Where Smart Picks Go to Die
The real question is, who is left?
Before we take a look at the standings, let us discuss what ridiculous names the Big 10 chose for their two divisions. How did that meeting go exactly? Did no one suggest the obvious such as “North/South”, “East/West”, “Haves/Have Nots”, “US/Basically Canada”? If these were the two names selected (which are “Legends/Leaders” if you didn’t already know) I want to know what names were thrown out. Maybe “Cowboys/Indians”, “Astronauts/Cosmonauts”, “Mascots that are animals/Mostly made up words”, “PAC 12 Wannabes/Not good enough for the SEC”.
Now that we have that out of the way, lets look at the standings. The Big 10 now has two divisions (once again the Legends and the Leaders).
In the Legends division there is a two way tie for first with Michigan and Iowa both 1-0 in the division. Iowa. IOWA! In case you were wondering, this is the same Iowa that barely beat Northern Illinois (18-17), lost to Iowa State (6-9), squeezed by the mighty Northern Iowa Panthers (27-16), and LOST to the Central Michigan Chippewas (31-32). They lost to Chippewas, and yet they are on top of the Legends division. I wonder how the legends feel about this.
Michigan hasn’t looked all that impressive either. After the pounding they took on National TV against Alabama (14-41) they barely got by Air Force (31-25), stomped on UMass (not even going to report that one), lost to Notre Dame (6-13), and has an impressive win against Purdue (44-13). Michigan is probably the team to beat in the Legends division, but that isn’t saying a whole lot.
To round out the Legends division we have Northwestern, Michigan State, and Nebraska at 1-1. A quick-fire recap shows that Northwestern only beat Syracuse by 1 and lost to a team that has a tight end at running back (Penn State). The love affair Andy had with Michigan State’s defense is long gone as they have struggled mightily as of late only beating Indiana by 4 (31-27). But at least they beat the Chippewas. Nebraska has looked good at times, but they were down 14 to a terrible Wisconsin team and let the wheels fall off against Ohio State (38-63). Minnesota finishes out the Legends division at 0-1. They lost to Iowa. That’s all I’m going to say about Minnesota.
The Leaders division is much more interesting. There are two clear-cut front runners who are arch-rivals and whose match-up typically decides who will win the Big 10. One problem. Neither team is eligible. Penn State and Ohio State are both 2-0. Ohio State looks like the stronger team right now posting a 6-0 record with a couple of marquee wins over teams like Nebraska and Michigan State. Penn State has had a turn around and won 4 consecutive games, the last two over Illinois and Northwestern.
Unfortunately for the Leaders division, these two team’s effort is all for nothing. Their success is fake, an optical illusion. No matter how well either of these teams do for the remainder of the season, it will not affect the standings.
Which brings us to the other teams in the Leaders division. Wisconsin is in sole possession of first place at 1-1. Wisconsin is arguably the biggest disappointment in the Big 10. It was widely believed that with Penn State and Ohio State out of the picture, Wisconsin would have a cake walk to the Big 10 Championship game and maybe an undefeated season as well. In reality, Wisconsin has been entirely unimpressive. The defeats are crushing (7-10 against Oregon State and 27-30 against Nebraska) but the wins are just as bad. Wisconsin beat Northern Iowa by just 5 (26-21) and Utah State by only 2 (16-14). They have beaten Illinois (31-14) but so did La Tech who won by a much larger margin (52-24). While they are most likely the favorite, Wisconsin is far from a lock to win the Leaders division.
There are only three teams left in the Big 10 that we haven’t discussed. All three of them are win-less and in the Leaders division. Purdue sits at 0-1 after the blowout loss the Michigan. Their 3-1 record going into the Michigan game might look deceiving because of who they played. Before Michigan, Purdue beat Eastern Kentucky, lost to Notre Dame, beat Eastern Michigan, and beat Marshall. Purdue was exposed in the Michigan game and probably won’t make much of a run the rest of the season.
Indiana and Illinois are both 0-2. Illinois has been at least respectable this year. They beat Western Michigan and Charleston Southern like they were supposed to (24-7 and 44-0 respectively) and lost every other game. Indiana on the other hand has been downright awful. Opening with a nail-biter against the powerful Indiana State Sycamores (24-17), they continued to disapoint with losses to Ball State (39-41), Northwestern (29-44), and Michigan State (27-31).
So who wins the Big 10? Who knows?
The most reasonable assumption (and nothing appears to be reasonable in the Big 10) would put Michigan and Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship game with Michigan likely favored to win.
I feel sorry for you Big 10. In your best case scenario, your conference champion is a team who caused you the most embarrassment in week 1 and struggled against Air Force.