Big Ten football falling victim to ‘baseball effect’

Paul Cordes

Two weeks into the season, the sole owners of last place in the Big Ten are the 0-2 Michigan Wolverines.

Let me repeat that.

The sole owners of last place in the Big Ten are the 0-2 Michigan Wolverines.

The preseason No. 5 and conference favorite has stunned the football community and the Big Ten conference with an abysmal performance in week one against Appalachian State, and an Oregon slaughtering in Ann Arbor, Mich. last week at the Big House.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin played well enough against UNLV on Saturday to drop two spots in the AP Top 25 after a narrow 20-13 win at home.

And finally Ohio State’s offense put up a measly 20 points against Akron over the weekend and managed to fumble the ball five times. The Buckeyes offensive line also allowed Akron to score their only two points of the game on a first-quarter safety as Ohio State took a 3-2 lead into the locker room at halftime.

With all this in mind, the “powerhouses” of the Big Ten have either become or are in danger of becoming big question marks this season and in seasons to come.

So, what is wrong with the Big Ten?

Answer: Location is the biggest issue for the northern-based conference. Eight of rivals.com’s Top 10 recruiting teams for 2008 are schools located in southern states.

The tradition of schools like Michigan and Wisconsin has always played a big role in the recruiting process. But now teams like UCLA, USC and Alabama offer those same traditions and weather that rarely forces coats out of the closet.

Why would a recruit want to leave the sunny and hot state of Texas to come and freeze at places like Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan?

It’s essentially the baseball effect. The last time a Big Ten team made an appearance at the College World Series was in 1984 when Michigan made the trip to Omaha.

College baseball, now dominated by the USCs and Arizona States of the world, has no room for teams north of Nebraska to compete.

Granted, Big Ten football will probably never be to the extreme that baseball is; overall, it’s the same idea.

You’ll see Ohio State or Michigan pop their heads into the Top 10 or possibly be in contention for a title, especially as ridiculously competitive conference schedules will make it more and more difficult for teams in the Southeastern Conference and the Pacific-10 to run the table (i.e. Florida’s whooping of the undefeated Ohio State in the BCS Championship game last season).

But the days of Big Ten dominance have likely seen their end.

Teams in the SEC, Pac-10 and Big 12 will consistently have better teams than the Big Ten and there doesn’t look to be any immediate cure for this in the near future.

Twenty-three years since the last CWS berth, Big Ten baseball teams have accepted it, dealt with it and do what they can with what they’ve got. It seems Big Ten football teams will likely have no choice but to follow suit.

So thanks to a pitiful Wolverines’ squad and a group of average teams to fill up the middle of the conference standings, the once Big Ten Conference now rests as the Mediocre 11.

– Paul J. Cordes welcomes comments at [email protected]