Spend a moment to consider what leads a young collegian to throw his torso through a plate glass window in mid-September. This is stupid, overreactionary, we’ve been told — not by your mother concerned for your well-being and blood-letting, but by the Sports People. Things that happen early in seasons aren’t supposed to matter, and rationality should dictate that you should reserve judgment until later in said season.
College football doesn’t allow for rationality and reservation of judgment. The sample size is small, and the schedules are insular. Each season’s first handful of weeks are filled with out-of-conference games both good and bad, and it’s the only opportunity to adjudge one conference against another. It’s an imperfect metric, sure, but it’s all we’ve got.
That imperfect metric dictates that the Big Ten West is booty.
Through three weeks of terrible, offensive-to-look-at college football, the Big Ten’s
hellscape wasteland where football joy goes to die other division is 12-6, which probably doesn’t seem all that bad until you consider exactly the nature of those six losses:
- Two (2) losses to PJ Fleck and Western Michigan, one of which was a blowout
- Two (2) losses to FCS schools, one of which included the Big Ten team scoring 7 points
- Relative beatdowns at the hands at the North Carolina and Cincinnati
And sure, sure — five of those six losses come from the trash triumvirate of Northwestern, Illinois, and Purdue, but others have hardly inspired. The class of the division, Iowa, laid an egg against possibly the worst North Dakota State team of the last five seasons. The new division diva, Wisconsin, needed every last second and a quarterback change to stave off a Georgia State team that lost by multiple scores to Ball State. Nebraska got a win over a ranked team because Mark Helfrich can’t do math. Minnesota sat at home for a weekend, which is the best way to become the Big Ten West favorite.
Yet on the other side of the conference, the Big Ten East looks to be as good as it’s ever been since the geographic split. Ohio State looks dominant again, Michigan State got a road win in South Bend, and Michigan dispatched a pretty good Colorado team — albeit after Sefo Liufau went down with a 3rd quarter injury. Maryland looks improved and primed to start 4-0 with a bye before heading to Purdue. Penn State can score points now. Hell, even Rutgers’ only loss came at the hands of a top-ten team on the road.
This is the stark reality for Indiana football. Sure, talent and programs tend to be cyclical but as long as Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh, and Mark Dantonio stay in their current roles, the path to Big Bowls is narrow and the margin for mistakes virtually non-existent for Kevin Wilson’s staff. It doesn’t have to be this way, and shouldn’t be this way, but holding out hope for change is likely a waste of time. But the fix is simple.
Just get rid of the dang divisions altogether.
NCAA rules don’t dictate that you need to have divisions to have a conference championship game. Just take the best two teams and let them play at the end of the season. How would the scheduling work though, you ask? Lucky for you this isn’t a new topic, and my colleagues Matt Brown and Alex Kirschner broke down how this would all work earlier in the summer.
Instead, we’ll in all likelihood get a replacement level team get blitzed by Ohio State in Indianapolis this year. Or by Michigan. Or by Michigan State. Indiana will try to scrape up 6-8 wins on the remaining scraps. Can’t wait!
Some things that were fine this weekend
Lamar Jackson was fine. Extremely fine. I grew up far enough south in Indiana to get Louisville tv channels. It’s still weird to me that I grew up viewing as a C-USA commuter school is now the area’s most dominant athletic program, but whatever. Tom Jurich is good at his job, and this makes Matt Jones miserable. Go Cards.