Big two dragging down Big Ten

September, 14, 2008
9/14/08
12:33
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Throughout Big Ten football history, the league's value directly correlated to strength of its two highest-profile members. As Ohio State and Michigan went, so did the Big Ten.

If today's performances by the Buckeyes and Wolverines are any indication, the Big Ten isn't very good at all.

It's important to note that the league's power balance could be shifting toward Penn State and Wisconsin. Few teams have looked as impressive as Penn State, despite poor competition.

But, like it or not, the national perception of the conference always will be shaped by the big two.

Most of America got its wish Saturday night at the Coliseum. Ohio State won't be playing for a third consecutive national championship, not after a 35-3 loss to USC.

Forget the arguments that the Buckeyes lost in September and faced USC without their best player, Chris "Beanie" Wells. USC dominated this game in every facet, and Wells wouldn't have made enough of a difference.

Ohio State needs a much better quarterback, more dynamic skill players and more playmaking defenders to truly be considered an elite team. You certainly feel bad for the seniors who bypassed millions in the NFL for another national title push. It ain't happening. The Buckeyes can still win an unprecedented third straight Big Ten title outright and go to the Rose Bowl -- for the first time since 1997 -- but they have to get a lot better.

On to Michigan.

Saturday's matchup at Notre Dame was a swing game for Rich Rodriguez's team. A 2-1 start with a bye before Big Ten play would have been impressive, given all the offseason transition. But the Wolverines didn't even give Notre Dame a chance to outplay them. They did it themselves.

Six turnovers is totally inexcusable for Michigan, regardless of the season. The Wolverines' sturdy defense had no chance with the offense giving the ball away. With Wisconsin and Illinois to start the Big Ten, it might get worse before it gets better for Rodriguez and the Wolverines.

The Big Ten will take a beating for today's performances. Ohio State and Michigan need to step it up for the league to truly gain national respect.

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