Gophers lost to a team that was ranked 111th out of 115 teams in Div. I football last year. At home. That's not bad, that's terrible.
Now, The Ugly:
Purdue, Indiana, Iowa. Oh, you conference football teams from states that begin with an I, except Illinois. Indiana had a 31-23 lead with just over 6:00 left, and then it was What The Hell time in Bloomington. Virginia scored a TD and a two point conversion with 1:36 left to tie, then Edward Wright-Baker was sacked, promptly fumbled, and Virginia kicked the game winning FG with no time left. Most people thought Virginia was going to win, but yeah, still an ugly way to lose. Purdue, on the other hand, had their FG as time expired blocked, allowing Rice to snap a 22 game losing streak to BCS opponents. Ugly. And Iowa...what the fuck? Iowa State is TERRIBLE, and you lost in triple overtime. Yeah, you lost a lot of seniors, but you still have more talent than ISU will ever have, and you lost. In triple overtime. Ugly.
And Finally, The I Don't Know What The Hell To Make Of That Department:
Michigan. I...I...I am at a loss. Great win? Sure, why not. Ugly win? Sure, why not. But still a win, which is more than almost half the conference can say. The last four or five minutes of that game was a Pee Wee game, wrapped around Little League T-ball, with Hunter S. Thompson whispering in your ear saying 'hey, try this' thrown in for good measure, just to muddy the waters. Michigan's defense is still terrible, but their offense made some HUGE plays to put a ridiculous 28 points on the board in the fourth quarter, including the dramatic TD pass from Denard Robinson to Roy Roundtree with two seconds left to win. After Michigan had given up a TD pass with 30 seconds left. After Michigan had scored with just over a minute left to take their first lead. Craziest damn ending to a game I've seen in years. And just like the first two games last year, I have no idea what to make of Michigan.
So what do we know after two weeks? Well, if I may, let me use a comparison. I just spent a week in Newport, RI, looking at Gilded Age mansions with the wife. Not my dream vacation, but when you have a wicked cool wife that gives you her blessing to cover the NFL draft and training camp as a bona fide, credentialed member of the press and still go to Canada for the yearly fishing trip, deals must be made, or lawyers take all your money (sorry every other writer on staff). That was mine.
Anyway, the Gilded Age was a time in American history where there was essentially the very, very rich and, for the most part, the very, very poor. The middle class was just starting to emerge, but you had about 500 families that held almost all the wealth and power in the country. And then you had everybody else.
And that's what I'm feeling about the Big Ten, at least after two weeks. I don't know that there are just decent teams in the Big Ten right now. You're either blue blood super rich, or you're working in a coal mine for two bits a day.
And other than Wisconsin at the top, and Purdue, Indiana, and/or Minnesota at the bottom, the rest of these teams could go in either direction.