With Maryland now on board and Rutgers reportedly set to follow on Tuesday, the Big Ten Conference is getting bigger, but not necessarily better.
The obvious answer for why Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany went after those two East Coast schools is the potential money generated by the lucrative television markets from which they exist, and because Notre Dame keeps turning him down.
But on the other hand, it’s hard to see New Yorkers really caring much about the State University of New Jersey (Rutgers) now being a member of the Big Ten. The same goes for the people living in Washington D.C. and Baltimore with regard to Maryland’s new conference affliation.
Rutgers wasn’t much in football until recently and has been mediocre in men’s basketball for almost too long to remember. Former Iowa women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer has enjoyed tremendous success in the same job at Rutgers, but the Big Ten would benefit more if Rutgers excelled in men’s basketball.
As for Maryland, it excels in both men’s and women’s basketball, but the football program is dreadful as evidenced by its 1-35-1 record against Penn State. The Terrapins have the same 4-7 overall record that Iowa has this season and the same conference record at 2-5.
A matchup between Iowa and Maryland in football probably would be competitive this season, but also irrelevant and boring.
Iowa and Maryland have no rivalry in women’s basketball, but that could change with Cedar Rapids native Brenda Frese coaching the Terrapins. Frese has turned Maryland into an elite program and is considered a master at recruiting.
It still makes no sense that Missouri is a member of the Southeastern Conference while Maryland and Rutgers are now in the Big Ten. It’ll also take some getting used to not having Maryland in the Atlantic Coast Conference, of which it was a charter member. That’ll be especially true in men’s basketball because so much of Maryland’s sports tradition is centered around that sport and competing in the ACC.
Money has made geography an afterthought with regard to conference expansion and realignment and that’s a shame.
HEISMAN HYPE: USC receiver receiver Marqise Lee has little chance of winning the Heisman Trophy this season and he can blame his team for that.
The Trojans with a 7-4 record are arguably the biggest disappointment in college football this season, but to no fault of Lee. The speedy sophomore has 107 receptions for 1,605 yards and 14 touchdowns. To put that in perspective, all of Iowa’s wide receivers have combined for 1,359 receiving yards and just four touchdowns in the same amount of games.
Lee also averages nearly 30 yards per kick return and recently has started playing on defense, where the Trojans have struggled this season. His performance is definitely worthy of Heisman consideration and Lee might just be the best all-around player in college football.
BIG TEN UNDERACHIEVERS: Speaking of disappointing football teams, Michigan State, Iowa and Illinois should rank first, second and third, respectively, in the Big Ten in that category. Michigan State (5-6) still has a chance to qualify for a bowl game, unlike Iowa and Illinois, but the Spartans were picked by many to compete for the Legends Division title.
Not much was expected from Illinois this season under first-year coach Tim Beckman, but it still won a bowl game last season, defeating a pretty talented UCLA team 20-14 in the Fight Hunger Bowl. So there is no excuse for being 0-7 in the Big Ten, especially considering how much UCLA at 9-2 has improved this season. Ron Zook left much to be desired as the Illinois coach, especially from a strategical standpoint, but his teams never looked as bad as Illinois does now under Beckman.
Iowa, meanwhile, is playing at a level not seen since before Kirk Ferentz rebuilt the program the first time more than a decade ago.
BIG TEN HONORS: My picks for Big Ten individual football honors. You should notice a pattern.
Offensive Player of the Year: Braxton Miller, quarterback, soph., Ohio State: All he does is win games and make plays the few other quarterbacks can make. Miller might be the best running back in the Big Ten even though he plays quarterback.
Runner-up: Kain Colter, quarterback/receiver, jr., Northwestern.
Defensive Player of the Year: Ryan Shazier, linebacker, soph., Ohio State: He ranks near the top of the conference in tackles per game and tackles for loss.
Runner-up: Mike Taylor, linebacker, sr., Wisconsin.
Coach of the Year: Urban Meyer, Ohio State: The Buckeyes are 11-0 in Meyer’s first season as head coach after struggling to a 6-7 record last season. Enough said.
Runner-up: Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football