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The Big Ten, Big Let Down

September 18, 2012

College Football

It is now leading into week 4 of college football and a lot has happened especially in the Big Ten and frankly, it is not impressive. The Big Ten started the 2012 season with five teams ranked in the top 25: Nebraska, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan. After week 2 there were only three teams but after a fortunate turn of events Nebraska rebounded from their loss and made it back into the top 25. So now with only four Big Ten teams floating in and out of the top 25 let’s look back at what has transpired in the first three weeks of college football.

Wisconsin

Probably the biggest let down of the Big Ten season has been Wisconsin. Having the promising return of Heisman candidate Montee Ball and always having solid offense and defense lines, people anticipated the Badgers to easily take the top of the Leaders division. They also came off two consecutive Rose Bowl appearances before entering the 2012 season.

Week 1: Wisconsin has an extremely disappointing opener against Northern Iowa barely getting a win at home by 5 points. Even thought they had to replace their explosive quarterback Russel Wilson that went to the NFL after last season many people thought that this game was going to be a mere warm up for the Badgers.

Week 2: The Badgers went on the road to take on Oregon State where Montee Ball got overwhelmed by the defense and only produced 61 rushing yards as the team left the state of Oregon with a 10-7 loss and was dismissed from the top 25.

Week 3: Taking on Utah State at home the Badgers needed to come out and prove something. However just pulling off a 16-14 win at home doesn’t make a great argument. So the question still lingers: “Are the Badgers just in a slump or are they really not that good this year?”

What’s Next: Playing UTEP at home the Badgers will have another opponent that gives them an opportunity to iron out the wrinkles in their crumbling performances. They open up their Big Ten play against Nebraska on the road so if they aren’t able to pull things together in week 4 then they are going to see their shot at the Big Ten Championship slip away, probably to Purdue who has had better performances this year or even to the rising Fighting Illini.

Ohio State

Ohio State was expected to go undefeated before the 2012 season started and so far they have kept up with popular demand. Going into week 4 the Buckeyes are 3-0 but let’s face it, they haven’t really played any big contenders. So how good are they really?

Week 1: The Buckeyes started off their season at home against Miami of Ohio. They looked strong and collective as they took down their opponent 56-10.

Week 2: Having another home game against UCF, Ohio State pulled off another win 31-16 continuing their win streak for their first season under Urban Meyer.

Week 3: This is where you have to stop and start taking a closer look at things. Ohio State took on California, at home again, but didn’t have such a convincing win. Having to make a big effort to finish a final drive to keep the game from going into over time the Buckeyes performance in week 3 makes you scratch your head and wonder, “Are they really as good as they are ranked?”

What’s Next: The Buckeyes are going to have another home game against UAB which should prove another easy win and won’t take on a credible opponent until week 5 when they finally go on the road to take on Michigan State. So are the Buckeyes really that good or do they just look good because of circumstance? I believe their first road game will help shed some light on the situation.

Nebraska

It has been an interesting situation for Nebraska having temporarily lost their star running back Rex Burkhead for a few games but they still have been able to hold things together pretty well. It is anticipated that Burkhead will return for their week 4 match up against Idaho State.

Week 1: In their opener at home against Southern Miss the Cornhuskers looked very good as Martinez led them to a convincing win. Martinez was not an impressive passer in 2011 but having worked hard during the off-season he showed a lot of improvement in his throws and decision-making.

Week 2: Nebraska struggled on the road against UCLA which appears to be making a statement as being a credible football program. Nebraska made a great effort but came up 6 points short. Rex Burkhead may have been the key they were needing to finish with a win. Unfortunately for the team this loss caused them to drop out of the top 25.

Week 3: Returning home the players needed to prove something and unlike the Badgers they answered the call. Getting a 42-13 win against Arkansas State brought them back into the top 25.

What’s Next: I still view Nebraska as a solid team, the injury of Burkhead threw a wrench in their recent performances which they have worked on compensating for. They play against Idaho State at home next and then take on Wisconsin which will be the game to determine if Nebraska still is a strong contender or if Wisconsin has climbed their way back out of the hole they put themselves in.

Michigan State

Currently 2-1 the Spartans were favored as the best team in the Legends Division if not the entire Big Ten but now people are starting to second guess themselves. The defense has done well warding off teams but the offense hasn’t always been consistent in answering back after opponents score.

Week 1: Against #24 Boise State at home the Spartans defense had a good performance not allowing any offensive touchdowns. On the other side of the ball the Offense looked shaky but Le’Veon Bell kept the team afloat with his amazing rushing performance leading the team to a 17-13 victory.

Week 2: The team went up the road to CMU and returned home with a 41-7 win. It was a good opportunity for Andrew Maxwell to work on the decision-making during the game. He looked to have learned from his mistakes the week before.

Week 3: A tough match up at home against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Knowing that their defense was good enough to keep a relatively low scoring game the offense really had the weight of the game on their shoulders as Maxwell and Bell needed to lead the team. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. In a disappointing loss of 20-3 the Spartans look like they need to rework some things if they want to make an effort at reaching the Big Ten Championship this year.

What’s Next: On the brighter side of things MSU will be facing Eastern Michigan at home to try to get back on track. The Spartans are a good team but the defense is more put together than the offense. When the defense is able to stop their opponent from scoring the offense needs to get on track to go down the field and create some breathing room for their defense.

Michigan

After an amazing first season for Coach Brady Hoke the Wolverines look good for their 2012 season but how good will it all turn out? They lost some key players on offense and defense and so far it doesn’t look like all the holes have been filled by players of the same caliber.

Week 1: Having to begin their season off against the defending national champions, Alabama, on the road was a big task. They took it head on but were owned by the Crimson Tide as they fell 41-14.

Week 2: Michigan had to follow their tough loss from week 1 by going against the triple option of the Air Force Falcons at home. Even though they pulled off the 31-25 win it wasn’t very convincing. Their offense was explosive but their defense struggled to keep the Falcons from answering back. Their performance leaves the question of whether or not their defense is going to be able to handle tougher opponents in the future.

Week 3: Another home game and this one was against UMass. Michigan was expected to easily win, and win they did 63-13, but did it look good? The offense came out and performed well again but the defense didn’t look much different from Week 2. Yes they did a good job at not allowing any offensive touchdowns but UMass didn’t seem to have much of a problem at moving the ball up the field.

What’s Next: Notre Dame is their next opponent and on the road so this will help reveal how good the Wolverines really are. Will the defense prove to be able to play against stronger opponents and will the offense keep their high yardage performances and scoring drives going? I believe the offense will stay strong but the defense is just too questionable to be able to predict at this time. I anticipate that the defense will continually improve during the season but it could be a quick improvement or a slow one, for their sake hopefully it will be fast.

Overall Reaction

So really how good is the Big Ten this year? So far things are not so good. Nothing has been convincing, not much has been consistent, the opponents have not been that difficult and the wins not that impressive. You would think that one Big Ten team could at least contend to be in the title game since Ohio State’s appearance in 2007 not to mention that no Big Ten team has won since 2002, but no team has been able to produce such results. Wisconsin has probably made the best effort in the past few years but even then their post season performances exposed their shortcomings as they lost the past two Rose Bowls.

So what is there good to say about the Big Ten? What is impressive about the conference? Well to be blunt, the conference does not look impressive this year. One good thing I can say is that the Big Ten doesn’t quit and their incoming classes, especially for Ohio State and Michigan, look strong. In the past few years the Big Ten teams look totally different at the end of the season than they do at the beginning so hopefully that will be the case again this year. Just like any other sports team, as well as conferences, they rise and fall with time. So if the conference doesn’t rise from its’ fall I strongly believe that several of the teams will be able to answer the call and make strong performances as contending teams in the future, hopefully sooner rather than later.

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About TrueBlueReport

Graphic Designer, avid Michigan Football fan, Abstract Painter, and Athletics Blogger.

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