Improving the B1G Perception: 2013 Non-Conference Games

OldColumbusTown's picture
January 16, 2013 at 10:35a

We all know how much the perception of a conference means in the grand scheme of college football during the BCS era.  During this, the last year of the BCS as we know it, the Big Ten has a chance to help change the perception of their conference for the better.  Known currently as a downtrodden, plodding group of teams that cannot compete with the best in the country, the conference helped itself, to a degree, during this past season’s bowl season.  Sure, a 2-5 overall record is not the perfect scenario, but it was the way the conference competed in the vast majority of those games, all but one of which saw itself as the underdog going in.

I’m not one to bask in the glow of moral victories, but I think the performance was a step in the right direction.  Considering two of the top 3-4 B1G teams did not compete in the postseason, including an Ohio State team that would have played in either the BCS Championship or Rose Bowl with a terrific chance at victory, the conference presented well to the country against its “superior” opponents.  However, competing and presenting well do not win you anything.  We all know the B1G is better and more competitive than what the “experts” say.  Yet, the only way to turn this tide is to win the games that matter, against good opponents from outside the conference.  Ohio State needs it B1G brethren to win some games this year in the non-conference, in order to help the Buckeyes’ schedule strength.

So, let’s take a look at the most interesting/important matchups we will see next season outside of the conference slate, sorted by tier and conference team.

Tier 1 – BCS Opponents
• Illinois: vs. Cincinnati, vs. Washington
• Indiana: vs. Missouri
• Iowa: @ Iowa State
• Michigan: vs. Notre Dame, @ UConn
• Michigan State: vs. USF, @ Notre Dame
• Minnesota: none
• Nebraska: vs. UCLA
• Northwestern: @ Cal, vs. Syracuse
• Ohio State: @ Cal
• Penn State: vs. Syracuse, vs. Virginia
• Purdue: @ Cincinnati, vs. Notre Dame
• Wisconsin: @ Arizona St., vs. BYU (in November)

Tier 2 – Good Mid-Major Opponents
• Illinois: vs. Miami (OH) – will have a new QB
• Indiana: vs. Bowling Green
• Iowa: vs. Northern Illinois (defeated NIU last season)
• Michigan: none
• Michigan State: none
• Minnesota: vs. San Jose State – will have a new coaching staff
• Nebraska: vs. Southern Miss (historically good program until last year – new coaching staff for 2nd consecutive season)
• Northwestern: none
• Ohio State: vs. San Diego St.
• Penn State: none, unless you count Kent State
• Purdue: vs. Northern Illinois
• Wisconsin: none

The B1G has a great opportunity to improve perception if they are able to win quite a few of the Tier 1 games.  There aren’t many really juicy matchups this year against highly rated teams, so it is important for the B1G as a whole to make the most of the opportunities as they get them.  Winning the games they should win is obviously important as well, including these games I’ve listed under Tier 2, along with games I did not mention against directional U or FCS schools.

Win the games you are expected to win, get some upsets along the way, and in general do not embarrass the conference.  Is that too much to ask?  With Ohio State's non-conference slate this year, they need more help than ever from their B1G compadres.

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Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

We had Vandy lined up too and they backed out...

OldColumbusTown's picture

Which would have helped tremendously.  Franklin is putting together a decent program there, and a win against them would have obviously looked better than a win over SDSU.

cplunk's picture

The problem is that all those opponents are "negative value" opponents. That's my term for opponents that you don't get much credit for beating but do lose prestige for losing to. With the possible exception of Nebraska-UCLA, winning those games isn't going to add anything to the B1G's reputation at all. They're good wins, but they aren't reputation-moving wins.
But losing one? 
Well unfortunately that will matter. What happens if OSU loses to Cal or has a close game against San Diego State? Either of those would be perceived as a negative for our SOS and our conference, even though winning those games doesn't move the needle in terms of improving our SOS or conference's reputation. 
That's what I mean by a negative value opponent. 
Now in actuality I think Cal is going to be a tough game. If their new offensive style clicks, that unique offense plus an early game against our young defense spells potential trouble. Unfortunately though, we're expected by the college football world at large to dominate.
I think for the B1G perception to improve next year, the last year before a committee starts choosing playoff participants, really one thing is all that matters- WIN THE BOWL GAMES. The out of conference games just don't have enough cache. Win the big bowl games though, against the inevitably highly-ranked SEC opponents, and that leaves a new perception heading into the first playoff year.
It's unfortunate, but that's what really matters almost every year. OSU played Texas and USC and gets almost no credit for it. You still hear constantly that we "have always played a weak schedule". We've won more BCS games than we've lost, by a wide margin, but you still hear that we "lose big games". Again, its simple- WIN THE BOWLS. The Rose and Sugar bowls could have been the start of a perception change, but tatgate spoiled that and left us with a Sugar Bowl win most the college football world doesn't give us credit for because of "ineligible players" as they say, a Gator bowl that everyone on Earth would like to forget, and a year with no bowl.
Imagine if TSUN had held on against South Carolina, Nebraska had beaten Georgia, and Wisconsin beat Stanford. What would be the image now? Three games, huge difference.

OldColumbusTown's picture

Completely agree with your sentiment concerning the bowl games.  That's the most important thing of all, and the most necessary evil in order to move the needle for the B1G.
My main purpose of this conversation, though, is mostly in looking at next year's regular season, and its effect on Ohio State's post-season bid.  Right now there is zero room for error for OSU.  They basically must go undefeated, IMO, to reach the MNC game because of their schedule (or at least the perception of their schedule at this time).  If there is an undefeated Alabama, undefeated Oregon, and undefeated Ohio State, I think it is safe to say there would be some angst in Columbus as to whether or not the media/pollsters would select OSU over either of those teams.
What could change that?  A tougher-looking schedule.  Based on the overall lack of quality in the non-conference schedule (again, as of right now - I agree Cal could potentially look like a very good win if Dykes turns it around right away), the main component of OSU's schedule looking tougher would be a tougher group of conference foes. 
Obviously the bowl game wins would be irrelevant at the point of the pollsters selecting the MNC game participants.  Which is what brings me back to the original point of my post - the B1G this upcoming season has to win some games against good out of conference opponents.

cplunk's picture

You're absolutely right about our margin for error. It's zip. We have to win them all, and if there are more than two undefeated major conference teams at the end of the year, we have to have won them in dominating fashion.
I think the B1G winning those out of conference games would help a little, but to be honest I think its not very important. The B1G's reputation is not going to change on the basis of one year of mid-importance out of conference games. The ship of next year's reputation has already sailed. If the B1G loses all those games, we probably won't get in to the championship game if there are, say, an undefeated Oregon and an undefeated Alabama. If the B1G wins all those games? Well, we still probably won't get in over an undefeated Oregon and an undefeated Alabama.
I really think next year is a done deal as far as positioning ourselves for perception. We have to win all our games, win as many as possible by a large margin, and hop there aren't a lot of undefeated major conference teams. The rest the B1G's out of conference performance isn't going to matter much.

GoldenBearBuckeye's picture

We did get credit for playing Texas, and they got credit for playing us.  We each got to the title game on the strength of our wins.
Agree on those no-win situations, and Vandy falls into that category.  Ask Gene Smith why he schedules a team that hasn't beaten Alabama or Georgia for 100 years.  We gain nothing by playing Vandy except the possibility of losing.  Why did you schedule UCF Mr. Smith?  So we would get nothing if we win and laughed at if we lose??

Bucksfan's picture

I don't like how Cal is playing Northwestern AND the Buckeyes.  They are most certainly going to lose to Northwestern, meaning OSU's best nonconference opponent may finish September with at least 2 losses.  Doesn't help matters.

cplunk's picture

I would not be so certain they are going to lose to Northwestern. Nor, for that matter, to us.
If Coach Dykes gets his offense working, it is a unique offense that can give anybody trouble on a given day. We'll have a very inexperienced defense that early in the year.

Bucksfan's picture

All of that is very true.  I was making the assumption that the B1G is trying to help its perception and make a run at the national title.  That means winning their nonconference games.  The fact that Cal is playing 2 good B1G teams, including the prohibitive B1G title favorite Buckeyes, that game won't help matters.  If Northwestern and Ohio State both beat Cal, then Cal has no shot at seeing the top-25 until very late in the season, making both wins relatively weak.  If Northwestern loses to Cal, you'll have one of the lone bright spots of the B1G's bowl season lose to one of the worst Pac-12 teams of the previous year.  If Ohio State loses to Cal, that one game will forfeit any positive B1G perception until at least 2014.  And, Ohio State and Northwestern have to play each other.  So, it's not like either team is going to be making a name for itself by playing a diverse nonconference slate.
Just saying with all eyes on Northwestern and Ohio State as being 2 of the top-4 conference contenders, I wish they weren't playing the same opponent.  It's the same problem I have with 3 B1G schools playing Notre Dame every year.  It is usually a no-win to have more than one team from a given conference play the same nonconference team.

OSBuckeye222's picture

I'll be at the Ohio State - Northwestern game!! Northwestern looks like they could be one of their better tougher opponents for 2013. Go Bucks!

phxbuck's picture

I have the Tier 1 record for next year at 6-10 and the Tier 2 record at 7-1. 

NoVA Buckeye's picture

Indiana beating Mizzou would cause massive head trauma at ESPiN. HOOSIER DADDY!

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.

OldColumbusTown's picture

I agree.
Indiana/Mizzou, Illinois/Cincinnati, Illinois/Washington, Purdue/Cincinnati - all are matchups of low-level B1G schools against middle-level schools from other BCS conferences.  They would be great opportunities for the B1G to get some early season wins against decent foes.

BostonBuck's picture

I think the B1G needs to pay coaches. The rest will follow.

southernstatesbuckeye's picture

I really believe the pendulum is starting to swing.  The SEC does maintain several quality teams at the top, but the second level is not as good as the media hype gives it.  I would guess that within two or three years, the media will catch up with reality when the South Carolinas DO start losing to the Michigans, and the Buckeyes have trounced a few of the other SEC bullies.  It really only takes a few of these types of games to strong arm opinions away from the koolaid of the SEC. 
Ohio State will be a catalyst for this.  People keep saying that Urban is building an SEC type of defense and team.  I strongly disagree.  Ohio State has traditionally been a top ten defense, right up there with the SEC, and actually, when you look at history, the SEC teams do NOT have year after year consistency of the Bucks.  The only difference is that imaginary intangible called "SEC speed".  We've had guys like Ginn and others who would match up with anyone in the SEC, but what our southern counterparts did better was that they had guys with good FOOTBALL speed...quick to the point of attack.  Those are the guys we are getting now.
I am excited about the coming playoff system.  The Buckeyes should be able to make those playoffs 75% of the time, if you look at where we finished at the end of the year for the last decade.  I like our chances to follow through on big games with Urban at the helm.
Fellow Bucks, hang on...we are in for a wild ride!  Go Buckeyes!!!

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CO 303 Buckeye's picture

I agree for the most part and find your post uplifting for sure, but.... Urban, as good of a coach as he is, has to prove that he can pull out a big game.  It sucks that we didn't really have one this past season when it "didn't matter".  Urban proved he can win the close game quite emphatically, but what about a top 10 or even top 5 matchup?  :/

CO 303 Buckeye's picture

And don't get me wrong I'm a huge Meyer fan.  I just want to see what he can do 5 years removed from his last big win.  I'm not including the Cincinnatti Sugar Bowl because that game was just plain unfair.

Ronrico86's picture

if yall AD would have took his punishment last year instead of this year, yall probably would have been playing ND in the MNC game instead of BAMA.   Also, Urban really didn't do anything special, yes yall went 6-6 last year, but Tressel had the team loaded and Urban just took over an established program.  Yall was already kings of the B1G and will continue to be with the talent the state of ohio have but yall have to finish the job this time around and MICHIGAN will be there with yall.  But for that to happen we will have to be in the same division and not play twice a year because that will be bad for both teams.