Face it, the Big 10 is struggling in 2012! There is no other way to accurately describe the state of the union of the current Big 10. The conference currently has 4 ranked teams, none higher than #16 Ohio State, with 3 others tabbed at 18, 21 and 25. These rankings are following non-conference...wait until they start beating each other, will more than 2 be ranked?
The big question is whether this is a bad season, or something bigger all together. Is this the culmination of the recruiting shift down south, or just one of those years? I'm afraid it's more. Ohio State is the standard for the conference on the gridiron. No program has carried the conference flag better, or into more improtant arenas over the past 20 years than the Scarlet and Grey. But outside of what we expect Michigan to be, what is the Big 10 now?
Half the conference, on the football field, is useless...face it! Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, and currently Penn State are, at best .500 or worse annually. Iowa has leveled off, nearly 30 years removed from a #1 vs #2 showdown with the Wolverines in Iowa City. They end up in an average bowl every year. Michigan State wins games, but goes to Outback Bowls, never a real National threat. The second school in their state.
Don't get me started with the fraud that is Wisconsin football. They win games, and have won a few big ones over the years...see #1 OSU in 2010, but they will never win a National title. Over the past 5 seasons, the Badgers are 7-8 vs ranked teams, including a win over Fresno State and a win over an average Michigan State team in 2008. Over that same stretch, 1-4 in bowl games.
It's Ohio State and the rest right now, with Michigan on the come, and Wisconsin on the slip. A continued upgrade in coaching and a strong recruiting push will help, but this may be what the Big 10 is now, and average conference.