Is this the "Dark Age" of the B1G?

Submitted by PeterKlima on October 25th, 2011 at 4:33 PM

We living in the lowest "down period" in Big Ten history during my lifetime.

How far has the conference fallen from the 2006 UM/OSU game that pitted #1 against #2 and had the two teams BARELY miss a rematch in the National Championship game (over an SEC team no less)?

Pretty far.

What happened:

For a variety of reasons, both OSU and UM have been the best programs at recruiting talent.  High quality talent is highly corelated with national titles.  The two schools usually finished first and second in the B1G and around the top 10-15 nationally in recruiting.  When the two teams were headed by Carr and Cooper/Tressel, they used that talent to each win national championships and keep in the top 5-10 in the rankings.  

Of course, we know what happened to UM with the coaching changes and vastly different schemes.  UM still pulled in talent, but the coaching may have been suspect and the transition was brutal.  It now seems to be turning itself around, but it lasted long enough for UM to have some of its worst seasons ever.

As for OSU, they kept winning the B1G and even getting national respect to be placed in the NC game a couple mroe times.  At least they got there and seemed like serious contenders prior to the final game.  I don't think that is something you can say about any other B1G team.  But now, we see the transition and struggles of sanctions and coach turnover at OSU.  Their high level recruits still need to be focused and "coached up."

And in the wake of the two generally most-talented programs falling (UM four year ago and OSU this year), who has filled the power void? 

How about Wisconsin, MSU and Iowa?  Teams that have steady, quality coaching during the transition periods of OSU/UM.  (Sorry JoePa, but you are not the PSU coach in reality.)  While those teams may have won a game or two against the OSU/UM teams in the past, they have enjoyed a lot more success lately.

But, those teams are obviously limted by the talent level on their teams.  None of them recruit like a national title contender.  There are few to zero "differenc makers" whose athletic talent transcends the system run by the school and who are clearly better than the other players on the field.  These teams seem to just bulk up the lines and plug in quality (but not dynamic in their own right) players in the skill positions.  Solid football, but nothing to make any of them a threat to legitimately contend for the National Championship.

IMO, you need both top-level talent and high quality coaching to be a nationally elite team (legit top 5 at the end of the year) in any given year.

Either MSU, Wisco and Iowa have to start recruiting like national powerhouse teams or OSU and UM need to find (or matintain) steady, high-quality coaching.  (I think the later is more likely than the former....and, of course, Nebraska could be a wild card in this equation).

Until that time though, a darkness has warshed over the B1G.




October 25th, 2011 at 4:47 PM ^

A darkness has warshed over the Big...

Bama was 6-7. 
Lousville was 12-1

Just sayin, a few years makes a significant impact on things

The biggest part of college football is that you can only sign players to a max 5 year deal with no chance of resigning them.

This means, every 2-3 years the landscape of college football will shift. 

Also, B1G currently has 5 teams in the top 25.

What we don't have is one elite team that is undefeated. Other conferences super powers will fall, almost guarenteed. This can change next year. 

What bothers me the most about all of this is that a significant portion of the shift in power is the oversigning in the SEC.. its not fair they get essentially 5 scholarships to our 4.  And the media hype engine that is pumping the SEC full of coverage and kick backs.



October 25th, 2011 at 5:07 PM ^

I have to agree. Name me a big ten team right now that wouldn't go into a bowl game and get absolutely waxed by LSU or Alabama. It wouldn't even be competitive football.


October 27th, 2011 at 2:39 AM ^

It's rather maddening, but even w/ their crappy showing to date, tOSU is in more control of their destiny than we are at this point in time.

In a hypothetical world, if tOSU were to win out, all that would stand between them and a division title would be a PSU loss to one of Illinois, Nebraska, or Wisconsin.  Conversely, if we were to win out, we'd need MSU to lose two of @Nebraska (MSU is 4 point dog),  Minnesota (autowin), @Iowa (should be solid favorite), Indiana (autowin), and @NW (should be substantial favorite).

Of course, in the real world, we'll give tOSU a pasting on Nov 26.  And tOSU is likely to lose their home game vs Wiscy this Sat (tOSU is 7.5 pt dog).

And for those interested, Mich is a 14 point favorite this Saturday.


October 25th, 2011 at 5:30 PM ^

Yeah, under that criteria every conference is in a dark age.

Although I agree that the Big Ten isn't crazy good this year, there are five one loss teams in the conference, and only one of those teams has a loss to a team outside the top-15 (MSU to ND). Illinois is a two loss team who beat ASU, one of the top PAC 12 teams. Iowa is an overtime away from being a one loss team as well, their only other loss to Penn State.

That's not exactly what the SEC was last year, but outside of the top two teams, it compares pretty well to the SEC this year, or any other conference for that matter. In fact, if we don't get two BCS teams this year, we should have one of the best bowl seasons we've had in a while.


October 25th, 2011 at 6:24 PM ^

Barring massive collapses, LSU and Bama are both in the BCS. I believe the Cotton gets first pick out of the SEC West and if Arkansas is 10-2 or even 9-3, they'll probably go to the Cotton. That pretty much leaves Auburn, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia for the 3 Big Ten match-ups.


October 25th, 2011 at 8:16 PM ^

...does not disprove the theory.  Let's see where everyone ends up.  There are no great teams in the B1G this year.  And my points was that the last couple years it had really only been OSU who looked like legit NC contenders.  Now that they are gone, no one does.


October 25th, 2011 at 8:22 PM ^

Well, I guess I just disagree. Even with their recent loss, I think Wisconsin looks as good this year as OSU has almost any year over the last decade.

But a conference isn't judged simply on the quality of their best team. The Big Ten isn't top heavy like the SEC or Pac 12, but 3-6 are as good as any conference, and the 1 and 2 aren't that bad either.


October 26th, 2011 at 9:23 AM ^

Unless by "almost any year" you mean omitting 02, 05 and 06.  Those three teams lost a combined two regular season games to eventual national champion Texas with Vince Young and Penn State 05.  Wisconsin is 6-1 with a fresh loss to a good but not great MSU team.  Michigan State would have to win out and win the B10CG to even make that comparison reasonable (by going to the rose bowl). 


October 26th, 2011 at 9:18 AM ^

it is a result of trying to beat "them" at their game as opposed to playing our (Big Ten) game to the best of our abilities.  I think that the conference has seen a movement toward spread and speed in an attempt to better compete with other conferences on a regular basis, top to bottom.  The Big Tens wheelhouse is power and size, ball control and very solid bend but don't break defenses.  No top tier Big Ten teams is ever going to blow out a top tier SEC team, but the focus for those that wish to compete should be to play Big Ten football (hate to say it, but MANBALL) as good as possible as opposed to being a watered down version of very good teams playing different styles. (As much as I wanted RR to succeed, M was never going to be anything but Florida-light playing that style of football with recruiting leftovers from the coastal schools.) 


October 25th, 2011 at 5:14 PM ^

Instead of 2006, I'd say the high point of the big ten was probably the mid-90's to late 90's.  UM won a NC. Cooper had OSU in the Top 5 on a regular basis.  PSU was in the Top 10 quite a bit - should have won a share of the title in 1994, and I believe they were ranked #1 in 1997 match-up.  Alvarez had Wisconsin at a farily high level.  Tiller had arrived at Purdue and they were on the turnaround.  Mason was at Minnesota and he had them on the upswing.  Northwestern won back to back Big Ten titles in 1995/1996.  Saban was turning around MSU.

You had a number of teams that were upper echelon teams in the country (Rose Bowl wins in 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999; OSU won a Sugar Bowl, Michigan won an Orange Bowl, Penn St won a Fiesta Bowl) and a lot of solid to good teams throughout the rest of the conference. 


October 25th, 2011 at 5:17 PM ^

The 5th to 9th centuries were a rough spot in Western civilization. I am pretty sure they would have burned Jim Tressel at the stake. 

Actually, you're basically right - there are a couple programs, ours included,  that will need to settle into their new coaching regimes before we really know how good the B1G really is. Right now, most everyone in the conference would get absolutely destroyed by the top SEC teams. 


October 25th, 2011 at 5:22 PM ^

Looking at only the teams that were in the Big Ten at the time, the conference has two national titles (mythical as they may be) since 1968 (M 97, Ohio 02). 2 titles in 42 seasons. I think USC, Oklahoma, Alabama, Miami, Nebraska, Florida all have more themselves over that stretch. And Penn State (pre Big Ten), ND, Florida State and Texas all have 2. It really comes down to Southern teams plus ND and Penn State.

I know this sucks as a Michigan/Big Ten fan but it is the harsh reality. It would be interesting to know the bowl record of the top team in the Big Ten each year. I know Michigan's is poor when they have gone to the Rose Bowl as Michigan's top team (4-12 I think) and OSU is 1-2 in the Title game.


October 26th, 2011 at 9:39 AM ^

Aside from OSU, the big10 has 2 BCS wins since the 2000 season (PSU 06 Orange and Iowa 2010 Orange).  Think about that.


While arguments can be made about getting over-seeded and getting unfavorable match-ups etc etc...the bottom line is that we as a whole entity have been crapping the bed for a decade. 




October 25th, 2011 at 5:31 PM ^

The first step is getting the "national brand" programs to be unquestionable top 25 teams all year, every year. Ohio State was there for most of Tressel's tenure, but Michigan fell off post Lloyd, Penn State has been up and down both recently and over the past decade, and Nebraska just reached that level last year. The key for this lies in the coaching staffs. Pelini at Nebraska and Hoke at Michigan appear to be laying a foundation for years to come, but Ohio State and Penn State, while still littered with talent (mostly on defense), have big coaching decisions to make in the near future. IMO, both schools need new, big-time head coaches to take the helm.

The B1G's "upper middle class" needs to keep making strides. Wisconsin and Michigan State are the class of the conference in 2011 and, unsurprisingly, they've done it with two established coaches who've turned the programs into proven winners without the benefit of high recruiting rankings. Iowa has been up and down under Kirk Ferentz, but has been relatively strong in bowl games. Ferentz needs to regroup from the recent turmoil around the program and return the program to at least 08-09 form (if not 02-04).

These programs need to beat the SEC in New Year's Day bowl games. The "national brands" need to recruit at a national level and win a BCS Championship. A Heisman winner, the occasional contender from Northwestern or Illinois, and some exciting B1G Championship Games would be icing on top.


October 25th, 2011 at 5:37 PM ^

Unfortunately, if we're hoping MSU, Iowa and Wisconsin to recruit nationally, we're going to be disappointed. The only big ten teams that recruit nationally are M, OSU and Penn State and thus they are probably the only big ten teams that have the chance to be legitimately top 5-10 year in and year out


October 25th, 2011 at 8:19 PM ^

Nebraska is the wild card (insert Charlie Kelly gif here).  Not sure how well they will recruit in the new conference or even how much talent they had recruiting-wise in previous years.  Not currently an elite team (based on Pellini's record against good teams) but solid.  If they adapt well, they could "be something" against the B1G.


October 25th, 2011 at 5:54 PM ^

I agree with your post 100%, but I think that the future is bright for the B10.  Why?

A.  The Top Tier

1.  DOes anyone really believe that Fickell will be the HC at OSU after this year?  No.  Sanctions or not, OSU will go out and get itself a top coach who will return OSU to powerhouse status within 2-3 years tops.  Hell, they still have as much 4-5 star talent as most schools outside of the SEC.

2.  Michigan is "returning to glory."  Let's not debate the RR era, other than to say it didn't go well.  Who cares why.  Hoke is obviously a good fit and is doing great things in recruiting.  With his 2012 class as a starting point, by 2014 (not saying it won't happen before then, but it will take that long for the 2012 kids to be upper-classmen) we should be elite again.

3.  Nebraska - Nabraska is a national name capable of regularly reeling in top recruiting classes.  Pelini is a solid - albeit unstable - HC.  Once they get some depth (much like us) and a QB who can throw, they will be a regular top 15-20 team, with the potential to push us and OSU at the best team in the conference every year.

With the expected improvements in all three of these teams, that top 3 matches up against any conference other than the SEC (oversigning rabble-rabble).


B.  The Second Tier

4.  Wisconsin is on the right track.  No, they are not yet super-elite.  But, they are on the right track.  Since his arrival, BB has done a solid job of bringing in good recruits and coaching them in solid fundamentals.  Wisco will always have a 320+ pound average OL, which will allow them to hang with most teams.  They will never be a national power, but I can see a situation where they are consistently ranked in the top 15-20.

5.  PSU - I love me some Joe Pa, but he is the only thing standing in the way of PSU being a serious player, again.  How do you go out and recruit when everyone is wondering whether the HC will be alive the next day.  Once he steps down, I see PSU rising back to the level of Wisco - regularly top 20, with occasional top 10 seasons. 


C.  The middling Tier

6.  MSU (ha, I put you in a crappy tier even though you beat us - take that Sparty) - I puke in my mouth as I write this, but Tressel Junior is doing a very good job in East Lansing.  No, they will not win any sportsmanship awards and no, they are NOT a national recruiting team (contrary to what they believe), but they are playing solid B10 football.  But, it is not going to last.  No attempt to discuss RR, but a lot of their success is related to their ability over the past 3-4 years to pull in top in-state talent.  For better or worse (either because the media made it impossible or because of his focus, who cares) RR was not successful in recruiting in-state, so MSU was the beneficary of this a windfall of talent.  Hoke has already put an end to that.  Once their current crop of players moves on, I see MSU returning to mediocrity.  But, that said, they are still capable of turning in 9-3 seasons from time to time.

7.  Iowa - what can I say?  Boring, poor recruiting, and perennially between 7 and 9 wins.  A true middling tier team.

8.  NU - Fitzgerald is doing good things, a top academic institution that could regularly see 7-9 wins.

After that, it gets dicey, but  in 2-3 years, I expect us to have a VERY strong top 5 teams.  How many conferences have more than 5 good teams in a given season?


October 25th, 2011 at 5:56 PM ^

I hope not. Rome never came back. Also, I think many people would argue the Big Ten has been slipping into the dark age since TSIO won the national championship. I know many people that would argue, somewhat successfully, that the Big Ten isn't as relevant as it used to be. Obviously the SEC has passed the Big Ten as the premiere football conference. Some could argue that the Pac 12 or Big 12 are past the Big Ten, but that is far more controversial. Personally, I hope that it is more of a decaying and aging Greece, revitalized by an outside force, Macedonians, with new weaponry, new strategies, and a new innovative general. O wait, shit that didn't work this time.

Charlie Chunk

October 25th, 2011 at 6:34 PM ^

I have to agree with you with the hopes that my theory is correct.  You can't keep a good program down.  Michigan is heading in the right direction and so is MSU, Wisc, Neb.  No telling where Ohio ends up. 

I think the Pac 12 is doing the same thing as the B1G.  It's a cyclical thing.

Steve in PA

October 25th, 2011 at 6:58 PM ^

I think it goes in cycles where older or more experienced coaches have their teams playing at their peak potential, then they retire, move on, or try the NFL.  Right now Satan and Les are having prison sex with the SEC, but after those two the SEC isn't any stronger than the B10.  See the post about them signing 5 kids to every 4 other teams sign.

Throw in geography and realize that the good coaches in the major conferences are all from or have roots in the midwest.  Satan, Miles, Stoops, Meyer, Pellini, etc.

I don't think we'll ever see PAC12 dominance or see the Big12 be more than a two trick pony, but I can see the B10 coming back in time.  It would be interesting to revisit this in 5 years. 


October 25th, 2011 at 7:35 PM ^

The SEC is paying big bucks for proven coaches.  Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier had both won national championships before getting hired by their current school.  Petrino won a BCS bowl and had two top-10 finishes at Louisville.  Houston Nutt took Arkansas to three SEC championship games before being hired at Ole Miss.  Miles was a head coach in a major conference for four years.  Even a guy like Gene Chizik was the defensive coordinator for a national championship team at Texas and an undefeated team at Auburn.  Mark Richt was the offensive coordinator at FSU for a decade (they never lost more than two games in that time).

Compare that with the resumes of the guys in the Big Ten, and you see a fairly big difference.  Bielema was a DC for two years at Wisconsin when they had fairly decent success.  Ferentz was a position coach in the NFL who had a three year stint as the head man at Maine.  Danny Hope was the HC at Eastern Kentucky for 5 years and never a coordinator.  Fickell is a career assistant who had never even been a coordinator on his own.  Pat Fitzgerald was a position coach.  Only Wilson and Pelini were even big time coordinators (at OU and LSU respectively).  A guy like Dantonio (three years as DC at OSU, then three years as HC at Cincinnati with a .500 record) looks freakishly overqualified compared with most of the other hirings.

Ron Zook is the only guy who had run a big time program before he got hired and for all the hand wringing when he got hired, Brady Hoke probably has the best head coaching resume of any of the post-Paterno hirings among current coaches.

The SEC probably has a similar advantage over every other conference.  I can't help but think that makes a difference.

Steve in PA

October 25th, 2011 at 9:42 PM ^

Looking at last year's salaries, there were 4 coaches in the B10 making less than the lowest reported SEC coach.  It's an arms race for sure.  I still think that except for Satan and Les, they are overpaying for what they are getting.  

Is Joker really worth the same $$ as Bielema?  How about Dooley or Nutt?  They would be the 3rd highest paid coaches in the B10 last year.


October 25th, 2011 at 7:07 PM ^

I would have to agree. In my opinion, the Big Ten needs Michigan and Ohio State to be elite to be at its best. Then you have top 20 programs like Iowa, Wisconsin, and Penn St. to provide depth.


October 25th, 2011 at 7:15 PM ^

Michigan and Ohio were the class of the conference in 2006, but Ohio got manhandled by Florida in a game that wasn't as close as the score looked, and Michigan got thoroughly outplayed in every facet of the game by USC.  

If I were a national fan instead of a Michigan fan, I would be saying without a shred of doubt that the reason Michigan and OSU were undefeated going into their game was because their conference sucked.  Michigan and OSU simply took care of business against medoicre competition.  

In the only difficult nonconference games for either team, Ohio beat Texas in a rematch, and Michigan beat a mediocre ND team.  Really, the Big Ten was weak, with only the Big Two and the little nine that year.

I think the B1G is better now than it was in 2006, becuase there is more balance and they have more teams capable of playing good football.  It might suck from our point of view because Michigan isn't dominant, but it is better for the league and for college football when there is some degree of parity.  

Could the B1G have some better teams?  Sure.  But there are five B1G teams in the BCS top 25 right now.  That certainly doesn't constitute a "dark age."


October 26th, 2011 at 2:32 PM ^

You can't have it both ways.  ND was overrated, insanely so in that particular year and especially at that point in the 06 season.   They got smoked in the previous BCS game (05) and got smoked again by LSU 06.  ND 06 may be one of the most overrated teams ever.  They got completely housed by every team with a pulse on their schedule...

09/02/2006 8:00 pm at Georgia Tech #3 Bobby Dodd StadiumAtlanta, GA ABC W 14-10  
09/09/2006 3:30 pm #19 Penn State #5 Notre Dame StadiumNotre Dame, IN NBC W 41-17  
09/16/2006 3:30 pm #13 Michigan #3 Notre Dame Stadium • Notre Dame, IN NBC L 47-21  
09/23/2006 8:00 pm at Michigan State #13 Spartan StadiumEast Lansing, MI ABC W 40-37  
09/30/2006 2:30 pm Purdue #14 Notre Dame Stadium • Notre Dame, IN NBC W 35-21  
10/07/2006 2:30 pm Stanford #12 Notre Dame Stadium • Notre Dame, IN NBC W 31-10  
10/21/2006 2:30 pm UCLA #8 Notre Dame Stadium • Notre Dame, IN NBC W 20-17  
10/28/2006 12:00 pm at Navy #10 M&T Bank StadiumBaltimore, MD CBS W 38-14  
11/04/2006 2:30 pm North Carolina #10 Notre Dame Stadium • Notre Dame, IN NBC W 45-26  
11/11/2006 4:00 pm at Air Force #8 Falcon StadiumColorado Springs, CO CSTV W 39-17  
11/18/2006 2:30 pm Army #5 Notre Dame Stadium • Notre Dame, IN NBC W 41-9  
11/25/2006 8:00 pm at #2 USC #6 Los Angeles Memorial ColiseumLos Angeles, CA ABC L 44-24  
01/03/2007 8:00 pm vs. #4 LSU #11 Louisiana SuperdomeNew Orleans, LA (Sugar Bowl) FOX L 41-14  

yet still finished ranked...somehow. 


October 25th, 2011 at 8:11 PM ^

that the B10 had two teams poised to be in the NC game that year.  OSU had won only 4 years earlier and no one thought they would get beat by Florida like that.  (Theories have been that the biggest OSU/UM game of all time was the climax of the season for both schools.)


October 25th, 2011 at 7:56 PM ^

Until you get everyone on an equal footing and eliminate oversigning of recruits, it is difficult to compete with the best of the SEC.  Over a four to five year period, they have the equivalent of an additional recruiting class.  It is sanctioned cheating and it says a ton about the NCAA that they allow it to take place.

Even Wisconsin's O, which when clicking is pretty impressive, might not look so great against Bama or LSU's defense.