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9/6/2010: State of the Big Ten, Volume 2 (premium)

Posted on 06. Sep, 2010 by in Categories, Iowa Basketball, Iowa Football

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Every Monday, we will be running a weekly series titled “State of the Big Ten,” which will be made available to all members of HawkeyeDrive.com. This series of columns will focus on one major headline regarding the conference and go in-depth on the subject at hand.

By Brendan Stiles

HawkeyeDrive.com

One week into the 2010 college football season, the Big Ten has to feel good about itself with teams compiling a 9-2 overall record.

Three of those programs to win last week are three of the most storied college football programs nationally — Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. On Sept. 11, the Big Ten — and more specifically, these three teams — will be in the spotlight.

Michigan travels to South Bend, Ind., to renew its annual rivalry with Notre Dame. Ohio State will tangle with Miami (Fla.) at The Horseshoe in the first meeting between the two teams since the Buckeyes won the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. Penn State heads to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to revive a past rivalry with Alabama, who is the defending national champion.

Let’s be honest — the Big Ten is going to be judged heavily on how the Wolverines, Buckeyes, and Nittany Lions all perform in five days. Sure, Iowa plays an annual foe in Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium as well, but that game pales in comparison nationally to those other three contests.

Not only are Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State all iconic college football programs, but so are the teams they are facing. That’s what makes Sept. 11 a big day for the conference.

The Wolverines are facing a Fighting Irish squad trying to revitalize itself under new head coach Brian Kelly. Not only that, but for a non-conference rivalry, this Michigan-Notre Dame game is as good as it gets. The Wolverines have won 878 games in their history, more than any other Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish have won 838 games.

Since 1978, these two programs have faced each other every September sans a two-year hiatus during the 2000 and 2001 seasons. Prior to the Big Ten expanding, the two schools had signed a deal back in 2007 that would allow this rivalry to continue on an annual basis through 2031. In fact, next year’s meeting in Ann Arbor, Mich., will be the first-ever night game held inside The Big House.

Both programs have been on the decline the past few seasons, but with both sitting at 1-0 entering this week’s match-up, this game could potentially make one season and break the other.

Moving on to Ohio State’s game with Miami, it is probably a bigger game for the Hurricanes than it is the Buckeyes. Miami is a program that has climbed back up the college football latter, and a win in Columbus would vault the Hurricanes into a legit national championship contender for the first time in years.

As for Ohio State, this is easily the most challenging non-conference game it has in 2010. While Miami is attempting to become a name to be reckoned with in college football again, the Buckeyes already are that force.

A loss to the Hurricanes wouldn’t destroy dreams of a sixth consecutive outright or shared Big Ten crown, but it would give Ohio State that “black eye” it seemed to finally fend off last January after defeating Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl.

Lose this game, and the Buckeyes could still spend a second straight New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif. But all the negativity and doubt that recently surrounded Ohio State nationally would resurface.

A win over Miami would likely make the remainder of the Buckeyes’ 2010 season a two-game season with road contests at Wisconsin on Oct. 16 and Iowa on Nov. 20. Of these three marquee match-ups on Sept. 11, this is the one the Big Ten has the best chance of winning.

Finally, we have Penn State and Alabama. As stated before, Alabama won the 2010 BCS National Championship Game, and will come into this game as the nation’s top-ranked team. Its head coach, Nick Saban, once coached five seasons in the Big Ten at Michigan State.

This match-up between the Nittany Lions and Crimson Tide is as “old school” as it gets. The two programs played each other every season from 1981-1990, back when Penn State was still an independent. They also met in the 1979 Sugar Bowl, an Alabama victory that still haunts the Penn State faithful to this day.

The Nittany Lions will be an underdog entering this game. But should Joe Paterno’s squad leave Bryant-Denny Stadium with an upset win, it would give Penn State the confidence it might need to enter hostile Big Ten environments such as Iowa and Ohio State later in the season.

A win in this game would also give the Big Ten some bragging rights on the SEC in 2010, after Northwestern defeated Vanderbilt last weekend, 23-21.

Any time Michigan, Ohio State, or Penn State plays in a marquee college football game, it peaks the interest of the hardcore college football fan. When all three play these sorts of contests all on the same Saturday, it becomes make or break for the Big Ten.

The other seven Big Ten teams playing on Sept. 11 could all prevail, but if the Wolverines, Buckeyes, and Nittany Lions all lose, the national criticism towards the conference will be enormous. This will be the case, even though Ohio State is the only one of these three playing at home and against a lower-ranked opponent.

Sept. 11 is an important date for the conference. Any success that Michigan, Ohio State, or Penn State has this coming weekend will be what the Big Ten needs in order to remain an elite conference, if not become the elite conference in college football.

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