There was some hope that maybe this year would be different. After Ohio State rolled through Alabama and Oregon to win a national championship, and multiple Big Ten teams acquitting themselves well in bowl season, and others enjoying some actual recruiting momentum, maybe those beating "the Big Ten sucks" horse could be persuaded to put down their bats for just a little while.
Well, that reprieve didn't even get us to football season, as multiple administrations didn't exactly crown themselves with glory over the last few weeks. And now, thanks to a less-than-impressive Week One, Ohio State could barely finish their beatdown of Virginia Tech before the bats came out again swinging. The world would like to you know that Ohio State's schedule is sooooo weak.
Its way too early to be engaging in this "who's bigger" conference measuring content. But more importantly, it doesn't even matter.
First, let's try to be objective for a second. Last season with an early season non-conference loss against a mediocre Virginia Tech team at home. They beat two decent mid-majors and one crummy team, drew a bad Illinois team and a feisty Minnesota squad from the Big Ten West, beat a very good Michigan State team, knocked off a non-bowl Michigan squad to end the season, and then made the College Football Playoff.
This season, their schedule is already better. They beat what should be an improved version of that Virginia Tech squad on the road. They face two mid-major squads that are projected to be comparable to last year's (NIU and WMU are the two MAC favorites, and both should win at least eight games), and one crummy team. They're still going to face what is projected to be a very good Michigan State team. Michigan will almost certainly make a bowl. We're going to raise bloody hell over this year's schedule because what, Maryland and Penn State might be a little worse? Seriously?
Maybe the Big Ten is really bad this season. If we count BYU (and hey, the Big Ten does), the conference finished only 2-4 against Power 5 competition during the first week, and Indiana was lucky to beat an FCS team. Two other conference teams lost to good AAC squads, so a 2-6 record against teams with a pulse is pretty bad. It's also the first week of the season. Last year, the Big Ten only had one Power 5 victory over the first three weeks of the season, and that was Rutgers barely beating a horrible Washington State squad. Last season wasn't a banner year for the league either, but it did end with victories over Auburn, Baylor, and oh yeah, a National Title.
Or maybe they aren't. For as bad as Week 1 was, it was actually an improvement over last year. Only Indiana struggled with FCS competition this year, and most of the league blasted the teams they were expect to blast. The teams that lost mostly played exactly how they were projected. Michigan played mostly even with Utah over the course of the game, made a few extra mistakes, and lost by 7 (they were 6 point underdogs). Nebraska played even with a good BYU team that had a better QB than they did for most of the game, and only lost on a last second Hail Mary. Purdue and Wisconsin were underdogs, too. Only Penn State dramatically underperformed, and really, only their offense did. Penn State recorded 15 tackles for loss against Temple, good for second best in the country.
The important thing, is that this really doesn't matter very much. What happens to Rutgers, or Indiana, or Purdue, really has nothing to do with Ohio State, their title chances, or what they are as a team. Ohio State's chances of making the college football playoff are not appreciably altered in any way by the outcome of a Purdue/Marshall game, or this week's Washington State/Rutgers game. The bottom half, or even two thirds of the Big Ten will not be able to bolster their reputations so much as to alter how the committee perceives the Buckeyes, who are entering this season already in a position of strength when it comes to their perception. There is no RPI in college football.
What's important is that Ohio State gets a few quality wins. They're already off to a great start, providing Michael Brewer's injury doesn't torpedo the Hokies (given their schedule over the next few weeks, they should be okay). If Michigan State doesn't fall off a cliff, they'll still have that opportunity, plus the Big Ten championship game. Even if the teams aren't elite, Ohio State should still be tested by elite position groups or units (Penn State's defense, Minnesota's secondary, Michigan's defensive line, Maryland's uh...uniforms). The Southern partisans will complain, but as long as the Buckeyes take care of business, nobody will have an argument for keeping a team as talented as Ohio State out of the playoff.
Taking care of business, of course, being the operative clause here. We learned last year that a defending champ isn't granted tenure just because they're the defending champ. But Florida State wasn't just dinged because the mushy middle of the ACC didn't set the world on fire. They were dinged because they struggled to beat those teams. Ohio State will lose their benefit of the doubt if they tied with Rutgers in the 4th quarter or need a game winning field goal to beat Illinois, but those performances would still be more about Ohio State than their opponent. That scenario is totally possible, of course. Just look at the second quarter of the Virginia Tech game.
The complaints will probably continue, and maybe some will insinuate that Ohio State went out of their way to avoid "playing anybody", forgetting that Ohio State scheduled the Virginia Tech series way back in 2002, when Tech was still in the Big East, and that game inventory for 2015 was limited, or that very few teams play multiple Power 5 squads out of conference. These complaints will be wrong, and can be safely discarded.
Maybe Ohio State's schedule, from top to bottom, isn't very good. Maybe the Big Ten does suck. But since Ohio State fans don't rely on Big Ten affiliation as some personal identity or affirmation, and since the quality of the league won't be what determines Ohio State's postseason home, why worry about it? It's not Ohio State's fault that they have better players than everybody else, after all.
If you're desperate for something to worry about, watch the first half of the Virginia Tech game again.