This week the Big Ten took another step back, not because of excessive losses, with there being only two losses in the conferences in week three, but because of the implications of the major loss of the Michigan State Spartans(2-1).
Yes, they lost to another ranked team in No. 20 Notre Dame, but this loss means that there are just three undefeated teams left in the conference and only two of which are bowl eligible. The two bowl eligible teams that are still without a loss? Minnesota and Northwestern, two teams that are highly unlikely to make it to the National Championship.
Before week three of play, Mark Dantonio‘s Spartans seemed to be the team to beat and the only team in the conference that had a chance to make it to the coveted title game in college football. That status took a huge hit on Saturday after being completely outplayed by the Fighting Irish, losing 20-3 on their home field under the lights.
“We didn’t run the football, didn’t protect the quarterback very well, thought we had some drops, need to have more explosive plays on offense, didn’t get in the red zone,” said Coach Dantonio.
Obviously judging from this, Coach Dantonio seems very displeased with his teams effort and performance thus far in 2012 although they have just one loss, they are expected to be elite.
Other teams that had a chance to be BCS title game contenders before the season were the Michigan Wolverines, Wisconsin Badgers and Nebraska Cornhuskers, all of which have a loss so far in the young season.
The Wolverines had a blowout loss in the first game of the season against No. 1 Alabama and a close week two win at home against a weaker Air Force team with a tough option offense. They are seemingly out of the championship race unless they win out and everyone ahead of them has at least one loss, something that doesn’t look at all likely with a tough conference schedule.
The Badgers started the season ranked in the top 15 and won a close game in week one against Northern Iowa and lost in week two to Oregon State on the road, 10-7. The offense had looked poor in the first two weeks and they were supposed to have a confidence-boosting win after a week three matchup with Utah State, but escaped by the skin of their teeth, winning 16-14 because of a missed field goal in the final seconds by the Aggies. They are currently unranked and don’t seem to have the talent to make it such a big game.
Nebraska has re-entered the top 25 this week at No. 25 after dropping from the rankings completely after a week two loss at UCLA. They looked solid after Taylor Martinez led the offense with his arm, throwing for five touchdowns, but followed it up with a poor week two performance and a loss. They rebounded nicely in week three against an Arkansas State team that didn’t put up much of a fight, defeating the Red Wolves 41-13 at home. They are the lowest ranked of the ranked Big Ten teams and don’t have the defense to hang with some of the other teams in the conference.
These are all bad signs for the conference that hasn’t seen a team in the BCS National Championship since 2007(Ohio State) and hasn’t seen a winner since 2002(also Ohio State). In fact, the win in 2002 over Miami was the conference’s only national title to date.
If the Big Ten is going to gain respect nationally, that has to change and someone needs to represent the conference in college football’s most prestigious event. This pursuit, however, will have to wait until next season.