Gruen: Big Ten Strong In Week 1, But It’s No Time To Get Carried Away

By Seth Gruen–

(CBS) College football flexed its muscles in Week 1, an opening slate that saw seven AP top-25 teams lose.

So, take that you parity loving, billionaire NFL owners. College football can certainly be as unpredictable as its professional counterparts claim they are.

But what Week 1 of college football did was tempt fans in this part of the country. Big Ten supporters have been waiting for a moment like this when the SEC looks suddenly vulnerable and our beloved conference strong.

That was certainly the case when all but two Big Ten teams — Northwestern and Rutgers — won Week 1 games. Of course, it was all underscored when Wisconsin beat LSU in the afternoon slate.

But please, don’t take the bait.

After Week 1, Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Iowa are all ranked in the AP Top 25. But there’s still reason to question the conference’s depth. Northwestern was thought to be a solid team but lost to Western Michigan. Though the Wildcats were unranked, the loss was still among the week’s shocking results.

And beyond Wisconsin’s win against LSU, the conference really wasn’t tested. That will come in Week 3, when Michigan State plays Notre Dame and Ohio State faces Oklahoma in simultaneous games.

Until then, we really have to refrain from holding the Big Ten banner too high. Any Big Ten chest beating wouldn’t be predicated on what the conference accomplished in Week 1. Instead it would be about the SEC’s results, only one of which was affected by a Big Ten team.

The optics weren’t good for the SEC: Six teams lost non-conference games, including Mississippi State’s loss to South Alabama. Tennessee needed overtime to beat Appalachian State, and Arkansas only beat Southern Mississippi by one.

It’s important to mention that the SEC did face four ranked opponents, which further muddies any notion that the SEC’s poor week suggests the Big Ten is as competitive.

It’s understandable that college football fans are sick of the gushing over the SEC, but that’s no reason to be irrational.

The Big Ten appears strong, and the opportunity to walk tall among the rest of the country may come. That time just isn’t right now.

Power rankings

1. Ohio State (1-0) — The Buckeyes looked explosive offensively, albeit against Bowling Green.

2. Michigan State (1-0) — There’s two weeks to prep for Notre Dame.

3. Michigan (1-0) — Not really tested against Hawaii

4. Wisconsin (1-0) — The Badgers made a historic jump in the AP poll from unranked to 10th.

5. Iowa (1-0) — Will the Hawkeyes be challenged in the West by the Badgers?

6. Nebraska (1-0) — These Huskers look much more like a Nebraska team should.

7. Penn State (1-0) — Sophomore running back Saquon Barkley could end up one of the conference’s best.

8. Minnesota (1-0) — It was a good comeback win over Oregon State

9. Illinois (1-0) — A win over North Carolina would vault the Illini higher.

10. Northwestern (0-1) — The loss to Western Michigan was bad.

11. Indiana (1-0) — The Hoosiers typically start out well.

12. Maryland (1-0) — The win over Howard doesn’t do anything for me.

13. Purdue (1-0) — 1-0!

14. Rutgers (0-1) — We’ll be challenged this season in coming up with different ways of saying the Scarlet Knights are bad.

Seth Gruen is columnist for CBSChicago.com, focusing on college sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SethGruen.

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