Yes, Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin are the class of the Big Ten. You already know that because you are a smart college football fan who follows what's going on. Heck, even if this is the ONLY college football site that you read, you know that.
But one of the things that college football fans like to talk about, specifically those of us lucky enough to be fans of teams within the Off Tackle Empire of the Big Ten, is conference supremacy. We love to talk about why we are the best conference, about how our conference is pure, about how our conference is better than your conference and how our dad can beat up your dad.
Having that argument at the top of the conferences is easy. Alabama this, Ohio State that, blah blah blah.
Let's talk about conference supremacy in terms of depth. The opinion that Minnesota is going to be the worst team in the Big Ten is well represented. (I don't happen to agree, but you probably knew that.) So if Minnesota IS the worst team in the Big Ten, and we want to continue to believe that we are the best conference in the Big Ten, then our assumption has to be that Minnesota is the lousiest of the best.
After the jump, if Minnesota is the lousiest of the best, then how they finish should matter to you.
Put the score aside (I know I'm asking a lot), and the Gophers dominated the Blue Raiders, pure and simple. Minnesota won the time of possession battle over MTSU by a staggering margin of roughly 45 minutes to 15 minutes. And it's actually unreal how they did it, as Minnesota allowed MTSU exactly ZERO drives of two minutes or more and allowing the Blue Raiders under 6 minutes of offense in the entire second half.
I would argue that Middle Tennessee State is a better football team than 7 of the Big Ten's 10 other opponents in week 1 (Connecticut, Notre Dame & Missouri are all better in my estimation). That being the case, Minnesota's win over MTSU is a quality non-conference win, and certainly a win over a team that should be better than the bulk of the Big Ten's non-conference schedule.
And again, if conference supremacy is measured by depth, and if Minnesota is who you think is the worst team in the conference, then a win by the worst team in the conference on the road in the non-conference over a quality opponent is important.
"Talk to me when they do that to USC or a conference team," you're probably saying. And I get that. And you aren't wrong. But Minnesota isn't supposed to win those games and for a team with such low expectations, the first goal should be to win the games they are supposed to win. Several people thought Minnesota would lose to MTSU. The opening line started out with the Gophers as 4 point dogs. In fact, Jonathan and Bama Hawkeye, of this very website didn't think that Minnesota would beat MTSU.
The other reason that it should matter to you that Minnesota beat MTSU is because of how Minnesota won the game... with a dominating ground attack that for once in the Tim Brewster era wasn't abandoned when the team was faced with adversity.
The fact that they won this game based on the strength and commitment to the run game is huge in a conference that we here at OTE have chosen to call Off Tackle Empire. Off Tackle Empire is a nod to the rough and tumble style that Big Ten teams are known for, and Minnesota appears to be prepared to put themselves back into the discussion when it comes to teams in the conference that fit the commitment to the run mold.
I fully expect that OSU, Iowa, Wisconsin and the resurgence of Michigan will grab the headlines over the Gophers from now to the end of bowl season. But if we want to continue to call ourselves the best conference in the nation, if we want to continue to be a part of that discussion, the success like a team like Minnesota is something that we should all pay attention to.