There have been no reports of fowl falling from the sky or fish washed ashore, but Big Ten fans are on the lookout. This college football season reeks of the Apocalypse.
Only one conference school is listed among the latest BCS Standings (No. 20 Nebraska), and only Ohio State (bowl ineligible) and Nebraska are ranked in the AP Poll. Northwestern, Wisconsin and Michigan belong to the “others receiving votes” category, but all three received fewer votes than Toledo, Kent State and Tulsa. It’s doubtful the Wildcats, Badgers and Wolverines would care to boast about the kind of company they’re keeping these days.
Perhaps the early warning came September 8 when the Pac-12 demolished three Big Ten clubs. After that, Michigan State and Michigan fell apart, followed by Northwestern and Iowa. Wisconsin can’t hang on to second-half leads and Nebraska has had trouble on the road.
It’s been one Big Ten letdown after another.
And things could get worse. It’s easy to picture the Cornhuskers losing in East Lansing this weekend. That would leave the Big Ten with just one ranked program.
Consider that a Big Ten school has finished the year ranked among the Top 10 every season dating back to 2001 (and before that, 1984). The Big Ten is a staple of the Top 25, most years rivaling the other major conferences for most schools represented.
This year is barely half over and already it’s one for Midwest fans to forget. The winner of the Legends Division will be a slight favorite to beat a Wisconsin program likely to finish third in the Leaders Division. The winner of that game could very well be the worst program to participate in the BCS. And fans may as well count on another losing bowl season.
According to Big Ten Network’s Tom Dienhart, the biggest blow could be to the Big Ten’s pocketbook – fewer BCS and bowl schools equals less holiday revenue to share. Last year, the Big Ten hauled in $47 million; Dienhart estimates that total could be reduced by $10 million this season.
OK, so maybe $10 million in lost revenue does not signify the end of the Big Ten conference. Sure feels that way, though.
-- Big Ten Notes –
• Northwestern’s Tyler Scott now leads the Big Ten in sacks (seven) and forced fumbles (three). Those numbers are sure to keep Scott in the conversation for end-of-year awards.
• Michigan’s Brady Hoke suggested last week that his team wasn’t going to beat Nebraska settling for field goals in the red zone, but it’s been Hoke’s in-state rival, Michigan State, that has settled for too many three-point tries this year. The Spartans lead the conference with 22 attempts, having made just 16. This could help explain why Mark Dantonio’s club is one of only two Big Ten programs averaging less than 20 points a game.
• The last time Minnesota claimed the Little Brown Jug was in 2005, when a last-second 30-yard Jason Giannini field goal gave the Gophers a 23-20 win. Since then, Michigan’s margin of victory has grown in the last four meetings, to as high as 58 points last year.
– This week’s schedule –
Saturday, Nov. 3
Michigan at Minnesota, 11 a.m.
Iowa at Indiana, 2:30 p.m.
Nebraska at Michigan State, 2:30 p.m.
Illinois at Ohio State, 2:30 p.m.
Penn State at Purdue, 2:30 p.m.
**all times CT
– Spotlight –
QB Philip Nelson, Minnesota
The Gophers’ hot-shot freshman did well in his debut against Wisconsin, and last week he destroyed Purdue to claim his first career victory. Another week, another test – this time it’s a Wolverines team still hurting from their poor showing in last week’s Legends Division showdown with Nebraska. Michigan owns the conference’s top-ranked pass defense, allowing just 145.2 yards per game. They’ll make life tough on Minnesota’s first-year quarterback.
-- He Said It (quote of the week) –
Former Urban Meyer disciple and current NFL quarterback Tim Tebow:
“I guess as hard as it is for me to say, I am a pretty big fan now of The Ohio State University.”
– Big Ten Mailbag –
Clark from Indiana: Is there a College Hall of Famer playing in the conference today?
Well, it’s safe to predict Wisconsin’s Montee Ball will get into the Hall, simply because he’ll leave school with several scoring records. But beyond that, tough to say. Michigan’s Denard Robinson has looked like a once-in-a-generation player at times, but he doesn’t really have the resume yet to entertain that conversation. I think Braxton Miller could have a strong finish to his career in Columbus, but there is too much guessing involved right now.
Tweet your questions to Mike Beacom @mikebeacom, or email him at email@example.com. Each week one question will be selected for this column. Be sure to include your first name and city/state.
Mike Beacom is the Big Ten football editor for Lindy’s. Follow him on Twitter @mikebeacom