There’s a reason why hoards of national pundits don’t respect the Big Ten Conference.
And it’s pretty simple, the entire conference has to beef up its schedule and get better.
According to Jeff Sagarin’s ratings, Wisconsin (109), Michigan State (112) and Purdue (152) are in the 100s for schedule strength. Now those numbers are very disturbing because there are 120 FBS schools.
Who’s got the 151st toughest schedule you might ask? That would be your Texas State Bobcats of the FCS Southland Conference.
That’s worse than embarrassing. That’s a problem.
And to make matters worse, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois are the only teams that own a win vs. Sagarin’s Top 30. The conference is a meager 3-12.
There’s a reason fans from the SEC, Big XII and even Pac-12 shouldn’t respect the Big Ten when it comes to bowl season. It’s because none of them really goes out of their way to challenge themselves.
Ohio State and Nebraska are the only two teams that play a Top 50 schedule. Everyone knows that the Buckeyes will struggle to get into a lower-tier bowl and Nebraska can never be trailing in any game the rest of the way, because its quarterback isn’t suited to throw a forward pass.
In order for the Big Ten to submit the Badgers as its first entry into the BCS championship game since Ohio State in 2003, they are going to need some help.
The perfect storm for the conference would be if an undefeated Michigan met an undefeated Wisconsin Dec. 1 in Indy for the Big Ten title. By then, the Wolverines may be ranked in the top seven after beating Michigan State, Illinois and Nebraska who are all currently ranked.
However, the Badgers only have two ranked opponents left on the schedule and the Spartans will more than likely drop from the Top 25 with a loss at home to Michigan.
Wisconsin desperately needs Nebraska to play well the rest of the way, and to not have an Evanston Hiccup that has plagued every Big Ten team at some point or another. The Badgers need Ohio State to actually put a ‘W’ in the conference win column and Penn State to somehow keep outscoring people.
I truly believe the Badgers’ offense can compete with the LSU’s and Alabama’s. But in order for Wisconsin to even get a matchup like that in New Orleans, Wisconsin is going to need help from its Big Ten brothers.
This is usually the time when spoilers like Indiana and Minnesota get an impressive win over another team in the top-half of the conference standings. For the Badgers’ sake, that can’t happen.
Because the conference’s nonconference schedule is so weak, the margin for error is magnified. Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue at least play Notre Dame so they get a pass and Ohio State hooked up with Miami and Colorado in back-to-back weeks so they get a pass. Penn State played Alabama at home so they also get a pass. Even Minnesota played USC on the road.
But those are the exceptions. And of course, Wisconsin isn’t without blame here. The only nonconference school the Badgers played this year with a current winning record is South Dakota State of the FCS.
The conference needs to stress how important early season scheduling is when jockeying for BCS position. By scheduling a competitive opponent, you’re not only going to prepare yourself better for conference play but you’re going to strengthen your conferences ‘Q’ rating, something the Big Ten desperately needs.