In the year 2000, the rapper Eminem asked for the real Slim Shady to please stand up.
In Week 3 of the 2018 college football season, I’m asking will the real Big Ten—the one that had multiple teams in the preseason rankings listed as College Football Playoff contenders—to please, please stand up. It’s now or never.
Once again, the Big Ten— other than Ohio State— made a fool of itself on the national stage. The No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers, seen as the Big Ten West’s savior, stumbled at home to unranked BYU. Even though the defeat was only by three points (24-21), the loss packs a one-two punch. Not only do the Badgers’ playoff hopes now hang off the side of the proverbial cliff, but this recent high-profile loss gives off the mental image of the Big Ten slipping on a banana peel— and into the air— before crashing back down to the ground as a laugh track plays.
This reoccuring image has now happened every week of the young season.
Penn State nearly lost in to Appalachian State in Week 1, then Michigan State was the one to fall last week; now it was Wisconsin. However, one team took the cake and fell both weeks. That’s right, we’re talking about the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
The Scott Frost era is off to about as bad of a start as you could image. First, their season opener against Akron got delayed, then cancelled. Last week, they lost to Colorado, 33-28, in thrilling fashion. Then this week against Troy, they found another way to lose in thrilling fashion. One cancelled game and two losses— and it’s only the middle of September.
It appears that Iowa may be the survivor of the Big Ten’s West wild ride, but who knows? Purdue, who is now 0-3, can very well win the division; as could Northwestern, who defeated Purdue already this season before getting steamrolled by two touchdowns by Duke last week, and then lost by five to Akron.
The only two teams that are excused from the brunt of the lashing are Ohio State and Penn State. But, that isn’t too say that they are 100 percent excused. Ohio State pulled away from TCU in a nationally televised game on Saturday night, thanks to a third quarter surge that included the Horned Frogs melting under pressure. TCU’s sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson shuffled a pitch right into the hands of defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones, who ran the ball back for a score.
Then a bobbled punt— that only netted about two yards after being partially blocked— gave OSU fantastic field position. Dwayne Haskins made great use of the advantage, and connected on a TD not too long after Ohio State got the ball back. Without the surge or early sack/fumble caused by Nick Bosa, the Buckeyes might have lost that game. But, a win is a win, even if it isn’t pretty, especially against a top-15 team like TCU. So, the Buckeyes are still on solid ground.
Penn State has progressively gotten better as the season as gone on. After nearly falling to Appalachian State in Week 1, the Nittany Lions scored big wins over Pittsburgh and Kent State. Woo-hoo.
The Sept. 29 showdown between Ohio State and Penn State at Beaver Stadium will, more than likely, be the the game of the week. Arguably, this game will be for the Big Ten title before the first month of the season is over.
Michigan State is still off trying to figure out who they really are after getting upset in a #Pac12AfterDark affair with Arizona State last week. It should be noted that early Sunday morning, in another week of after dark play, the Sun Devils got beat by San Diego State.
It’s too hard to judge Michigan because they haven’t played any real teams after losing to Notre Dame, and Notre Dame looks about as sketchy as you can get for a team in the top-10. Maryland got wallopped by Temple, and Rutgers is, well, Rutgers. That only leaves OSU and PSU as contenders in the East, and they are set for a collision course before October even arrives.
For the conference, it’s not been a good month. With Sparty, the Wolverines, and the Badgers already putting their playoff chances on life support— if not in the ground completely— the Big Ten will have a lot more spoilers than contenders. That’s a dangerous inequality to have, as a single upset from here on out could doom the entire conference’s chance at getting into the playoff for the second straight year.
Wisconsin rolls into a game with division foe Iowa on Saturday. The Badgers will have to make the trip to Kinnick, but if they pull off the win, then the turmoil sets even more within the West. Literally, Minnesota would be the only undefeated team on that side of the table, and that’s assuming that they can handle Maryland in College Park, Md., next week.
Before the season, there was a tangible belief that Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Michigan could get out of the non-conference slate as unbeaten teams, and all contend for a playoff berth. Of those teams, Ohio State had arguably the toughest non-conference game with TCU. Sure, Michigan had Notre Dame, but they had the whole offseason to get ready for it, and the Irish haven’t looked great yet.
Barring an upset next week against Tulane, the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions will be the only teams from the East to get out of the non-conference slate in one piece. Yes, it’s a good thing that they are still intact, but they leave scathed, even just by conference association.
Right now, Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota are the only teams that are able to stand up as unbeaten teams in the Big Ten.
I don’t know how I feel about that.