The Buckeyes are back in action today, finishing up non-conference play with one final cupcake: The University of Alabama-Birmingham. UAB should be an easier matchup for OSU than last week’s way-too-close-for-comfort victory over California. That should be a slight boost at least for the team, as Big Ten play begins next week.
But with the conference schedule starting soon, it begs one question: Who really is the best team in the Big Ten this season? Several of the preseason favorites already have lost — Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin. That now leaves the Buckeyes as the highest ranked team in the conference in the latest Associated Press poll. Shocking, right? Well here’s that AP poll and where it places the leading contenders among the Leaders and the Legends:
16. Ohio State (3-0)
18. Michigan (2-1) — only loss to 1 Alabama, 41-14
21. Michigan State (2-1) — only loss to 11 Notre Dame, 20-3
25. Nebraska (2-1) — only loss to 19 UCLA, 36-30
28. Northwestern (3-0)
36. Wisconsin (2-1) — only loss to Oregon State, 10-7
Obviously, I’m looking at the AP poll here since the Buckeyes are not eligible for the Coaches poll with their bowl banishment for 2012. That makes this ranking the only comprehensive national look at how the Big Ten is doing overall.
And, to be quite frank, it looks simply depressing. A conference that was revered just five years ago and a consistent provider of National Championship qualifiers, now has a highest ranked team in the AP poll at No. 18 that just happens to actually be ineligible for a bowl game. That has to be some type of record. Please, readers, double-check that one for me.
Also, after what we saw last week against California and practically the week before that against Central Florida, it’s not like the Bucks have looked all that great. Their biggest strength in comparison to these other teams? They at least haven’t lost yet, which I suppose means they are better for now, again leading to the super importance of early-season national rankings.
Let’s now take a look at these teams an what they have on the docket for the next three weeks:
OSU — vs UAB, at Michigan State, vs Nebraska
UM — at Notre Dame, at Purdue, vs Illinois
MSU — vs Eastern Michigan, vs Ohio State, at Indiana
UN — vs Idaho State, vs Wisconsin, at Ohio State
NW — vs South Dakota, vs Indiana, at Penn State
UW — vs UTEP, at Nebraska, vs Illinois
That shows how among these six teams, there are three huge games looming in the next few weeks. That obviously means three more losses to go around, and some teams potentially tumbling from AP consideration. Michigan also very well could lose today, as they have a challenging matchup in South Bend.
So as the Buckeyes play the UAB Blazers here shortly, pay attention to their strengths and weaknesses one more time and really ask yourself: Taking away the tattoo scandal and the fact Ohio State can’t make a bowl game, is this really the best team in the conference? What does that say about the Big Ten, if so? How many losses could we expect from the team in conference play over the course of the next eight games? Who else might be there in the championship game in just over two months?
I’ll be at the game today and wanted to pose this question to readers as a type of open thread for the game. Go Bucks!
(Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE – Presswire)