Finally, Big Ten play to get under way — for league’s sake
BY HERB GOULD firstname.lastname@example.org September 23, 2012 8:26PM
Central Michigan, with quarterback Ryan Radcliff, is one of three MAC teams to beat a Big Ten team this season. | Matthew Holst~Getty Images
SUN-TIMES BIG TEN POWER RANKINGS
With conference play starting, there won’t be any more messy losses to outsiders. And two teams will go to Indy for the title game no matter what.
1. Nebraska (3-1) 2
2. Ohio State (4-0) 1
3. Michigan (2-2) 3
4. Michigan State (3-1) 4
5. Northwestern (4-0) 5
6. Penn State (2-2) 7
7. Purdue (2-1) 8
8. Wisconsin (3-1) 6
9. Minnesota (4-0) 11
10. Indiana (2-1) 12
11. Iowa (2-2) 9
12. Illinois (2-2) 10
Updated: October 25, 2012 6:20AM
It’s not the Big Ten’s worst nonconference showing in a long time. It only seems that way.
With two nonconference games to go, plus bowl games, the league’s .717 winning percentage (33-13) actually is higher than its final out-of-conference percentage for the last four years.
But there are all kinds of reasons to welcome the curtain coming down on Act I of this Big Ten football season.
The league is 1-4 against ranked teams. That includes being swept for the first time since 2002 by Notre Dame, the team Big Ten fans love to beat. It also includes Michigan’s nasty 41-14 loss to Alabama. The lone victory, by Michigan State over Boise State, isn’t a lot to crow about.
Only three Big Ten teams are in the Top 25: No. 14 Ohio State, No. 20 Michigan State and No. 22 Nebraska. The Buckeyes’ NCAA sanctions mean the Spartans are the league’s highest-ranked bowl candidate.
The last time the league’s top Rose Bowl candidate was ranked 20th? That would take some research.
Other moments the league would like to forget include being swept at three Pac-12 schools on Sept. 8, when Nebraska lost at UCLA, Wisconsin at Oregon State and Illinois at Arizona State.
Against three teams that aren’t expected to do much in the Pac-12, Nebraska didn’t have enough gears and Wisconsin didn’t score until late in a 10-7 loss. For Illinois, which lost to Arizona State and Louisiana Tech by a combined 97-38, it was the first of two nonconference thrashings.
Other nonconference lowlights include a pair of home losses by Iowa, to Iowa State and Central Michigan, one of three Big Ten losses to the Mid-American Conference.
Why, why, why
Why is the Big Ten looking so messy?
Some quick thoughts: Wisconsin has had 11 players taken in the NFL draft the last two years and a slew of coaching changes. That’s a lot to replace.
◆ Jerry Sandusky (Penn State).
◆ Memorabilia for tattoos (Ohio State).
◆ Kirk Ferentz, the dean of Big Ten coaches, is in his 14th year at Iowa, no recruiting mecca, leaving little margin for injuries.
◆ Michigan might have gotten ahead of itself with expectations in Brady Hoke’s second season.
◆ Kirk Cousins has gone from senior leader at Michigan State to junior achiever with the Washington Redskins.
A little good news
Northwestern and Minnesota are off to 4-0 starts, and NU, which was only three votes shy of cracking the AP Top 25, could be ranked next week if it handles Indiana on Saturday.
If the Gophers can hand Iowa its third home loss this week, there could be a showdown between unbeatens when the Wildcats travel to Minnesota on Oct. 13.
Even people who wear purple and maroon probably didn’t see that coming.
Get your Irish up
The focus always seems to be on the guys with the ball in their hands. But defense is a big reason No. 10 Notre Dame is 4-0 for the first time in a decade.
The Irish have allowed nine points per game, fourth in the nation. They’ve allowed 291.2 yards per game, 16th in the nation. Their turnover margin, plus-2.25 (13 takeaways, 4 giveaways), is tied for fifth.