Harrison Thought: The Big Ten's Bad Weekend

Posted Sep 10, 2012

Week 2 Harrison Thought - The Big Ten's Bad Weekend

By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

Remember when the Big Ten was the envy of the college football world? Yeah, maybe. It's been awhile so I don't blame you if the notion involves digging into the recesses of history for memorable moments. Fact is, despite some flashes here and there, the Big Ten has struggled to make its way back to "king of the hill" status, as was the case in the good ‘ole days when many iconic coaches and players inhabited the national spotlight on a weekly basis.

If we could fire up the flux capacitor, jump in a silver DeLorean and hit 88 miles per hour, you'd see a time not too long ago when the vocal chords of Keith Jackson would refer to the linemen in the Big Ten as the "Big Uglies." You'd also catch an Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Penn State flogging non-conference opponents on a semi-regular basis. There'd likely also be a contender like Iowa, Michigan State, or Illinois to rise up and make hay on a national scale.

Now, flash back to reality.

This season is still in its adolescence, but the first couple of weeks have provided even further evidence to believe that the Big Ten is still embarking on a journey to respectability. In other words, respectability hasn't yet been attained, and excellence is not even on the radar screen.

What? You want examples cited, you say? Here are just some low-lights of the Big Ten brethren thus far in 2012 (warning--parental guidance is sarcastically recommended):

-Michigan got rolled like an eight-pound bowling ball against Alabama, 41-14, in week one. The only thing the Maize and Blue did well was win the coin toss. They followed it up in week two with a lackluster effort against Air Force, sans B-1 bombers.

-Wisconsin had the equivalent of a business trip to Fiji in week one against an FCS opponent, but barely survived Northern Iowa. On Saturday, the Badgers mustered only 207 yards of total offense against an average Oregon State defense. That includes just 35 rushing yards on a team that has Montee Ball and linemen that eat a lot of bratwurst and cheese.

-Nebraska looked good in week one against an overmatched Southern Miss team, but gave up over ⅓ of a mile (653 yards) and 36 points to UCLA. The ‘Huskers lost in a game they were favored to win inside the Rose Bowl. It's highly unlikely they'll get back to Pasadena in January.

-Iowa has managed just one touchdown in two games. Perhaps it's a tribute to the throwback uniforms Iowa wore against Iowa State, but the Hawkeyes are averaging a "throwback" 286 yards of total offense through two weeks. That's against the likes of Northern Illinois and the aforementioned Cyclones. The Hawkeyes are lucky to be 1-1.

-Illinois engaged in some late-night X-rated television against Arizona State Saturday night. Sure, they were without Nathan Scheelhaase, but the Illini got roasted in the desert by a score of 45-14. No it's not 1996, and Jake Plummer had nothing to do with the 510 yards of offense Tim Beckman's crew gave up.

-Purdue squandered an opportunity to make a statement in South Bend.

-Penn State lost to the MAC's Ohio Bobcats in week one, and yanked away the game at Virginia this past weekend by whiffing on more kicks than Charlie Brown (4 field goals and 1 PAT). The Nittany Lions are 0-2... and then some.

Had enough? The conference already has plenty of egg on its face from the big-stage exploits of Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, and others over the last few years. At least so far this season, it's already looking like a dozen-egg omelette is plastered on the face of the once proud conference. Good news or bad, there's still a long way to go.

But certainly, you might ask, there's something for the conference to hang its hat on, right?

Well, kind-of. Northwestern, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan State, and Ohio State are the only teams without a loss. While it seems like there might be a silver lining in that larger fact, OSU is ineligible for postseason play, and the Hoosiers, Wildcats, and Golden Gophers aren't exactly the upper crust of the league. All three are sure to lose a few games along the way.

That leaves Michigan State as the only real threat standing amidst the chaos that has been the first two weeks of college football for the Big Ten, and there's still a minefield littered with Notre Dame and an entire conference to make it through. Nonetheless, it's time for the conference to put all of its eggs in the green and white basket and hope for the best.

If Sparty can't get it done, then it's time to look forward to next year and beyond with hope that Ohio State and Michigan can keep ratcheting things up like many expect, while other teams like Wisconsin and Nebraska continue to hold serve.

If not, Jim Delany's next conference expansion talks might center around purchasing a 1981 DeLorean.