The Big Ten conference (football) needs to thank its lucky stars for the “luck of the Irish”. If it weren’t for Notre Dame, the 12 member schools would be playing a combined two games against ranked non-conference opponents, at least according to the pre-season Coaches’ Poll.
While that will probably be beneficial in the Big Ten’s quest to try and land eight schools in bowl games (which won’t happen due to Ohio State and Penn State’s post-season bans), it probably won’t go a long way in making any of the programs national title contenders.
Buckeye fans have been spoiled with recent seasons featuring high profile games against storied national powers, such as Texas, USC and the University of Miami. In fact, 2012 will likely be just the seventh season since 1986 that OSU won’t play a ranked non-conference foe before the start of Big Ten Play. In that 27-year span, the Buckeyes have played 26 such games.
However, going off the pre-season Coaches’ Poll, there are at this moment only five total games featuring Big Ten schools and ranked opponents.
Only one of them can truly be called a marquee game, and that’s on September 1st, when 8th ranked Michigan plays number two Alabama at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
As for the others, #24 Notre Dame plays Purdue on September 8th, followed by a trip to #13 Michigan State on the 15th, and then back home to play Michigan on the 22nd.
The Spartans account for the fifth game, hosting #22 Boise State on Friday, August 31st.
Even if you open it up to schools receiving votes, that only adds four more games; Iowa plays Northern Illinois (2 votes) on September 1st, the same day that Nebraska plays Southern Mississippi (6 votes), the following week Ohio State welcomes Central Florida (5 votes), and Penn State goes to Virginia (9 votes).
Admittedly, there will be plenty of tough tests once conference games begin, as Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Nebraska are all in the top 16. If Ohio State were eligible, it would ranked as well.
Here is a breakdown of games against ranked opponents by Big Ten schools:
· 5-Michigan, Michigan State
· 4-Minnesota, Ohio State
· 3-Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue
· 2-Illinois, Indiana, Penn State, Wisconsin
The Big Ten’s reputation has taken quite a beating of late, thanks mostly to a 26-42 record in bowl games since Ohio State won the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, and BCS Championship.
With scheduling like this, that reputation won’t be getting a boost any time soon.