The Big Ten this season? Just short of terrible, not even close to serving up a national title contender or anyone actually worthy of a BCS Bowl, except for Ohio State. Problem? The Buckeyes aren’t eligible to win or contend for anything this season.
But so far, they’re clearly a head above everyone else in the conference. Urban Meyer hasn’t got the team he wants yet, but they’re 6-0, with a very impressive running game, ranked 10th in the nation. Meyer is simply letting Braxton Miller carry him in a season where the games don’t actually matter, but he wants to have the guys he has coming back and those coming in believe that this is a special team.
And the Buckeyes, eligible or not, are still one of the most followed program in the United States. Their game against Nebraska, which was much smaller in terms of implications when compared with two other big games on Saturday like West Virginia at Texas and Georgia at South Carolina, still got more viewers during the same time slot. More than 5 million tuned in to watch The Buckeyes win 61-38, while 4.6 million watched the Big 12 game and 4 million watches the SEC game.
The most interesting thing about Ohio State’s influence this season isn’t just on the Big Ten, but on the national rankings. They’re currently 8th in the polls. The only other team from the Big Ten is Michigan, 3-2 Michigan, who meet Ohio State in Columbus on the final game of the regular season on November 24.
Looking at the Buckeyes schedule, the only two possible losses might occur at Penn State, who have a pretty good defense and an underrated quarterback and maybe, maybe, Wisconsin in Madison, although at the moment that doesn’t look very likely. After getting by Michigan State in a defensive showdown and putting the points on Nebraska, it’s hard to see anyone but the Wolverines with the atmosphere of a big rivalry game getting in their way. A 12-0 season isn’t impossible to think given the current state of the conference.
And here come’s their biggest possible influence on the nation. Small chance that any team from the Big Ten will be in the top 16 by the end of the season, which means there’s a very good chance that Boise State will enjoy that absence and find their way in a BCS bowl. They’re unlikely to lose the rest of their games, and a Top 16 place guarantees a BCS bowl spot, especially if there’s no one from the Big Ten to claim theirs.
And how good has Braxton Miller been so far? His passing? Not that a lot of people care, but he’s 40th in the nation in passer rating but his running has been at top notch level, with 763 yards so far (7th in the nation, second among quarterbacks). His average of 7.2 yards per play is third among players with at least 100 carries. Get ready to see him on the Heisman lists once his junior year begins.