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.