By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Its Leaders are lagging. And its Legends?
Well, they look like anything but.
But, hey, the Big Ten still has a full slate of football games to play Saturday. So, aren’t you just teeming with excitement?
If not, and instead you’re thinking, gee, I sure seem down in the dumps about the state of the Big Ten a whole lot sooner than normal – usually that takes until bowl season – well, it turns out that you have darn good reason.
Because, right now, with a 16-8 record overall and only five unbeaten teams – a pair of them being, ahem, Indiana and Minnesota – after just two weeks of games, the Big Ten is indeed off to its worst start in quite a while. And by the looks of it, the season could fizzle out before the conference games even begin next Saturday.
On Wednesday, Steve Greenberg of the Sporting News weighed in with his weekly assessment of the Big Ten and wrote that the part of the league that’s currently “Falling” is, “the league’s reputation. Again.”
Greenberg went on to explain, “This race we all looked forward to in the Legends Division? Well, it may still go down to the wire, but it’s not going to capture the imaginations of college football fans around the country, that’s for sure. Michigan – which struggled to beat Air Force a week after being pummeled by Alabama – clearly isn’t an elite team, nor is Nebraska (lost at UCLA) or Iowa (lost at home vs. Iowa State). Wisconsin’s loss at Oregon State was no less disappointing. Just how big of a dud will the Big Ten title game be?”
Well, that remains to be seen. But if Notre Dame manages to upend the Big Ten’s highest-ranked team – No. 10 Michigan State – Saturday in East Lansing, then it could be quite the dud indeed. After all, consider too that the Big Ten’s second highest-ranked team, No. 12 Ohio State, isn’t even eligible to play in the league’s championship game in Indy this December. But get your tickets now!
In any case, with the Big Ten sputtering off to this lackluster start, I found myself wondering just how lackluster it is. So, I did a little research. And what I found is it’s just as bad as you think.
As I mentioned earlier, right now, the Big Ten is just 16-8 overall after two weeks of non-conference games. That’s only marginally worse than 2011 when the Big Ten’s teams went 17-7 through Week 2. However, a year ago the league still had seven unbeaten, compared to the mere five still alive this season.
Going back to 2010, the Big Ten was a collective 17-4 after two weeks (oddly, Indiana had a bye in Week 2) and had seven unbeaten teams. That doesn’t even include league newbie, Nebraska, which was also 2-0 when it was still a member of the Big 12.
In 2009, the Big Ten was 18-4 heading into Week 3 with seven unbeaten squads (again, not including 2-0 Nebraska). Same goes for 2008 when it was 18-4 with seven undefeated teams. And in 2007, the conference was also 18-4 and boasted eight unblemished teams.
I would have kept doing more research on seasons prior to ’07, but you get the picture, and it was all depressing me too much.
However, if you’re a fan of either Illinois or Purdue this won’t much help your mood: During the past six seasons, 10 of the Big Ten’s 12 teams have enjoyed at least two 2-0 starts, allowing its fans to at least dream big for a while.
The only two that haven’t are the Illini and the Boilermakers, who have combined for 10 (five apiece) of the Big Ten’s 31 losses in Weeks 1 and 2 since 2007.
And with that, are you ready for some football?
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.