Does the B1G have three of the top six teams in the nation? A simple question with a simple answer
Four of the last five weeks, Kirk Herbstreit was in B1G country to call the ABC headliner.
He saw Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin. With the exception of Nebraska-Ohio State, every game was a thriller. Herbstreit called some of the best games not only in the B1G, but nationally as well.
In other words, nobody has had a better view of the conference than Herbstreit. If he thought the B1G was overrated, he’d be the first to admit it. If he thought that the conference lacked a great team and just had a bunch of good teams, it’d be his job to say it.
But that wasn’t the case at all.
Instead, Herbstreit did something that seemed unthinkable three months ago. On the morning of Nov. 14, he had three B1G teams in his top six:
— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) November 14, 2016
Herbstreit listed three B1G squads before he listed one Big 12 or Pac-12 squad. There wasn’t a second SEC team, either. Having half of the top six this late would’ve been a surprise for even the biggest B1G optimist.
The question is one many are asking. Does the B1G really have three of the six best teams in the country? As Herbstreit suggested, absolutely.
The stereotypical knock on the B1G is that it dominates September. That’s a nice way of saying that the conference usually loads up on early-season cupcakes and can’t hang with SEC or Pac-12 teams come bowl season.
This September, the B1G did dominate. But while the Tulsas and Hawaiis were trounced, the conference proved its worth with its non-conference schedule. Instead of glorifying Michigan State for winning at Notre Dame — everybody does that these days — or Nebraska for getting past Oregon, look at how other non-conference victories held up or improved:
|OPPONENT’S ORIGINAL AP RANKING
|CURRENT AP RANKING
|Wisconsin 16, LSU 14
|Michigan 45, Colorado 28
|Ohio State 45, Oklahoma 24
And Penn State’s loss at Pitt isn’t looking so awful after the Panthers went into Clemson and won.
But for now, let’s keep the focus on the top three. Résumé-wise, they’re all worthy of being in the top six. Why?
Each one of them has a non-conference win vs. a team in the current top 16 — Washington doesn’t have one against a team that came anywhere close to receiving an AP vote — and they all have at least two wins against teams ranked in the current AP top 20. Michigan and Ohio State actually have three.
Compare that to other one-loss teams like Washington and West Virginia. The Huskies have one win vs. a team in the current AP top 20 and the Mountaineers have zero. Shoot, even Louisville only has one win against a top-20 team.
So yes, the résumé checks out for the B1G’s top three.
Alabama always passes everyone’s eye test because it physically dominates teams. Sustaining enough scoring drives against the Tide for 60 minutes is nearly impossible. That’s why anyone that sees them play feels like they’re so much better than everyone else.
Take a look at the scoring defense numbers in FBS. Here’s what you’ll see:
1. Michigan (11.0 PPG)
2. Alabama (12.2 PPG)
T3. Wisconsin (12.7 PPG)
T3. Ohio State (12.7 PPG)
Is that just because of some weak back-end B1G offenses? Well, Ohio State and Wisconsin both faced units that were ranked among the top-10 scoring offenses in the country. They held both of them to at least 16 points below their average.
That’s not by coincidence.
The B1G’s top three teams passed every test you could want to measure them by. Nobody is saying that they’re better than Alabama, but all three have put themselves in position to potentially earn a showdown against the Tide.
Herbstreit has seen every team he has in his top six. He isn’t just following trends from the AP poll or even the selection committee. There’s increased value with someone who sees all of these headliner games in person. Unlike the rest of the world, he isn’t watching the nation’s best from a couch.
The selection committee, while it tries to retain its independence of outside voices, can’t help but hear when someone as respected as Herbstreit voices his opinion.
He and 11 weeks of football have spoken. The B1G’s best are definitely some of the nation’s best.