The Big Ten Needs to Stick Together

The Spartans’ loss to the University of Oregon Ducks was a tough one to say the least. It got plenty of national attention, with many asking “Can a strong defense hold up against such a strong and innovative offense?”

After responding to an early deficit, and ending the half up 24-18, Spartan fans thought it was their time to show the nation what great defense can do. However, after the half, Michigan State could not respond to Oregon’s offense.

The loss was upsetting not only because of the 46-27 loss, but also because it was one of the most important non-conference games in MSU’s schedule. Michigan State does not get many non-conference games against teams as strong as Oregon. The last time MSU played a team as offensively good was arguably against University of Alabama in the 2010 Capital One Bowl. A win would have showed that MSU and the Big Ten could hold its own against heavyweight football teams across the nation. This is why the loss is not only a blow to the Spartan fan base, but all of the Big Ten.

MSU was not the only Big Ten team to suffer a loss in a non-conference matchup. Ohio State hosted Virginia Tech Saturday night, suffering a 21-35 35-21 loss. The University of Michigan visited Notre Dame and lost to lose 31-0. Last weekend, the University of Wisconsin lost against Louisiana State, 24-28. While all three teams may be Michigan State’s rivals and who they must beat in the end, they are still family.

Yes I said it, these teams are family. They are all part of the Big Ten and represent what this great conference can do. After the MSU game, people started talking and tweeting trash about OSU and UM, arguably to make the Spartans’ loss seem not as bad. Statements like, “Well at least Ohio State is losing too!” and “If it makes you feel any better UM is getting blown out by Notre Dame,” were common themes.  Frankly, that mentality did not make me feel better at all because if they lose, MSU loses in the end, too.

With the NCAA’s new playoff system, in the end there will be four teams chosen by a committee of 13 to compete in the playoff. Rather than being picked by a long complicated process, the four teams that compete in the playoff will be selected only by people. These are real, live people who are most importantly paying attention to the strength of schedule of each team.

There are no rules as to which conferences get into the playoff. Ideally, it would be four out of the five Big Five conferences all being represented, but it does not have to be that way. It could be a repeat of the National Championships of the past couple years with all the focus on the SEC and ACC. It could even be Pac-12 versus Pac-12.

If any Big Ten team makes it to the playoff we should be proud and root for them, but the Big Ten has to give the selection committee a reason to look their way. If any Big Ten team loses in a non-conference matchup conference the Big Ten is taken less seriously as the major football conference we fans know and want it to become. Even if MSU wins against Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State, those teams are still considered less difficult teams to beat after their recent non-conference losses and MSU’s schedule is considered easier.

Also remember, there is not a Rose Bowl this year for the top Big Ten team to go to. It is playoff or bust.

There is nothing fans can do about the Big Ten’s four devastating non-conference losses. One of the best parts about college football are the strong rivalries that go back years and years. However, as college football fans, and as students of the Big Ten, we  sometimes need to look past the rivalries. When fellow Big Ten teams are playing out of conference, remember that all of our success relies on each other.

Alexa McCarthy is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.

Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports