I nobly attempt to pick up where both Bama Hawkeye and JDMill have gone before me: giving a stern reminder to all the teams in the Big Ten that losing to MAC, Big Sky, and FCS teams (looking at you, Minnesota) is simply not acceptable. The original intent of this piece was (and I quote JDMill) to provide "a breakdown of the games and what the B1G needs to do to get some better respectability nationally." In my commentary, I’ll hopefully be somewhere in the neighborhood of that.
Kicking off the 2013 season, let’s stop and talk briefly about the Big Ten. The nation as a whole regards the SEC as the best football conference. Competitively, it’s hard to argue with that. Top to bottom, a marginally more successful case for the Big Ten can be made, looking at a few of the dumpster fires residing at the bottom of the Southeastern Conference.
But what of the B1G relative to the rest of the nation?
During Jesse’s excellent preview with the PAC-12, Jack Follman had this to say:
Right now I think that the conference gets the respect that it deserves, as I think it is generally considered one of the best conferences after the SEC at this point, and that is about where it should be.
Quite frankly, B1G Nation, this way of thinking cannot stand. I will not sit back as some Left Coast, Birkenstock-wearing granola heads pass us sensible, down-to-earth, wholesome Midwestern folk in football, of all things. Thus, in this series, we return to the analysis of what the Big Ten needs to do to thoroughly establish its football hegemony, if not also over the land General Sherman once torched, at least over these uppity West Coasters (or Coasties, if you’re some freak from Madison who needs a "hip" name to call them. Better dead than red, Wisconsin).
First, let’s look back to bowl season:
vs. SEC: 1-2 (you’re welcome)
vs. Big XII: 1-2
vs. PAC-12: 0-1
With Penn State and Ohio State ineligible, we are left to speculate what could have been had Ohio State represented the Big Ten either in Pasadena or beyond. Minnesota and Purdue both stumbled into Texas to punch far above their weight classes, and while Minnesota nearly pulled off a stunner of Texas Tech, Purdue received a thrashing from Oklahoma State that had most all of us cringing at the carnage.
Northwestern and Michigan State won winnable games—Northwestern finally excising its bowl demons, Michigan State committing yet another affront to offensive college football in a brutal-on-the-eyes showdown with TCU.
We should probably give Wisconsin a pass for walking into a Rose Bowl with #6 Stanford and falling just short of a defensive slugfest, too, but the temptation to mock Wisconsin’s 0-fer trifecta is too great to resist.
My ire rests firmly on Michigan and Nebraska: not for losing to two very good teams in South Carolina and Georgia, respectively, but for choking away a lead to the Gamecocks and once again being torched through the air by that ESS EEE SEE SPEEEEED of Georgia once again.
Regardless, I give the Big Ten a pass in 2012. Slot everyone down one mark for Ohio State, then wedge a scrappy Penn State team which went 6-2 in the Big Ten somewhere around Northwestern, and not only are the aforementioned losers playing a much more manageable game, but in the case of Ohio State, the excluded are potentially contending for a national title.
B1G Picture: What I Generally Want for the Conference:
DO NOT LOSE TO A SINGLE NON-AQ SCHOOL.
Oh hey, Iowa, I was ignoring you there. You know that pesky Central Michigan thing? Stop that, and stop it now. Indiana, if you crap the bed against Navy again, I’m personally going to B1G headquarters and petitioning that you drop football. Illinois…just…please. Throw me a bone here.
GO 2-1 AGAINST NOTRE DAME.
Lofty aspiration? Probably. Doable? Definitely. The Irish used up most of their leprechaun magic against Purdue (of all non-entities) last year, but they still serve as a benchmark for where the Big Ten is at. Silence the ND faithful early on, any two of you three. If you go 3-0 against the Irish, I will be ecstatic.
Indiana, I’ve accepted that you’ll probably lose to Mizzou. Illinois, if you beat Washington, I’ll be more than pleasantly surprised. But schools like OSU and Northwestern, traveling to the West Coast? Be on guard. No getting upset by Cal. No getting upset by Syracuse, Penn State, no matter how many field goals Sam Ficken wants to miss (that’s probably not a fair joke, but oh well). No losing to the Sun Devils, Wisconsin. Bert won’t be around to chase all the co-eds down there, so I expect a prepared, focused team to stomp on the PAC-12.
Without further ado (too late), we examine Week 1 in the non-conference and what I want to see:
Minnesota (-14) vs. UNLV: Cover it. You heard me, Jerry Kill and Co. Cover the spread, put your foot down on the gas right away, and roll up something like a 3-TD win over the Runnin’ Rebels. For a team desperately needing a 4-0 non-conference slate to give itself a chance at bowl eligibility, this game is one you need to win going away.
Indiana (no line) vs. Indiana State: No scares like last year. I’m talking 2-3 touchdown win, Kevin Wilson. Get that high-octane offense rolling, show us your defense does not resemble Swiss cheese, and win this comfortably.
Michigan State (-27) vs. Western Michigan: Get your quarterbacking shit figured out, Sparty. No 7-7 tie at the end of the first half before you realize Andrew Maxwell is, in fact, awful. Figure out who it is by the end of the first half and romp through this.
Illinois (no line) vs. Southern Illinois: Don’t embarrass us, Illinois. Roll up a lot of offense, prove to us that Bill Cubit has the potential to do good things in Chambana, and win this going away. No FCS scares.
Wisconsin (-45) vs. UMass: Just win this, please. No scares, no one-score game at the half, just roll up big points and let Johnny Second-String get a shot to play for Mom and Dad.
Ohio State (-36) vs. Buffalo: See: Wisconsin.
Purdue (+10.5) @ Cincinnati: Woof. Purdue, I want to see you beat the spread. Keep this a one-score game and force Cincy to sweat it out, and who knows? Maybe you’ll capture some of that Ohio State magic you’ve been rocking. Prove to me that Rob Henry is a capable QB who can lead Darrell Hazell’s new offense against a semi-competent AAC defense.
Michigan (-32) vs. Central Michigan: Remember Dan LeFevour? Wasn’t he a lot of fun to watch? Man, MACtion can be so awesome sometimes. Anyways, see: Wisconsin. Don’t mess this up, Michigan.
Iowa (-3) vs. Northern Illinois: Win. I don’t care how you do it, Kirk Ferentz. I don’t care if you punt on first down every single drive, play the field position game, take 3-4 safeties, and win 9-8 on the back of Mike Meyer’s field goals and your defense. I don’t care if Greg Davis decides he can properly run an offense beyond 5 yards from the line of scrimmage, and you allow Jake Rudock to go all Rex Grossman on every play. Just find a way to pull this game out, since the -3 line is essentially telling us "Hey, this game’s a tossup, but we’ll spot Iowa 3 points since they’re at home."
Penn State (-7.5) @ Syracuse (MetLife Stadium): Cover this, Penn State. JDMill said the exact same thing about Ohio last season, and we all know how that turned out. Cover this spread, show the rest of us that Bill O’Brien is just playing Belichickian mind games about his starting quarterback, and set down a rebuilding Syracuse program.
Nebraska (-28) vs. Wyoming: See: Wisconsin et al. As a side note, if you’ve never listened to Wyoming’s fight song, do it now.
Northwestern (-6) @ Cal: The fact that this line has been tumbling from double-digits makes me uncomfortable. The fact that #BearRaid is a thing makes me uncomfortable. Remembering the escape the ‘Cats pulled off in the Carrier Dome in 2012 against a high-octane passing attack makes me uncomfortable. But Northwestern, if you want to prove to us that you’re a darkhorse contender for the BCS or whatever bored sports outlets are trotting out now, you need to cover the spread and win this game by double-digits. Let Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian do their QB1A and QB1B thing, let Venric Mark return a punt to get his name out early as a darkhorse Heisman guy, and get home unscathed.
So How Will It Go?
What I Want:
12-0. I want Purdue to surprise us and get the win, I want Iowa to show us they’re more competent than most of the staff gave them credit for, I want no scares in East Rutherford or Berkeley, and I want to see the B1G start to put all the lesser (yes, PAC-12, I include you) conferences in their place.
What I Expect:
10-2. I don’t think Purdue will win. I just don’t know if a road test in Hazell’s first game is a conducive setting for the Boilers, and I think they’ll just be a tad overmatched. I also don’t have as much faith in Iowa as my 6-6 (3-5) prediction for them would imply. I have them losing one of NIU and Iowa State, and this weekend’s likely as good as any.
Burn Mattresses in the Streets If:
8-4 happens. Purdue loses to Cincinnati as Tim Beckman secures his inevitable walking papers by dropping a tight one to Southern Illinois. Wisconsin doesn’t look like they’re adjusting to Andersen well and gets a minor scare in the first quarter, and then Penn State gets caught with no quarterback and its pants down in New Jersey. To top off the day of suck, my loved ones begin hiding sharp objects in my general vicinity after the ‘Cats come out listless in Memorial Stadium and Cal stuns them on the road.