Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Like it or not, the Big Ten is the new SEC

                                    Photo Credit: Geno Green

Orange Is The New Black.

For fans and other people who are familiar with the Netflix show can apply the analogy to the Big Ten morphing into the new Southeastern Conference. 

For the first time since the 2006 1 vs. 2 meeting, No. 8 Ohio State (10-1 overall, 6-1 Big Ten East) and No. 10 Michigan (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten East) will meet as top 10 opponents Saturday at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, MI. 

The Buckeyes and Wolverines come into the final weekend of conference play as two of four Big Ten teams ranked in the College Football Playoff top 10.

No. 4 Iowa (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten West) and No. 5 Michigan State (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten East) lay claim to the other spots and are in prime position to make the semifinals of the playoff on New Year's Eve if they can win out.

Both will likely not make the four-team field given the likelihood one would have to beat the other in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis on Dec. 5, if that matchup comes to fruition.

Regardless of the outcome in the last two weeks, it is almost a forgone conclusion that the Big Ten will have three teams in the New Year's Six once the selections are released on Dec. 6.

The fact that Ohio State and Michigan are not only playing for second place in the Big Ten East division, but for an open spot in the Rose, Peach or Fiesta Bowls says something about the overall depth of the Big Ten, which feels like a scene from Freaky Friday— switching places with the Southeastern Conference.

Yes, the almighty SEC, which for the last decade has held the unofficial title of the best conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision has been watered down to being another league, kind of like the Big Ten before this season.

Sure, No. 2 Alabama has looked like Alabama again sans the early-season loss against Ole Miss, but the quality of good teams begins to drop from that point forward.

No. 12 Florida (10-1, 7-1 SEC East) from a ranking standpoint is considered to be the next best team, but has yet to play the role of a premiere conference team this season.

Sure, the suspension of Will Grier (Performance Enhancing Drugs) for the season did not help matters, but the Gators have looked subpar in their last three wins (vs. Vanderbilt, W 9-7, at South Carolina, W 24-14 and vs Florida Atlantic, 20-14 in overtime).

Even if Florida can win its last two games against in-state rival Florida State and in the SEC Championship game (Alabama or Ole Miss), the committee could have a hard time buying them as a Final Four team in the playoff due to its ugly play for the majority of November.

No. 18 Ole Miss (8-3, 5-2 SEC West) and No. 21 Mississippi State (8-3, 4-3 SEC West) are the third and fourth best teams in the conference based off of rankings, but have played up and down all season and are nowhere near a New Year's Six bowl game.

Sure, you can make the argument about all seven teams in the SEC West being bowl eligible, but keep in mind that at least five of the seven schools will head into the bowl season with less than 10 wins.

Flip the script back over to the Big Ten East, where Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State all have a chance to be at 10 wins each before bowl season depending on how Saturday's games shake out.

Combine the East with the West, where Iowa could go into the conference championship at 12-0 and Northwestern capping off its first 10-win season before bowl action since winning the 1995 Big Ten Championship, if it can knock off Illinois at Soldier Field on Saturday.

Sure, the SEC could end up with as many as 12 teams in bowl games compared to the Big Ten's 11, but the arguments are going to come up in the coming weeks about who the top conference could be.

The bottom lime is simple, the Big Ten's fingerprints on the major bowl games will be felt across the country this New Year's Eve and Day.

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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @GenoSportsguy.


Anonymous said...

The top teams in the B1G have better records because they play softer schedules. You're going to pick at Florida's close wins, take a look in the mirror at Michigan State, Michigan, and Ohio states schedule. Utah smaked the crap out of Michigan, they're not ranked in the pac 12. I guess if all you look at is rankings you're right. Let's all praise undefeated Iowa while we're at. The team Tennessee destroyed last year in the tax slayer bowl. The same Tennessee team wii is much better this year. Wait til bowl games.