Look back ten years from this week’s opener. It wasn’t even a debate which conference owned the rest of them, in terms of coaching, talent, and success. That last term used: “success”; is an unarguable fact. Yes, Alabama is still winning championships and don’t seam to be slowing down by any margin, but the tide (pun intended) is still turning very fast.
By now; the B1G has earned the nation’s respect, not just the SEC’s. If it wasn’t for Michigan’s absolute meltdown in the Outback bowl on New Year’s Day, where they blew a 16-point lead to South Carolina, the Big Ten would’ve had a perfect bowl record of 8-0. The SEC, on the other hand, was almost abysmal with a 4-5 record. It would’ve been even worse had Michigan not blown that lead (SC is an SEC Team).
As a conference, the B1G is the B1G-Dog heading into the electric college football season, which in all-reality, kicks off on Thursday. You can name at least 6 teams from the BIG contending for a potential playoff spot. Does 6 sound like too many? Keep reading. Meanwhile, the SEC is barely still carrying any leverage outside of Alabama and Georgia… Alright, Auburn might get in the way too.
The power teams in the BIG are without question:
Wisconsin and Ohio State will be the conference show dogs. But it doesn’t stop there, unlike the SEC. You’ve got hungry Michigan, finally coming into the season with a full-fledged roster and defined QB Shea Patterson, transfer from Ole Miss. Make no mistake; Penn State, even without Saquon Barkeley, is still an electrifying offense. The offensive mind of James Franklin and the raw talent of what some might call a Heisman favorite, Trace McSorley, will keep them in the winning column on most days/nights. And of course, don’t sleep on Michigan State who will be in the mix, per usual. With QB Brian Lewerke returning along with a the defense that didn’t losing very many key starters, I expect the Spartans to pick up where they left off last season, continuing forward with their excellent coaching and timid defense.
Now, if you’ve noticed, I only listed 5 teams there. And, ESPN has them all in the top-12 on their preseason power index. So, you can’t call me crazy yet….
So, who is that 6th team I mentioned earlier???
Nebraska is my sleeper. It’s the mind of Scott Frost that has me feeling this way. He could turn that culture around (like he did with UCF) as soon as he throws the headset on and clearly I believe he will. I’m sure many will disagree with this last one but that’s the hill I’m on. Feel free to @ me: @skolDuckJohnson
Something to remember with conference play:
Obviously, you play teams of all varieties during conference play. When you think of variety, you have to look at the top, the middle, and bottom of the crop. How good are your middle and bottoms-tier teams? The B1G crop of teams has a lot of talent in the middle, such as Iowa, Nebraska (who is my potential sleeper who could break out for a conf. title run), Minnesota, Purdue, and Northwestern. These are teams who held weight throughout the previous season, while battling with each other and even upper-class teams like Ohio State and Wisconsin. Minnesota was in the first year of a new coach, in PJ Fleck, so they weren’t as competitive.
The middle of the crop for the SEC simply does not win enough. The best team outside of Alabama, Georgia, and Auburn is Mississippi State. I strongly believe the 6th best team in the BIG, with the addition of Scott Frost, is better than Miss’ State by miles. Make no mistake, SEC teams play better against each other. It’s when they must finally play outside of conference, that you’ve tapped their comfort zone. You see it especially in the middle tier of the SEC, while facing competition outside of the conference. Auburn, for example, had two out of their four losses in 2017 to teams outside of their conference in Clemson and UCF.
Still not convinced?
Last season, the B1G was 3-1 in games played against the SEC. Two of those games were played by Michigan. The first was the season-opening victory against Florida, and the last as previously stated, the Gamecocks win in the Outback bowl, which was the only loss. The other two victories, for the B1G over the SEC, were matchups between teams who I’d firmly put in that middle of the pack in each conference. Purdue smashed Mizzou early in the season, and Northwestern defeated Kentucky, narrowly, in the Music City bowl. So again, the Michigan meltdown wound up costing the B1G a sweep over the SEC in both regular season AND bowl season-play.
All I am saying, for now, is that the BIG is far more competitive than the SEC right now. It’s really not even close. Do you get geared up thinking about Penn State vs. Wisconsin? How about Ohio State vs Michigan State? Michigan vs Nebraska? Yup. Check out that 6-team slate. Now try to come up with the same thing in the SouthEastern Conference. You can’t. Like I said, their fourth-best team at the moment is Mississippi State. Nobody outside of Mississippi is gearing up for Mississippi State.
***Just to note, the ACC isn’t too far from the SEC, in terms of recent success. Florida State and Clemson have both delivered championships in the last 5 years, and of course, Clemson has seen three consecutive playoff appearances.
Nate Johnson @skolDuckJohnson
Minnesota Sports Fan