Clouds Darken over Big 10
From the Jim Hurley Network Staff
Contributing Sportsbook Editor
Things were already looking bad for the Big 10 after that well-publicized debacle two weeks ago when the conference went 2-11 against the Las Vegas pointspread and was embarrassed in all of its high profile games. You wouldn't think that things could get worse. Maybe they did!
Among the only good news the prior week was that Illinois had won and covered against Western Kentucky. Yeah, that's not exactly earth-shaking. But, hey - A WIN IS A WIN! This past Saturday, Illinois was routed in a national TV game by Washington of the Pac 12. The Illini trailed 38-12 at the half and were never competitive. Washington is a team that's NOT a contender in their conference, and who opened the season by almost getting humiliated by Hawaii.
Iowa had great stats in a non-cover win over Ball State two weeks ago. If you were looking for bright sides amidst the 2-11 nightmare. That was one of them. Iowa had played much better than the final score had suggested. Unfortunately, Ball State would then lose to lowly Indiana State the following Saturday...and Iowa would get embarrassed as a home favorite in a 20-17 loss to state rival Iowa State. Iowa State is one of the worst teams in the Big 12.
Minnesota had played pretty well two weeks ago in a non-cover against Middle Tennessee. The only reason the Big 10 wasn't 3-8 ATS was because of an MTSU score in the final seconds to come through the back door. Minnesota couldn't play well two weeks in a row though, getting bullied 30-7 on the road by TCU.
Indiana managed to dodge Black Saturday entirely by having a bye. Taking the field for their first chance to show they weren't part of the pollution...they lost to Bowling Green 45-42 as favorites of slightly more than a touchdown. That's ANOTHER loss to the MAC, with Northwestern and Purdue having fallen the prior week to Northern Illinois and Central Michigan respectively.
The Big 10 was already out of the "Final Four" championship picture based on our discussion in this spot a week ago. Now, strength of schedule issues are even more dramatic. Should Michigan State, Ohio State, or Wisconsin run the table from this point forward for a 12-1 record (the bonus win coming in the Big 10 championship game), that record still would have been accumulated against a very weak schedule. The Big 10 is little more than a glorified MAC right now in terms of depth. Any one-loss teams from the SEC, Pac 12, or Big 12 would have faced a tougher schedule. Florida State will be a prohibitive favorite in each of their games. They would still probably get the nod with a loss over a Big 10 champ that stays unblemished in league play.
Should handicappers continue to fade the Big 10 in non-conference play? The cat's pretty much out of the bag in terms of market value. And, Ohio State showed in its obliteration of Kent State 66-0 that the best in the league can still bully people when they have a chip on their shoulder. Nebraska bounced back from its McNeese nightmare with a blowout at Fresno State too.
It's best to think of it this way. The most athletic teams will still be able to play to or above expectations vs. weak outsiders. Everyone from mid-level on down is basically a MAC team that will need turnover help or special teams points to beat the price. That's a good guideline for this week's action, presented in rotation order.
Indiana visits Missouri of the SEC
Penn State hosts UMASS of the MAC (who just list its star RB)
Iowa visits Pittsburgh of the ACC
Maryland visits Syracuse of the ACC
Wisconsin hosts Bowling Green (and that non-existent defense)
Minnesota hosts San Jose State of the Mountain West
Michigan hosts Utah of the Pac 12
Michigan State hosts Eastern Michigan of the MAC (one of nation's worst)
Rutgers visits Independent Navy
Illinois hosts Texas State of the Sun Belt
Nebraska hosts Miami of Florida of the ACC