College football has been really insane in 2021. Who would have thought Clemson would collapse immediately without Trevor Lawrence? Who would have thought that Spencer Rattler would look so inconsistent? Who would have thought that USC would collapse the way it did? Okay, a lot of people probably predicted the latter.
While there has still been a lot of normalcy in the college football landscape this year, such as Alabama and Georgia dominating everyone they come in contact with, and Cincinnati They are still underrated because they don’t play in a Power 5 conference, there have been some nice changes of pace as well. In particular, the Big Ten have bounced back from years of relying on Ohio State and occasionally Penn State to compete with the other elite football conferences. In fact, so far in the 2021 season, one could argue that the Big Ten has been the most comprehensive conference from top to bottom.
Just think about it for a second. Arguably the worst team in this year’s Big Ten conference has been Wisconsin, a team that had enough talent to be position 15 in the nation before the start of the season. Them lost by six to the current number four team to start the season, and they have the worst overall record in that conference. He’s a pretty decent basement dweller for any conference. The Big Ten has four undefeated teams, plus Ohio State (currently ranked No. 7). Even the almighty SEC has only three, and their best team (overall record) outside of Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky is Auburn (No. 18) or Arkansas (No. 13), which just got goose prompted by Georgia last week.
The Big Ten have clearly surpassed the ACC as the second best conference in college football. Let’s face it, all that conference had going for it was Trevor Lawrence and Lamar Jackson a few years earlier. Now that both are gone and there is no generational talent to fill the void, the conference has more or less faded into the back of the college football world with Wake Forest, who have yet to defeat another ranked team this season, in the vanguard. The Big Ten not only passed them, but jumped and kicked them in the face as they went down.
However, I want to go a step further and say that Big Ten has been the best conference in college football this year.
I know the SEC has the best teams, but the Big Ten is a top-down threat. Even Northwestern fought with dignity against Michigan State and Duke. What’s even crazier is that while teams like Ohio State have apparently had poor, or at least inconsistent, starts to the season, even they’ve had big wins. The Buckeyes are currently beating the Maryland Terrapins 4-1, and yes, I know the Terps were crushed by Iowa last week, but hey, that’s another Big Ten team, so the point still stands.
In Week 6, all the focus is on the meeting between Penn St. and Iowa, the nation’s No. 4 and No. 3 ranked teams, respectively. Personally, I think Iowa has had a much more impressive performance so far than Penn St. and the Hawkeyes should walk away with a win. However, what is really important for this game is to show that both teams can compete with a high level competition. Penn St. didn’t have a good 2020 season, and it makes sense why they made it to 2021 at 19th, their lowest preseason ranking since 2016. Just because they beat Auburn doesn’t mean they are seriously in consideration for a spot, though. in the playoffs. . Auburn has looked inconsistent at best, and because that’s the Nittany Lions’ best win of 2021, everyone is still waiting for them to return to Earth. They don’t need to beat the Hawkeyes, just show they can compete.
As for Iowa, the Hawkeyes are not used to the amount of expectations they now face. Since 1990, Iowa has only ranked No. 3 twice (2002 and 2015). However, in those seasons, the Hawkeyes did not enter the season with high hopes. They weren’t classified and managed to claw their way through. In 2021, we all knew Hawkeyes would be good, but we weren’t sure how high they could fly. They have dominated every opponent they have played this year, including Iowa State, which entered the season in fifth place. I know it was only a ten-point game, but that box score doesn’t indicate how solid Iowa looked in that contest.
All the Big Ten can hope for is solid play. At best, the game is closed and both teams put on an offensive showcase showing off their skills to push the ball downfield against elite competition. At worst, both teams look tame on a low-scoring affair and show that no team in the Big Ten could compete with Alabama or Georgia. I will support any team that faces the SEC. The cards are against the Big Ten, but there has never been a better time to steal the title of the best conference in college football.