COLUMBUS, Ohio — Even though there are many who refuse to acknowledge it, there is some very solid momentum going on around the Big Ten football world right now.
One Way or Another, Big Ten Football Will Set Tone Early in the Season
By Tony Gerdeman
Michigan State is coming off of a Rose Bowl win and the reputation of the program has never been more widespread and accepted than it is right now. They have their own brand of defense, and the entire nation is buying in.
Penn State is having as much success on the recruiting trail as they have had in decades. The momentum that James Franklin has right now is something that you wouldn't expect to see at a program decimated by NCAA sanctions.
Ohio State is 24-2 under Urban Meyer, setting records in each season he has been in Columbus, and there doesn't appear to be any let up in terms of future endeavors.
And Michigan is...well...hey, have I mentioned Michigan State and Penn State? Even though I may poke a bit of good-natured ribbery towards the Michigan Wolverines, they will definitely play a part in the Big Ten making a statement this coming season.
As a whole, that statement could be made in the first two weeks of the upcoming college football season, and it could build enough momentum to begin to turn constant Big Ten jokes into the type of unfunny witlessness that finds itself at home on a CBS sitcom.
There are a few key games in the first week of the season, and depending on how those games turn out, things might begin to get a little bit interesting around the Midwest. Georgia plays Clemson, South Carolina and Texas A&M play, and Oklahoma State plays Florida State in Arlington, Texas. But the biggest game of the weekend may be Wisconsin and LSU in Houston, Texas.
The Badgers and Tigers will meet at 9 pm on ESPN. If Wisconsin can get the win the entire nation will take notice. The type of blind credit that hitches itself to the SEC like a briar on a pant leg will then have to either be discarded, or given to the Badgers.
Then, one week later, Ohio State hosts Virginia Tech, Michigan travels to Notre Dame, and Michigan State heads to Oregon. These are the three biggest games of the week, and the Big Ten will be involved in each of them.
The Buckeyes will be favored over the Hokies, but the Wolverines and Spartans will likely be underdogs. Still, if they could all somehow pull out a win, just imagine what that would do for the Big Ten's image.
Despite Michigan State's losses on defense, if they can stop Marcus Mariota and the Ducks, they will immediately be granted a level of having nothing left to prove. People will acknowledge that Michigan State wasn't a one-year wonder, never minding the fact that the Spartans have won 42 games in the last four seasons.
A win for Michigan at Notre Dame would only carry so much weight, but it's way more effective than losing to them. If the Wolverines can get through Notre Dame, then they could be looking at a 7-0 record before playing at Michigan State, who could themselves be at 7-0 for that meeting, provided they get that win at Oregon.
Then there is the national nightcap of week two -- Virginia Tech at Ohio State. The Buckeyes could put the finishing touches on a two-week announcement of the Big Ten's return to on-field prominence.
If the conference was to go 4-0 in those four early marquee games it won't matter if Rutgers opens the season with a loss at Washington State, or Maryland loses at South Florida.
Oh, I know I mentioned Penn State's momentum earlier, but don't go looking for tough non-conference opponents for them because that's not James Franklin's way. But the Nittany Lions could certainly do their part by simply not losing to UCF for a change.
If the Big Ten wants to be taken seriously, they now have the schedule to make that happen, and they just might have the teams at the top of the conference to pull it off.
I'm not telling you to get your hopes up, I'm just telling you that you might want to think about the possibility of this happening. You know, get your affairs in order, stock up on dry goods, that sort of thing. Just in case.
This is a bold, new era for Big Ten football. Despite the addition of Rutgers and Maryland, things are actually on the uptick. There is every possibility that the Big Ten could take the college football world by storm with four big wins in the first two weeks of the season.
Even ESPN would have to acknowledge that it happened.
There is also every possibility that the Big Ten only ends up with one win in those four games.
Though maybe the thing we should all be wary of is the Big Ten going 4-0 in those games, but Michigan ruining it all by once again losing to Appalachian State to start the season.
After all, that's sort of "their thing".
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