If this season was the deepest of depths Big Ten football could sink, the rest of college football should check itself.
The Big Ten finished its part of the bowl season at 2-5. Nothing to celebrate. But consider this:
- The league’s best team, Ohio State (and another of its top four, Penn State) was ineligible for the postseason, so every other bowl team played at least one bowl game higher than it should have.
- Purdue, a slumping team in the middle of a coaching change, was the only team to get blown out.
- Nebraska, recently walloped by an average Wisconsin team (which, remember lost to MSU at home), pushed Georgia to the brink Tuesday, before losing 45-31. Georgia, remember, minus bungled clock management at the end of the SEC title game, might be playing for the national championship.
- The Big Ten finished 1-2 against the vaunted SEC, with a win from Northwestern over Mississippi State, another it should have won with Michigan against a double-digit win South Carolina club, and then Nebraska’s toe-to-toe effort against a Georgia club perhaps as good as any team the SEC has to offer this season.
- And Wisconsin, which finished third in its division and had already lost five games, pushed Pac-12 champ Stanford until the end.
This wasn’t a great season for the Big Ten. Not even a good one. The league took a beating all year after some of its early results — even though teams like Utah State, UCLA and Oregon State, all of which challenged or upset Big Ten teams, turned out to be pretty formidable.
Much of the Big Ten’s early media bruising came because of preseason polls, and where teams like UCLA and Oregon State were thought to be by pundits who know squat. It’s another reason the first rankings shouldn’t be released until mid-October and, even if they are, none of us should pay any attention to them in September. That includes news organizations, which ought to quit running rankings in association with teams, or even reporting rankings, until there’s a decent sample size.
With the Big Ten season completely over, I take away this: The league, at its worst, ain’t bad. And, if Ohio State and Penn State were in the postseason, there would probably be no evidence this morning to suggest any league is much better, even at the end of this supposedly awful year.