Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is probably still trying to convince himself that the conference’s horrible September on the football field was a bad dream. Unfortunately, Delany’s nightmare is about to continue with Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game and the ensuing bowl season.
We already knew it wasn’t going to be a banner year for the conference with Ohio State facing a postseason ban for “Tattoogate” and Penn State getting hammered with a four-year bowl ban and $60 million fine for the Jerry Sandusky scandal and cover-up.
Then came September, when the non-conference schedule turned out worse than anyone had imagined. A conference that prides itself on being the country’s strongest national brand became a national punchline after going 6-9 against other Automatic Qualifier schools – the best of those six wins was Northwestern over Vanderbilt – in addition to three loses to the MAC.
Following Week 6 of the season, there were zero teams ranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll for the first time ever (Ohio State was ineligible to be ranked) while the SEC had five ranked in the Top 11. Michigan’s 41-14 blowout loss to Alabama Sept. 1 symbolized just how far away the Big Ten was from college football’s best conference.