It was undoubtedly a crazy day of college football Saturday.
It's days like these that remind everyone how unpredictably entertaining college football is, but despite all the upheaval, the Big Ten didn't really benefit.
Though six Top 10 teams lost this week, No. 4 Ohio State was not one of them — though the Buckeyes received a challenge from visiting Iowa. And, unfortunately for Ohio State, the Buckeyes were jumped when No. 3 Clemson lost to No. 5 Florida State. The Seminoles even received a pair of first-place votes to the Buckeyes' none, though that's to be expected with a win over another Top 5 team.
But, further on down the latest AP poll, three Big Ten teams make an appearance — No. 22 Wisconsin, No. 24 Michigan and No. 25 Nebraska — though they didn't make the profound jumps that other teams did in this week's top-25 rankings.
And similar results appeared in the coaches poll. Ohio State actually dropped from No. 3 to No. 4, with the next highest ranked Big Ten team being No. 21 Nebraska, sitting where it did a week ago. Michigan moved up a spot from No. 24 to No. 23, and Wisconsin re-entered the top 25 at No. 24.
In the case of the Badgers, they are one of three teams in the AP top 25 with a pair of losses. However, the other two — LSU and Texas A&M — sit at Nos. 13 and 14 respectively. Meanwhile, Wisconsin, a team putting up some of the most impressive numbers on both offense and defense in the country, is clawing each week just to remain in the Top 25. The Badgers' two losses are of fine quality, with one a seven-point defeat and another a referee robbery at Arizona State. The Sun Devils are a fine team, but, in the eyes of voters, this really shouldn't even be considered a loss.
Michigan has one loss, which came in four overtimes. Nebraska's only loss came to the No. 12 team in the country.
The voters, however, are more concerned with wins, and they don't see any of these Big Ten teams — with the potential exception of Ohio State — as having big-time victories. Ohio State's strongest win now appears to be a home win over Wisconsin. The Badgers' top win came against a suddenly reeling Northwestern team. Michigan's signature victory came over a now-unranked Notre Dame team. Nebraska's best victory is against Illinois.
So, it's easy to see where those voters have a point.
It's becoming clear that voters are penalizing the Big Ten as a weaker conference, and it's nearly impossible to argue it belongs in the top three of conference rankings, with the SEC, Pac-12 and ACC staking those claims. The Big 12 is comparable but boasts two undefeated teams in Baylor and Texas Tech plus two more (Oklahoma and Oklahoma State) ranked ahead of the aforementioned Big Ten trio.
This perception, whether deserved or not, will have real consequences on the conference moving toward bowl season. Ohio State could find itself undefeated yet on the outside looking in when it comes to the national title game, and it's already being jumped by teams ranked below it with more impressive wins. Only wins over each other could vault the other three forward, and Michigan State — the team with a 6-1 record and the best defense in college football — has yet to even be discussed.