The Big Ten took a publicized and widely scrutinized beating this weekend. As far as the spotlight match-ups go in the first two weeks of the season, the Big Ten is 0-for-4 with losses to the SEC (Wisconsin losing to LSU), ACC (Ohio State losing at home to Virginia Tech), the Pac-12 (Michigan State losing at Oregon) and Notre Dame (Michigan being shutout). The most impressive wins of the first two weeks for the Big Ten took place in Seattle (Rutgers over Washington State) and in Ireland (Penn State over UCF), both in Week 1. The Week 3 schedule may lack much in terms of sexy match-ups, but the Big Ten has to scratch and claw a victory wherever it can now. A trio of games against the Big 12 is as good a place as any to start.
The newest Big Ten member, Maryland (2-0), will get a chance to carry the conference banner proudly with a game against West Virginia. The Terps have gotten off to a good start with an easy home win to start the season and a fourth-quarter rally to avoid an upset loss at USF this weekend. Maryland will now play host to a West Virginia team that gave Alabama all it could handle on a neutral field in week one, so Maryland can score some points with a win against the Mountaineers.
Iowa (2-0) has looked shaky and vulnerable in the first couple of weeks but the Hawkeyes have found ways to win games against Northern Iowa and Ball State. This week Iowa hosts in-state rival Iowa State, with the Cyclones looking to do anything to find a win. The Cyclones have been the victims of FCS powerhouse North Dakota State’s latest FBS upset and followed that up with a tough, close loss at home to Kansas State this past weekend. A win for Iowa would be expected, but would receive very little credit for the Big Ten as Iowa State is very much a struggling program.
Minnesota (2-0) will travel into Big 12 territory for a road game at TCU. The Horned Frogs are a significant favorite in this one, as they probably should be right now. TCU is still a work in progress in terms of being a Big 12 contender, but Gary Patterson‘s program has been adapting to building on a Big 12 level since joining the conference. Minnesota is off to a 2-0 start but can be exposed on defense. If the Gophers can get the ground game running and force TCU to make some mistakes, a road win is not entirely out of the question. A win on the road for Minnesota would certainly help the Big Ten’s reputation, but this is not exactly like taking out Oklahoma or Baylor.
Two Big Ten teams will be playing on the west coast this weekend as well, hoping to enjoy rare success for the conference out west. Illinois (2-0) looks to score a win against the Pac-12 with a trip to Washington. The Huskies have been incredibly vulnerable and have managed to slip past Hawaii and Eastern Washington in the first two weeks. Nebraska will visit Fresno State in a late Saturday night game. After squeaking by McNeese State, the Huskers better be prepared for a Fresno State already desperate to get in the win column after a start of 0-2.
It is not a weekend that will do much to repair the pristine image of the Big Ten as a whole, but it could easily go the other way and continue to tarnish the rusted image of the conference. Of course, if Purdue could upset Notre Dame in Indianapolis… nah.