Remember when the Big Ten didn’t stink? Upsets galore marked a wicked Week 3
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The sad, sick, twisted story dates to 1936. It might as well go back forever.
Seven Big Ten teams lost to unranked nonconference opponents Saturday, the most in a single day since the Associated Press poll debuted 82 seasons ago. Seven!
Wisconsin (against BYU), Northwestern (Akron) and Nebraska (Troy) were double-digit home favorites. It’s hard to say if that’s more shameful than what Rutgers managed to do, which is get blown out at Power Five bottom-feeder Kansas by (it stretches every last fiber of the imagination) 41 points.
Purdue dropped a tough one to Missouri to slide to 0-3. Maryland — so impressive in its first two games — was manhandled at home by previously winless Temple. And then there’s Illinois, which gagged away a commanding second-half lead against South Florida at Soldier Field.
How fast and furiously the Big Ten has fallen in prestige, faded in relevance and fumbled away any right to laud itself as the premier football conference in the land.
Was that too harsh? Sorry, not sorry.
To the rest of the ‘‘Big 10’’ (where 10 actually means 10):
2. Circle your calendars: Two upcoming Big Ten games are jumping up and down and screaming for attention.
The first is Wisconsin at Iowa on Saturday. If the Hawkeyes — first among ‘‘others receiving votes’’ in the new AP poll — knock off the heavy preseason favorite in the West division, they’ll be 4-0 and soar in the rankings, probably into the top 15. That would give the conference a real shot in the arm.
The next Saturday brings a blockbuster: Ohio State at Penn State, with the winner grabbing the flag for the conference and leading the charge toward a national title. Or, you know, at least toward October.
The Big Ten isn’t quite dead yet.
3. Speaking of dead: No matter how poorly your team has it, it always could be worse. Unless your team is Rutgers, that is.
Talk swirling around the Scarlet Knights is that they’ve quit on coach Chris Ash, who just saw Kansas coach David Beaty’s worst-job-in-America and raised him a heaping mound of utter hopelessness.
So he’s got that going for him.
4. Mildcats again: Northwestern certainly can look at its disappointing 1-2 record with a ‘‘we’ve been here before’’ outlook. Just last season, a 2-3 start ended up a 10-3 smash success. The season before that, an awful 1-3 start gave way to a strong finish and a trip to a lower-rung bowl game.
Best case, this season is more like 2016 than 2017 for coach Pat Fitzgerald’s crew.
5. Tough crowd: A tweeted photo of a tiny Soldier Field crowd for Illinois’ game drew tons of responses, many, if not most, of them fueled by snark. A sampling:
‘‘Illinois has a football team?’’
‘‘People have seen enough bad football in that stadium. Illinois is just piling on.’’
‘‘Looks like Ryan Field.’’
Don’t you just love people?
6. Biting Irish: Notre Dame was outgained by Vanderbilt 420 yards to 380 in an unimpressive 22-17 victory against the Commodores. For a team with playoff aspirations, much improvement is needed before the huge test against Stanford two Saturdays from now under the lights in South Bend.
Oh, there’s still one game before then — at 11 a.m. Saturday at Wake Forest. A morning kick is a good thing for a team that’s nowhere near ready for prime time.
7. 23 and me: The year 1995 kept popping into the ol’ noggin Saturday as Nebraska, Florida State and USC were getting creamed (by Troy, Syracuse and Texas, respectively). Twenty-three years ago, the Huskers won the Big Eight and the national title, the Seminoles won the Atlantic Coast Conference before beating Notre Dame in a riveting Orange Bowl and the Trojans won the Pac-10 before setting down upstart Northwestern in the Rose Bowl.
8. He’s Dino-mite: Dino Babers was a hit as the coach at Eastern Illinois before becoming a hit as the coach at Bowling Green. From there, more than a few folks hoped he’d get a shot at Illinois. Instead, Babers was hired by Syracuse.
All of which is a way of saying this: If you haven’t seen his locker-room speech to his team after the victory against Florida State, drop whatever you’re doing and find it immediately. It was that good.
9. LSU, that’s who: The best résumé in college football belongs not to Alabama but to the Tigers. With enormously impressive victories against Miami (in Arlington, Texas) and at Auburn, coach Ed Orgeron’s team has established itself as one not to be trifled with. And the toughest remaining opponents — Georgia, Mississippi State and big, bad Bama — must travel to Baton Rouge.
10. Heisman watch: At the quarter pole of the season, it’s . . . too early to have any earthly idea. Then again, it was even earlier when we listed candidates back in the preseason, wasn’t it? The leaders probably are Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray and — even though he hasn’t piled up the stats — Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.