- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Big Ten didn't wait until New Year's Day to endure its national flogging. The league assumed the position in Week 2.
If Jan. 1, 2011, was the worst on-field date in league history -- Big Ten teams went 0-5 in bowls, including a Wisconsin loss to TCU in the Rose Bowl -- Saturday came pretty close to the worst regular-season date on record.
It began with Penn State missing field goals in Virginia and ended with a short-handed Illinois team getting toasted in the desert. In between, the reigning Big Ten champion, Wisconsin, came less than two minutes away from being shut out by a seemingly benign Oregon State squad. A Bo Pelini-coached Nebraska squad couldn't stop UCLA, while Iowa couldn't score a touchdown on its home field against Iowa State.
After an unimpressive but not completely disastrous Week 1 performance -- the Big Ten went 10-2 and split its showcase games against Alabama and Boise State -- it wasn't front and center on the national radar entering Saturday. But an unusual slate of contests -- seven true road games, including three in Pac-12 territory, where the league has struggled mightily the past two decades -- created the potential for extremes. As has been the case all too often in recent seasons, the Big Ten ended up with an extreme embarrassment, going 6-6.
The league went 1-6 against teams from major conferences plus Notre Dame, as Northwestern's come-from-behind win against SEC member Vanderbilt marked the lone bright spot. The next most "impressive" wins came against the likes of UCF (Ohio State) and Air Force (Michigan).