Welcome to our college football conference previews, in which we will tell you what you need to know about various conferences, with an emphasis on watchability. First up were the Pac-12, the SEC, the Big 12, and the ACC. Now, the Big Ten.
How Good Is The Big Ten, Actually?
Oh boy. Conferences like the Big Ten, sorry-ass collections of teams masquerading as good ones, are the anglerfish of college football. They reel you in—boasting “established” programs, national champions, and fundamentally sound football—and before long, you’re consumed by it, watching every shitty game and hopping on the keyboard to defend your conference on a message board (because conference pride is something that makes total sense and is certainly not just for idiots). Don’t do that. It’s fine to admit that the Big Ten sucks.
The Best Of The B1G
I honestly should give Ohio State it’s own category here, but for the sake of sub-heads, I’ll throw Michigan State in here, too. But please don’t be fooled: the Buckeyes are in a league of their own this year.
Ohio State brings back 14 players from its championship 2014 team, including Cardale “12-Gauge” Jones, J.T. Barrett, Braxton Miller, Ezekiel Elliot, Michael Thomas, and Joey Bosa. That’s a hell of a lineup for any opposing team to have to deal with, and no team, not even Michigan State, is ready for that shit.
Let’s pause here to remember that incredible beatdown Ohio State put on Wisconsin in last year’s Big Ten championship game.
I was ready for that to be a legitimately competitive game, and then Ohio State came in with 12-Gauge, popped Wisconsin in the chest with some rock-salt slugs, and proceeded to bury the Badgers alive. Get ready for a lot more of that this year.
The Buckeyes aren’t too good to be upset, because no team is that good, but damn, man. If you were to pick out a game on their schedule, look me in my eye holes and honestly say, “I think Ohio State will lose this game,” I’d probably never speak to you again because that would make you a goddamn liar. The Buckeyes are winning the Big Ten. They just are.
Michigan State is good, but the Spartans won’t get nearly the amount of press Ohio State will. I’m sure Mark Dantonio is sitting in the back corner of his closet, holding his knees while rocking back and forth muttering something about pride, but his bombastic pep talks won’t be enough to give his defense a chance against Ohio State. Michigan State will still be a lot better than the rest of the conference, though. Even with an offense that isn’t going to be putting up the numbers it did in 2014, the Spartans, behind quarterback Connor Cook, are the second and last Big Ten team I will recommend you watch.
The B1G Wastes of Time
Reasons you should watch Wisconsin circa 2014: Melvin Gordon. This year’s team does not have Melvin Gordon. I think we’re done here.
Maryland lost run-happy quarterback C.J. Brown, who led the team in both passing and rushing yardage, as well as their top two receivers. Still, at running back, Maryland brings back a pair of decent backs in Brandon Ross and Wes Brown, and though neither are going to make you soil your britches anytime soon, they’ll do just fine. On defense, the Terps will take a pretty huge hit from losing end Andre Monroe and... wait, why am I telling you all this? Sorry, Maryland sucks, so, uh, don’t watch them.
When Penn State came up on the Deadspin 25, I had a good chuckle because this team is so impossibly unwatchable, mediocre, and easy to make fun of that I actually had to sit back and collect myself. But yeah, for all the positive talk that surrounds Christian Hackenberg, there should be some voices—mine, in this instance—to remind you that this offense blew last year (20.6 points per game) and the defense, though good, lost half its starters. If you’re watching Penn State, chances are you’re beyond saving.
Nebraska has one of my favorite mascots in the Cornhusker, because, well, it’s both hilarious and accurate! The Huskers were okay last year, but without crazy man Bo Pelini, running back Ameer Abdullah, and defensive end Randy Gregory, Nebraska fans should probably just watch some old games from the 90’s and wait for Mike Riley—who could actually be in some deep shit due to a pair of sexual assaults that happened while he was coaching Oregon State—to get things going a couple years from now. All those 9-win seasons made y’all complacent and greedy. Welcome to mediocrity.
Minnesota ranked 119th in passing yards per game last season, lost its top running back and tight end to the NFL, and has to play Wisconsin, TCU, and Ohio State. Jerry Kill earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors last season, but don’t expect the Golden Gophers (another great name) to break through or anything this year. Again, you should skip out on watching them.
Please do me a favor: anytime a Michigan fan tries to talk to you about how ole Jimmy Harbaugh is going to turn things around for the Wolverines this season and “really surprise some people,” slam either your or their head into the nearest wall. Michigan will be average at best, and its Iowa-transfer quarterback is going to flop because, well, he transferred from Iowa, where he was unimpressive. The Wolverines are not particularly worth your time, so if you’re thinking about watching them, maybe rewatch Mr. Robot or stare at a wall instead.
The B1G Disappointments
The bottom of the Big Ten barrel is murky and full of teams that can point to season records and claim to be above average (except Purdue, who sucks), but they are not worth looking into. If you want to watch some truly shitty football that actually means something to someone (certainly not people who actually like football) then you can watch Purdue and Indiana battle for the Old Oaken Bucket, an age-old rivalry between two of the saddest saps in college football.
Iowa just lost its starting quarterback to Michigan and will replace him with a guy named C.J. Beathard, so the Hawkeyes are at least going to provide the local papers with plenty of great headlines this season.
Illinois is kind of dealing with its own shitstorm right now, so I’d maybe give the Illini (terrible name) like 5-100 years to figure out how to actually take care of players before considering them watchable.
A Big Ten Game Worth Watching
Nov. 21: Ohio State vs. Michigan State
Like the Big 12, there’s really only one game worth watching this season, and it’s the one between the two best teams. Even though you should be prepared Ohio State’s imminent victory, go ahead and tune in for this one. I expect by this point in the season, both teams will be making their playoff push, so the outcome of this game will likely determine who is going to the Big Ten title game, and who is going to have to settle for a non-playoff bowl game. I fully expect Ohio State to cruise, but hey, maybe Sparty will surprise me.