The point has been made emphatically: the Big Ten is having a down year and the gap between the top of the conference and the top of college football has gotten wider. No need to keep harping on that.
But to claim there are no good teams in the Big Ten just isn’t accurate right now. There is. The team just isn’t eligible for either the conference championship game or the postseason.
Yep, it’s Ohio State, and the No. 14 Buckeyes proved as much on Saturday on the road at No. 20 Michigan State in a gritty 17-16 win led by quarterback Braxton Miller — also arguably the conference’s best quarterback. Miller accounted for 82 percent of Ohio State’s total offense (179 yards passing and 136 yards rushing) and came back from what initially looked like a bad knee injury to finish the game.
Miller’s touches weren’t all that surprising; what was interesting was the ineffectiveness of Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell, who had just 45 yards on 17 attempts. Really, Sparty’s offense was based around the pass with first-year starter Andrew Maxwell. Maxwell played well enough, but it just wasn’t what one would expect out of MSU.
Ohio State can still technically win the Leaders Division in the Big Ten and have a physical trophy to display. If the Buckeyes can get past Nebraska at home next week, there aren’t many obstacles preventing OSU from claiming the Leaders division.
Except for that season-ending game against Michigan, but that’s obvious, isn’t it?
What wasn’t obvious, at least at the beginning of the season, was that the Big Ten’s best team might be one that can’t hoist a championship trophy.