The Big Ten was the big loser over the weekend.
That’s the common theme coming from those around college football, just don’t ask anyone in East Lansing or Iowa City.
And, oh yeah, don’t bring this up to the folks in Madison, who are just winning games every week but almost no one is noticing. How much the College Football Playoff Committee notices will matter most, but considering undefeated Wisconsin entered the weekend ranked No. 9, sitting behind six teams with one loss, it’s clear they haven’t yet.
That, of course, is why many are saying things are pointing toward the Big Ten missing out on the playoff field, something that seemed absurd a couple of weeks ago and just as far-fetched a couple of days ago.
But that’s where we’re at after Michigan State handed Penn State its second straight loss and Ohio State went on the road and got hammered by Iowa. It leaves the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions with two losses and only Ohio State with a realistic shot at still playing for the Big Ten title.
The playoffs? Well, that would take a whole lot of losing from a lot of teams for the Buckeyes to move back into consideration. And, as good of a story as Michigan State has been this season, even a run to a Big Ten championship likely wouldn’t get the Spartans in, not with two losses.
Sure, one loss came against a Notre Dame team in the top four, but the triple-overtime loss at Northwestern will keep them from a second appearance in three seasons.
Penn State? Sorry fellas.
That leaves the Badgers, the team that has yet to wow anyone thanks in large part to an underwhelming schedule. Some of it is because their Big Ten slate is hurt by a weak West Division and avoiding crossovers with Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State.
Wisconsin’s only shot at a marquee win in the regular season might be in two weeks against Michigan, though the Wolverines might only move the needle in perception. Next week’s Iowa matchup is at least interesting now, but it likely doesn’t help much either.
“The biggest thing is it doesn’t really matter,” Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “You have to continue to take care of your business. That is what we push to these guys every week. Having success, the beauty about that is it makes every game bigger. You’ve just got to handle business and in the end, see where everything plays out.”
Sure, the pressure of keeping that zero in the loss column grows each week, but the Badgers will be favored over Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota.
Take care of business and that leaves the Big Ten title game, in which Wisconsin would likely face the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan State game. But that’s where the East Division’s strength hurts. Everyone is beating everyone, hurting the rankings and, in turn, hurting Wisconsin’s shot at building its resume.
That leaves Wisconsin pulling for some more college craziness over the next few weeks.
“College football is crazy,” Leonhard said. “Things happen every week. Somebody’s getting beat. You’ve just got to focus your guys so you’re not one of those teams.”
I’ve taken my share of shots at Penn State’s James Franklin here, usually when he’s busy running up the score.
But on Saturday night, Franklin impressed me and many others.
After losing a stunner on the final play at Michigan State, Franklin was seen racing toward the tunnel. He was grabbing linebacker Koa Farmer and telling him to get back on the field and shake hands with the Spartans.
“We're going to win with class and we are going to lose with class,” said Franklin, “and we are going to shake people's hands and give them credit because they deserved it.”
Classy move, coach.
Other quick observations:
■Northwestern apparently loves putting in some extra work. The Wildcats beat Nebraska, 31-24, in overtime, the third straight game they’ve gone overtime, winning all three. Northwestern became the first team in FBS history to play in three straight overtime games and win all three.
■Anyone notice Rutgers has won three of four? Well, that’s what’s happened and, believe it or not, two wins in the last three weeks will get the Scarlet Knights in a bowl. Just don’t mention it to coach Chris Ash.
“I don't want to talk about that. I don't want to hear about that,” Ash said. “I'm not worried. I am letting our players celebrate this victory.”