If you’re not interested in off-season coaching layoffs, Iowa punt games, and nationally televised lopsided games, the 2022 Big Ten season was mostly very boring.
Oh, there’s life in Illinois, which is 6-1 under Bret Bielem. This is cool. Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim is a hell of a player. So is Roman Hemby from Maryland, and Charlie Jones from Purdue, and John Torcio from Wisconsin, to name a few.
However, the entire conference season is going to be Big Two, Little Ten; everyone rides double Ohio and Michigan steamrollers like Woody and Beau still run the business.
Top teams in Columbus and Ann Arbor. The best players in Columbus and Ann Arbor.
The best games… nowhere, at least not until the guys from Ann Arbor come to Columbus on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This game, especially if both teams are 11-0 and thus unbeaten for the first time since 2006, will be epic.
But can we get anything along the way?
This Saturday, it’s up to the states of Pennsylvania and Michigan to deliver a dash of excitement, drama and unpredictability.
The Nittany Lions host Ohio State. The Spartans visit Michigan.
It was a day that, thanks to a delightful double headline, once looked like the biggest conference weekend of the year.
Instead of, Penn State (15.5 points) and Michigan State (22.5) are strong underdogs. trying to get a spark from their seasons.
There are grounds for cautious optimism. Maybe not for disappointment, but at least a competitive game, at least something that raises doubts in the fourth quarter.
After all, the Nittany Lions are 6-1, 13th in the nation and playing at home. Fox’s obsession with the midday TV window means that for the first time in a long while, the biggest home game on Penn State’s schedule won’t be shut down last week against Minnesota. This does not mean that Beaver Stadium will not be crowded and there will be no parties.
And while Michigan State is just 3-4 and in the midst of a dismal season, Mel Tucker is 2-0 against Jim Harbaugh, and it’s a series with a long history of disappointments and absurdities. The latch can always be a problem.
At least it would be… something.
Ohio State won their four league games by a 35.6-point average and kept up well past the middle of the first quarter. Michigan wins by 16.2 points on average and trailed only once (briefly) in the second half en route to a 41-17 loss to the University of Pennsylvania.
Even out-of-conference games yielded little. The Buckeyes beat Notre Dame in a publicized opening game, but that victory faded as the Irish stumbled. Michigan abandoned what could have been a fun game against UCLA and went 166-17 in Colorado State, Hawaii and Connecticut.
The fans of these particular teams have every reason to enjoy the curbs, and understandably may not be interested in some heartbreaking fourth quarter. They will happily win this weekend with a score of 50.
However, regular league fans could use a bit of pop music.
Fox’s Big Saturday Afternoon is every week’s favorite game. The five with the participation of rivals in the league was determined by an average of 25 points. In the only non-conference game involving a Big Ten team at the time, Nebraska lost 49–14 to Oklahoma.
Only nine of the league’s 30 games have been decided by touchdowns or less, and this includes “thrillers” such as Illinois’ 9-6 win over Iowa in which 14 punts were scored.
The Big Ten of the West is a bizarre world that retains the possibility of a seven-member tie. Northwestern, who are currently on a six-game losing streak, will somehow win the tiebreak.
Both Nebraska and Wisconsin have already fired their coaches. Crime in Iowa has become a national highlight, and Kirk Ferenc gets irritable when anyone asks about nepotism. East without Buckeye/Wolverine isn’t much better.
Penn State has an out-of-conference win over an SEC team (in Auburn) and some good runners, but it hasn’t been competitive against Michigan. The most brawling that the Lions showed was during the halftime tunnel turmoil, which was so pathetic that someone from the University of Pennsylvania was throwing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the Wolverines.
But there is Illinois. The revival was impressive. And after this weekend, it is Illini who offers perhaps the only reason to point out the game to the end. Bilem’s team is visiting Michigan and might be 9-1 at the time.
Hey, it’s something.
Otherwise, the rest of Michigan’s schedule (to Ohio State) is at Rutgers and Nebraska at home. The Buckeyes only have Northwest and Maryland on the road and Indiana at home.
Thanksgiving weekend promises to be something of a historic, classic end-of-the-year showdown between two teams that have split from the pack.
However, there is still time to deal with it, or at least scare them, starting with Penn State and Michigan State showing they are more than just riders on their way to the Game.