Two weeks in and the Big Ten is finished.
Okay, that might be a touch dramatic but it’s not too far from the reality.
The Big Ten entered 2014 in desperate need of some brand equity — i.e., regular season wins against quality non-conference opponents. But after two weeks, every major contender in this league — with the possible exception of Penn State — have already lost critical showcase games against high-level competition.
Michigan State played well but was Oregon-ed in Autzen Stadium in the fourth quarter. Michigan looked as bad as Michigan has ever looked. And Ohio State was pushed around at home by a Hokies team that lost five times last year.
Not only did the Big Ten miss out on an opportunity to prove it’s worth on a national stage, it was embarrassed as Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State lost by a combined 64 points. In fact, it was the first time since Sept. 17, 1988 that the Buckeyes, Spartans and Wolverines each lost on the same day.
This is to say nothing of Wisconsin, Northwestern, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Rutgers and Purdue. All of which have either lost already or looked bad in wins.
So is it really that farfetched to suggest that the Big Ten has already been eliminated from the College Football Playoff?
Maybe, we should ask Pat Haden?
His USC Trojans won on Saturday in ugly fashion against a really good Stanford team in Palo Alto. No one, however, is talking about the gutty play of quarterback Cody Kessler one week after surgery or the Trojans' suffocating red-zone defense. No, the conversation has centered around Haden’s bizarre behavior on Saturday when the USC AD, prompted by a text message from a staffer, left his suite, jogged to the sideline and had an emotional exchange with the officials.
It was inappropriate and should never happen again. Is a discussion about active members of the college football community being on the committee that decides which teams get into the playoffs a legitimate one? Yes. But the Pac-12 has fined Haden $25,000 so talk of Haden being removed from the Playoff Committee for his actions this weekend is simply absurd.
Unfortunately for Mark Helfrich and Marcus Mariota, the conversation centering on Haden is so loud that the Oregon Ducks' performance in the fourth quarter against Michigan State is almost being overlooked.
The Spartans were leading deep into the third quarter in Eugene before Mariota turned in what might have been the most brilliant performance of his career. He consistently escaped pressure and executed to near perfection leading Oregon to 28 unanswered points to cap the big win. In what might have been a playoff elimination game, Oregon did what Oregon normally does to teams who appear to be competitive in the third quarter. It rolled to a relatively easy fourth quarter win.
For all of the depression running rampant through Big Ten territory and the large withdrawal from Haden’s bank account there is good news for fans in East Lansing, Ann Arbor, Palo Alto or Columbus.
At least they’re not Texas Longhorns fans.
Taysom Hill should be in Heisman conversations and is one of the most entertaining players in the nation. BYU is extremely well coached and could run the table unbeaten, forcing the Committee to look outside of the Big 5 for its four-team bracket.
But losing at home by 34 points is completely unacceptable at Texas. Charlie Strong’s rebuilding project looks like it will be much more difficult and slower moving than originally anticipated and he appears to be cleaning house with a morale compass pointed in the right direction. But this team looked worse against the Cougars at home on Saturday than it did in the record-breaking loss in Provo last fall.
Clearly, Strong has a lot of work to do and things don’t get any easier with UCLA coming to the Lone Star State this weekend.
Listen to the Week 2 recap podcast:
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
The Ducks' cornerback made a signature All-American play to help seal the deal for Oregon this weekend. When asked about the atmosphere in Autzen Stadium, Ekpre-Olomu put the win over Michigan State in "the top three" of his career.
Michael Brewer, QB, Virginia Tech
The Tech quarterback led an impressive road win over Ohio State in Columbus. Brewer credited the great fans from Blacksburg for showing up and staying loud the entire game.
Cody Riggs, DB, Notre Dame
Riggs was only playing in his second game for the Irish, but he knew all about how big the rivalry was between Notre Dame and Michigan.
Andre Heidari, K, USC
After kicking his second game-winner against Stanford, the humble Heidari gave all of the credit to his offense, defense and fellow special teamers for the big win against Stanford.