Edson: The Big Ten’s Fall From Grace
What happened? Where are all the Big Ten title contenders? Ohio State gets blasted on the road at Iowa. (Suppress your laughter, please). Penn State goes on the road to Michigan State and is upset by the Spartans. With the exception of Wisconsin, there is no team left to carry on the Big Ten’s national reputation. And the last time I looked, the Badgers hadn’t played anyone you could call a national power. If there are any lessons to be learned from this 2017 Big Ten football season, it’s this: Everyone has a down year once in a while.
Usually it’s a team – like Michigan State (3-9) – last season. But this season everything has been turned upside down. The Big Ten is having an off-season and Michigan State is proving that coach Mark Dantonio knows how to get a program back in order. Both the Spartans and coach Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines will land prime spots in holiday bowl games. They won’t be in the hunt for a national championship this season. But their patience will be rewarded down the line. So who is the best team in college football this season? It’s an easy answer: Alabama. There are some interesting teams that could challenge the Tide – like Oklahoma or Clemson. But the next couple of weeks will tell us everything we need to know. Can Wisconsin land a spot in the college football playoffs as a final four team? Is Notre Dame ready to step up and challenge for a national title? Usually at this time of year, we have more answers. This year, we have more questions. To me, that’s exciting. What’s also exciting for me are watching the Michigan State and Michigan quarterbacks develop this season. The Spartans lean heavily on signal-caller Brian Lewerke. He again passed for 400 yards in Saturday’s win over Penn State. If he doesn’t have a big day, Michigan State can’t win. On the flip side, Michigan freshman quarterback Brandon Peters doesn’t have to do it all. In fact, the only thing he really has to do is avoid turnovers.
It all comes down to a team’s offensive philosophy. See what happens in the final weeks of the season and how these young quarterbacks react. The Big Ten’s season may be dismal as a conference, but it has been refreshing to see how the Spartans and Wolverines have kept their heads above water.
Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.