If the Big Ten was hoping 2012 would be the year they would interfere with the SEC's national championship run, consider the only remaining undefeated candidates from the conference: Northwestern, Minnesota, and Ohio State.
The Buckeyes, of course, aren't even eligible for postseason play. And how fitting for the way this year has started for the B1G as Ohio State appears to be the best of the bunch -- and that's not saying much.
Maybe it's poor recruiting, a weak talent pool of high school talent, graduation of key players, coaching changes or some other excuse. Regardless of the culprit-of-the-day it's hard to dodge the blame for nearly any team in a collection of Midwest teams that looks left behind by the rest of the BCS nation.
The season started off promising enough with a 10-2 record in week one -- including a 1-1 record versus BCS conference teams and Michigan State's victory over #24 Boise State. But week two is where it all fell apart; when the warning siren roared -- maybe the rough and tough Big-Ten can't keep up on a year-by-year basis.
Six wins and five losses in week two -- only one win in seven tries against BCS foes. Horrible defeats of Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Illinois highlighted a rough trip west for the conference. Iowa couldn't find an offense, Michigan was still licking its wounds from Alabama, and a kicker meltdown by Penn State in a loss against Virginia was icing on the cake. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
And the lingering impact of the state of the Big-Ten has remained raw since then. Despite a 10-2 record in week three (2-1 versus BCS teams) much of the sports-talk nation is still abuzz over how weak the teams within supposedly are. As Gary Armida wrote Monday about the Yankees' survival in a market that views each game on knee-jerk all-or-nothing reactions, "...the immediacy of analysis, however flawed, has taken over as the most important characteristic of competing news organizations."
Is this just a major swing for sensational media attention feeding off one single week? Is the Big Ten really in that much trouble?
Luckily for the conference, this week's slate of games holds only four serious challenges for the Big-Ten -- three against BCS opponents. Temple takes on Penn State, Michigan faces Notre Dame, Syracuse travels to Minnesota, and a dangerous Louisiana Tech team heads to Illinois. It's hard to find a guaranteed win within those games, but it's safe to say that Minnesota and Illinois must take their matchups. If Penn State can win any game it's a plus -- the Nittany Lions are living an implied mess.
But if B1G fans want any credibility in the media moving forward, they must hope for a surprise victory by the Wolverines over Notre Dame. And if any of the other teams in the conference lose their games? Better hope for a big news day on Sunday to distract from the Big-Ten hate.
BCS conference numbers through three weeks:
Big-12 is 23-3
Kansas has two losses
8 of 10 teams undefeated
3-1 BCS non-conference record
ACC is 24-12
Includes five conference games
5-6 BCS non-conference record
PAC-12 is 24-10
Includes one conference game
Five undefeated teams
6-3 BCS non-conference record
Big East is 15-7
Includes two conference games
Three undefeated teams
4-4 BCS non-conference record
SEC is 29-12
Includes six conference games
Six undefeated teams
3-4 BCS non-conference record
Big Ten is 26-9
Three undefeated teams (Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State)
5-8 BCS non-conference record (Including MSU vs. Boise State)
Sound Off: Is Big-Ten football in trouble or is their week-two performance being blown out of proportion?
Justin Mikels is a staff writer for Operation Sports. Follow him on Twitter: @long_snapper