With 6 Power Five opponents on the schedule, the B1G has a huge opportunity ahead in Week 2
This week comes every year for the B1G. There’s always one Saturday loaded with quality opponents, providing the conference a golden opportunity to prove its worth in the national spotlight.
On Saturday, the B1G will play six teams from the five power conferences; three from the ACC, two from the Pac-12 and one from the Big XII. The remaining schedule features five Group of Five opponents, one FCS foe and one conference game: Rutgers vs. No. 4 Ohio State.
If the B1G wants to make a statement and show the rest of the nation that it belongs in the conversation as the best conference in the country, this weekend presents the perfect opportunity.
Week 1 ended well for the league as a whole, finishing with a 10-1 mark against non-conference foes in the first weekend of the year. But the B1G didn’t receive much respect for batting .909 over that three-day stretch.
Only two of those wins came against Power Five opponents — Ohio State over Oregon State and Maryland over No. 23 Texas. Michigan State and Penn State needed scores late in the game to survive scares from Utah State and Appalachian State respectively. And in the conference’s most-anticipated matchup of the day — No. 14 Michigan vs. No. 12 Notre Dame — the Wolverines came up short, handing the B1G it’s only non-conference blemish of the weekend.
But the story changes in Week 2.
None of the other major leagues have as many Power Five matchups as the B1G. None of them have fewer FCS opponents on the schedule, either. A quick look at this chart makes it easy to realize that, by far, the B1G has the most challenging Week 2 slate out of any of the five major conferences.
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These are exactly the kind of weekends the B1G and commissioner Jim Delany wanted when he made a strong push to eliminate FCS opponents and add more quality competition to the schedule. Saturdays like Sept. 8 gives the conference an incredibly large platform to show its the best in the country.
Eyes will gravitate toward the three rivalry games taking place this weekend; Iowa State vs. Iowa, Colorado vs. Nebraska and No. 13 Penn State vs. Pitt. And No. 15 Michigan State gets a taste of #Pac12AfterDark, traveling to Arizona State for a late-night showdown with the Sun Devils.
The remaining Power Five matchups are a pair of B1G-ACC clashes, with Indiana hosting Virginia and Northwestern battling Duke.
The only downside to the B1G’s loaded Week 2 slate? No top 25 matchups.
Posting some early-season wins over a few ranked opponents would’ve been a nice boost for the conference, especially in the eye of public perception. Unfortunately, it won’t get that chance for another week.
Still, it’s an important weekend for the B1G.
It’s a chance for Michigan State and Penn State to prove they’re still contenders in the B1G East and that those close calls in Week 1 were caused by first-game jitters and early-season errors. Northwestern could record its second win over a Power Five program this year, having beaten Purdue 31-27 in Week 1.
Wins for Iowa, Nebraska and Indiana would prove that the conference has more depth than just the five blueblood programs that have been in the spotlight for the past two seasons.
Essentially, the B1G’s record in Week 2 will determine how the league is perceived and discussed over the next month. Get to 10 wins and register four victories in those Power Five matchups, and the B1G is viewed as arguably the best conference in football. Anything less than those two totals and the league’s ability to compete with other major programs will be called into question relentlessly.
That’s just the way it goes.
So yeah, this is an important Saturday for the B1G, but it’s the type of opportunity the league was hoping to create with its new scheduling approach. High risk, high reward.
The B1G is going to steal the college football spotlight for the next few weeks. This weekend will determine whether that’s a positive or negative thing for the league.