IOWA CITY — The Big Ten’s bruised football image is just a snapshot of the present, not part of an ongoing film strip running the entire season, league coaches said Tuesday.
The Big Ten finished 6-6 last weekend but schools were 1-6 against fellow BCS competition, including 0-3 against the Pac-12.
“I think slow start or whatever you may want to say, you can spin it however you want to,” said Michigan Coach Brady Hoke, whose school, Michigan, beat Air Force 31-25. “I can’t speak for everybody, but our conference at the end of the day will hold up to anybody.”
But there are obviously trends, and none of them are good. The league is 2-7 against fellow BCS conference schools. Only two of the losses were by more than one score, but Big Ten teams showed obvious flaws in those defeats.
“I think it’s early in the year and there’s a lot of football yet to be played and there’s a lot of football left,” Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini said. “I don’t think you can make snap judgments until the end of the year.”
Among the most surprisingly losses for the Big Ten occurred when two ranked teams stumbled at unranked Pac-12 opponents. Both Wisconsin and Nebraska, last week ranked 13th and 16th, respectively, fell out of the polls after inexplicable efforts in their losses.
Nebraska usually rates among the nation’s best in total defense but now rank 98th. But after giving up 653 yards last week in a 36-30 loss at UCLA, the Cornhuskers are giving up nearly 100 yards more defensively this year than last year. Perhaps most surprising, Nebraska has allowed 529 yards rushing, ranking 121st and only 16 yards from sinking to the absolute bottom. The Cornhuskers rank 100th in third-down conversions, allowing nearly 50 percent (16-of-34) to go for first downs.
Two-time defending league champion Wisconsin rushed for only 35 yards on 23 carries in a 10-7 loss at Oregon State. The Badgers battered Oregon State 35-0 last year but could not establish its traditional running game.
It was the first non-conference defeat for seventh-year Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema (25-1 in non conference). Bielema fired offensive line coach Mike Markuson in the aftermath and replaced him with graduate assistant Bart Miller.
“It was interesting to me, after one non‑conference loss, people think maybe I don’t know what I’m doing,” Bielema said. “So I find that very challenging, to say the least.
“But I think on the flip side of it, our kids know and understand if you don’t play the way that we prepare, we don’t play Wisconsin football for four quarters, you can lose to anybody.”
Iowa failed to score a touchdown at home for the first time in Coach Kirk Ferentz’s 14 years in a 9-6 loss to Iowa State. Penn State missed four field goals and an extra point in a 17-16 defeat at Virginia.
Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio, whose 2-0 team ranks No. 10, said the rest of the league will rally like his team did last year after losing 31-13 at Notre Dame early in the season.
“People will respond,” Dantonio said. “That’s the nature of football, the competitive nature of it. People are going to respond and reset their compass, re-evaluate and move forward.”
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