1. Ohio State have to roll USC
On September 12th, the gods of USC will be rolling into Columbus, Ohio for the biggest game of the season.
Never mind the fact that USC may well be starting a quarterback who’s only in his third game (Matt Barclay), or that their linebacking corps is playing for the big bucks, or the fact that The Horseshoe’s not exactly the easiest place to play in – if Ohio State beat the all-worshipped USC then suddenly the tongues will get wagging.
2. It would be nice if Michigan beats Notre Dame, too
With no starting quarterback (Steven Threet’s already said “Sianora” to Ann Arbor) of note, a laughable 3-9 record last year and a coach that’s not exactly become ‘persona grata’ at the University of Michigan’s campus, no-one thinks that Michigan might beat Notre Dame, who some are already tipping for a BCS attendance this year. Again, beating Notre Dame would enhance the league’s credibility.
3. Penn State better not lose
If the Big Ten wants Ohio State and Michigan to win their big-time non-conference games, they could definitely do with Penn State beating their Krispy Kreme schedule. The logic goes back to 2007: even if Michigan had run the table after the loss against Appalachian State, it would have been considered a joke if they played in a National Title game. The same goes for anyone in the Big Ten playing a ‘cupcake’.
4. A close, competitive division would be nice
In 2008, the Big Ten had one week – Hallowe’en weekend– when almost every game was a close one. Apart from that, Ohio State and Penn State waltzed their division and the rest was pretty much academic. Although Illinois and Wisconsin have briefly threatened the fold, generally Big Ten titles haven’t gone beyond the Nittany Lions, Buckeyes, and Wolverines. As a Penn State fan, I’d want my team to run the table. If you’re a Big Ten fan you’ll want to win their non-conference games and go .500 against each other. That means that’ll it’ll all come down to the last game of the season. How fun would that be?
5. If No.4 falls apart, then we need three strong teams
Joe Paterno talks about everyone from Cal Berkley to UC Davis as good football teams. He needs three in his own division if the Big Ten is to make headlines this year. And if you’re talking big-time programs, then there are no bigger in the Big Ten than Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan. If all teams run the table until they start playing each other (Note for your diary: PSU-Michigan’s on October 24th), suddenly the Big Ten becomes the Big XII South – a division that everyone’s going to be talked about right until the end.
6. And one of the them HAS to be Michigan
After the loss to Appalachian State in 2007 and the nine losses in 2008, Michigan football is close to a national joke. People have forgotten about the fact that they knocked off Florida in a 2008 bowl game. And with Nick Sheridan sidelined for the rest of the Spring, they don’t have any real quarterbacking experience to speak of. And Brandon Minor’s good, but he doesn’t exactly get my juices flowing as an All American – or All Big Ten – running back. Despite all this, the Big Ten NEEDS a strong Michigan. Hell, college football needs a strong Michigan.
7. Start people talking about under-the-radar teams
We’ve gassed on long enough about PSU, OSU and UM. But how about Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa? Have people forgotten them? Iowa knocked off one of the best teams in the country and had the Big Ten’s only victory in a bowl game. Wisconsin have an incredible fanbase that deserves better. And Ron Zook has taken Illinois from the grave to be a formidable, Rose Bowl-attending (but losing) team in his first few seasons.
However, that’s the past. This year should see Wisconsin waltz through its non-conference schedule, Iowa has potential banana in-state banana skins in Northern Iowa and Iowa State and then Arizona even before the Big Ten season starts. And if Illinois beats Missouri on Opening Day, then people might start some noise early.
If you can add to this debate, it would be appreciated. Have we left anything out?