The Big Ten Has a Horrible Weekend. Penn State Now a Contender in the Eastern Division?
The Big Ten Conference had a Saturday they would like to forget.
Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan were three of the teams in the conference that were being asked to carry the torch for the Big Ten in Week 2. But in the end, all three lost games that were said to be crucial for the conferences place in the high ranks of the FBS conferences.
The Spartans acclaimed defense could not hold the fast Duck defense for all four quarters, Notre Dame handed Michigan its first shutout since 1984, and the Buckeyes loss at the Horseshoe to Virginia Tech.
While everybody focused on those three schools, the rest of the conference had a below average day.
Nebraska had FCS school McNese State at home and narrowly escaped overtime and a possible defeat that would have been embarrassing for the program.
Iowa rallied to avoid a loss to the MAC's Ball State, and while the Hawkeyes avoided defeat, Northwestern and Purdue were beaten at home by MAC opponents (Northern Illinois and Central Michigan).
Meanwhile, falling into the "meh" category, Maryland, Rutgers, Minnesota and Illionis beat mediocre FBS opponents or FCS teams, and not in an impressive manner either.
Wisconsin and Penn State helped keep the Big Ten afloat as the Badgers beat Western Illinois 37-7 and Penn State defeated Akron 21-3 at Beaver Stadium in James Franklin's home debut.
Yes, the Big Ten went 8-5 in Week 2, but the matchups, margain of victory in those wins and the key losses for the Wolverines, Buckeyes and Spartans made it a bad week for the conference.
With all the negative press the Big Ten has received since Saturday, Monday brought some good news for one of the schools.
Penn State (2-0) saw their bowl ban lifted two years early and their scholarships being reinstated starting in 2015. That also means that there is a new favorite in the Eastern Division now that favorites Michigan State and Ohio State have early season losses.
The Penn State football program was able to stay afloat after the Jerry Sandusky scandal that emerged almost three years ago, that resulted in the late Joe Paterno's firing, and an athletic and administrative clean-out and a four year bowl ban and lost scholarships.
After two years under Bill O'Brien, who kept the program intact and later left for an NFL head coaching job with the Texans, the torch was passed to James Franklin, who has been successful at recruiting and was ready to weather the last two years of sanctions. That all changed Monday afternoon, and Penn State now has a chance to not only go to a bowl if they win six games, but to also win their division and play for a conference title.
It's open season in the Big Ten, especially in the Eastern Division. Penn State opens their conference schedule with new member Rutgers on the road Saturday. Let's see what happens.
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