For years, the Big Ten conference was the punching bag of college football. It became a sort of tradition to watch Big Ten teams get run off the field every bowl season. The jokes about slow farm boys who could not keep up with the SEC men’s speed seemed to write themselves. Those days may be behind us as after a very strong showing in week one of the 2017 college football season. The Big Ten may once again sit on the throne of conference dominance because of top end firepower and overall conference depth.
The perennial frontrunners all had good performances week one. Ohio State and Wisconsin shrugged off slow first halves to come away with fairly convincing victories. The Buckeyes played Thursday night and found themselves in quite a dogfight with fellow Big Ten East rival Indiana. While Ohio State’s convincing second half performance is worth noting, Indiana’s scrap and ability to punch speaks to the depth of the conference. After missing most of last season, Indiana wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. wasted no time thrusting himself on to the national radar with an outstanding 11 catch 149-yard performance including a touchdown. If Cobbs and Indiana can put together two halves like their first against the Buckeyes they could be a surprise team in the East.
The Badgers found themselves down 10-0 to Utah State, but relentless defense and a punishing running led to a 59-10 stomping. The lack of firepower offensively in the first half was extremely concerning, but once quarterback Alex Hornibrook settled and the offensive line started asserting themselves it was curtains for the Aggies. The defense picked right up where it left off last season, suffocating Utah State for most of the game. The one area of concern was the lack of a pass rush, but with so many new faces it is not unreasonable to think that it will kickstart as the season goes on.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Michigan absolutely smothered Florida 33-17 in a high profile neutral site game. Despite replacing their entire defense, the Wolverines put the Gators offense in a vice grip the entire game and slowly squeezed them into submission. Were it not for two pick-sixes by quarterback Wilton Speight, this game may have gotten even uglier than it already was. Jim Harbaugh’s crew once again appear to be national contenders.
The biggest win of the weekend for the Big Ten came courtesy of the Maryland Terrapins and their upset win over Texas. Coming in as 18.5 point underdogs they sprung the upset and spoiled Tom Herman’s Texas coaching debut. Wins like these are what gives the Big Ten credibility as the best conference in college football. Everyone knows that Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State are all going to be contenders, but when teams further down the food chain can punch above their weight class it makes the conference look stronger overall.
The Big Ten has another chance to prove itself next weekend with a showdown in Columbus between the Buckeyes and the Oklahoma Sooners. If OSU can repeat the beatdown they put on Oklahoma last year in Norman, it will continue to cement the Big Ten as a premier conference in college football.