“Life support” and “tough path” are how commentators have been describing the Big Ten’s chances of having a representative in this year’s College Football Playoff.
Complete chaos enveloped the Big Ten this past Saturday as sixth ranked Ohio State lost in embarrassing fashion, and seventh ranked Penn State lost on a last second field goal. Most have labeled this past weekend as a death sentence for the Big Ten, but in reality it just proves how deep and dominant the Big Ten is and could be.
And the Big Ten West may actually be what proves the Big Ten to be the best conference in college football.
The Ohio State game was the most “devastating” of the Big Ten games, as the Buckeyes were absolutely run off the field by a dominant Iowa. A final score of 55 to 24 is a terrible look for Urban Meyer’s team, as they drop to two losses on the season.
Why all the focus on how this negatively affects Ohio State, though? Iowa had one of the tougher Big Ten schedules as they had to play crossover games with the top teams in the Big Ten East division.
Narrow losses to Penn State and Michigan State made Iowa look competitive, but ultimately a team that would end up playing in a middle of the road bowl game. After an overtime loss to Big Ten East afterthought Northwestern, Iowa was far from being ranked and far from being thought of as competitive.
Iowa was merely one of the multitude of average and below average teams making up the apparent laughing stock that is the Big Ten West.
After Saturday, though, Iowa now has two marquee wins. Earlier in the season, Iowa beat non-conference rival Iowa State in overtime. At the time not a marquee win, but after Iowa State has gone on to beat two top ten teams, the win becomes a lot more important.
Teams like Northwestern also help bolster the Big Ten’s case. Northwestern gets labeled as an afterthought within the “laughable” Big Ten West. Northwestern is sitting pretty, though, after three straight overtime wins.
Two of those three have come against Iowa and Michigan State. Iowa has proven to be a force, as stated above, and Michigan State could very well end up being the number one team in the Big Ten East.
Despite many viewing the Big Ten West as dragging down the overall quality of the Big Ten, Saturday proved just how competitive and deep the west division is, strengthening the conference’s argument for being the best conference in college football.
The conference has seven teams in the top 50 for overall defense, with Wisconsin leading the way ranked at fifth and the West division sporting four teams.
So, the in-fighting of the West division being putrid and the East being filled with too many good teams needs to stop. Both divisions are competitive and filled with talent from top to bottom. If this is to be true, the overall conference should perform well in non-conference games. And they do.
In both this season and last season, the conference has gone 32-10 in non-conference play; good for a 76 percent win percentage.
For comparison, the Big 12 conference has put up non-conference win percentages of 65 and 63 percent, and the ACC has posted non-conference win percentages of 69 and 70 percent.
The only conference doing better than the Big Ten in non-conference over this season and last season, is the SEC. Over the course of this season and last, the SEC has posted non-conference win percentages of 84 and 77 percent. Not too difficult for the SEC as they seemingly all play the likes of Austin Peay, Chattanooga and Louisiana-Lafayette every year.
Looking at bowl eligibility for this season, seven teams from both the Big Ten and the SEC have already qualified. Both conferences also have five teams within striking distance of being eligible for a bowl game.
So, put the “Big Ten is weak” and the “Wisconsin has it easy in the West division” arguments to bed. They are a farce. The Big Ten is as strong as ever and on par with the perennial football conference world-beater that is the SEC.