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September 26, 2014 - Image 9

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2014-09-26
Note:
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Big Ten struggling to stay relevant
Conference fails to -
redeem itself after
2-5 bowl record

le

0 i

By GREG GARNO
Managing Sports Editor
The state of the Big Ten
conference lives trapped in the
shadows.
Few non-conference wins
come easily, whether playing
against teams from the Mid-
American Conference or the
Southeastern Conference, and
they're constantly reminded of it.
The Big Ten has become the
butt of jokes on Twitter, and TV
pundits are quick to criticize it for
failing to stay competitive.
The Big Ten Conference is
like New York Yankees shortstop
Derek Jeter: It was once great, but
now, it's mediocre with flashes
of talent and struggles to play
defense.
But just when you're ready to
saythey're the worst of the Power
5 conferences, they redeem
themselves. They're an enigma of
a league.
The current state of the Big
Ten is up in the air, entering a
conference slate where it hopes
- to remain relevant in the College
Football Playoff era. Four teams
now have a feasible chance to play
for a national championship. Only
one Big Ten team - Michigan
State - is in the top 15.
Last week,
the Big Ten
finished 4-1 "
against teams There
from the Power
5, highlighted parity, a
by Indiana's a lot c
win over No. 18
Missouri. This footbal
comes after
the conference
was 1-10
against Power
5 opponents in the first three
weeks.
"You've got to come every
week, and some weeks are better
than others," said Nebraska
coach Bo Pelini in the Big Ten's
teleconference Tuesday. "I think
there's a lot of parity, and there
are a lot of good football teams
out there. It's hard to bring it
week to week.
"All the stuff people are
ma?-ing judgment on anybody,
any team, any conference after

PAUL SHERMAN/Daily
Attendance at Michigan Stadium has come dangerously close to dipping below the 100,000 mark this season. That would snap a streak that began on Nov. 8,1975.

two or three weeks is ludicrous.
That's why you play a full season.
You see every week the highs and
lows or the team people are high
on, then the next week, they're
writing them off."
Whether it
likes it or not,
the Big Ten is
s a lot of struggling to
win against
rnd theres programs
f good around the
country. It
l teams." entered last
Saturday
_ 2-12 against
FBS teams
with winning
records.
The losses stand out much
more than the wins. Michigan's
31-0 defeat to Notre Dame, or
Wisconsin's late collapse to LSU
in the first week of the season
punctuate the conference's
performance. Even its best teams
- the Spartans and Ohio State
- couldn't save the conference's
reputation when they lost to
Oregon and Virginia Tech,
respectively, in Week 2.
And the Big Ten's 2-5 record

in bowl games last season doesn't
help.
"If you base it on non-
conference games, then yeah,
criticism is warranted," says
Sporting News college football
columnist Matt Hayes in an
interview with the Daily.
"They've struggled a lot in these
games and that's really kind of
compounded.
"I think the overriding thing,
though, is talent. That's the issue
- the teams (in the Big Ten) that
are recruiting successfully are the
two teams that had guys coaching
in the SEC, because they know
the commitment it takes."
Big Ten teams that recruit

compete better than the Big Ten.
"We've got a lot of good
football teams in our conference,"
said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz
in the teleconference. "I think
the teams have represented the
conference very well, and I'm
sure they'll continue to. I'm
happy certainly when anybody in
the league wins."
It's tough for the Big Ten to
boastthatithastheoldestprogram
in college football when Rutgers
has long been a laughingstock.
Having the winningest program
doesn't mean as much when the
Wolverines have won just two out
of four games this year.
There's a narrative about

with other teams," said Penn
State coach James Franklin
on Tuesday. "But I don't really
study it or spend a whole lot of
time thinking about it or being
concerned about it."
So when Michigan coach
Brady Hoke says his team's goal
of winning the Big Ten is still
possible, he could be right.
The state of the Big Ten right
now is up in the air, and one
upset alters the way the rest of
the conference shakes out - ask
Wisconsin, which finished 4-4 in
league play and still won the Big
Ten Championship in 2012.
The state of the Big Ten allows
a team like Michigan to have a
chance td win it, even after its
2-' start to the season. It sticks in
the minds of poll voters and the
selection committee that chooses
the four teams for this year's
playoff.
"They say they're 13 different
minds, but how can what has
happened over the last decade
not slip into their mindset when
they're picking between Team A
and Team B?" Hayes said.
But when you're stuck in the
shadows, it's tough not to.

around their the Big Ten's.
respective inferiority,
schools struggle t but it is unfair,
to find the talent "ithmk the says Hayes.
that exists Teams like
in the South. teams have LSU or Oregon
Naturally, rpeene are perennial
that's part of represented the powers and
the reason why ' , tough to beat,
members of the conference well. regardless of
SEC find more which, team is
success, or playing them.
Texas schools "I'm aware of
and southern California schools what's going on in the conference

4 'FootballSaturday, September 26, 2014

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