The Big Ten conference has been one of the most iconic collegiate conferences since it was established in 1896. Not only is the conference the oldest conference in college athletics, it also has been a staple to sports fans around the Midwest. With the additions of Maryland and Rutgers this year, along with Nebraska in 2011, the conference has aimed at taking its reach to new markets. Those new additions are proving to be awfully valuable as all three football teams are currently undefeated.
Nebraska was the twelfth team admitted to the Big Ten and it was clear when they were added that it would strengthen the Big Ten from a football perspective. With the SEC cutting into the spotlight that Big 10 football once had it seemed like a promising addition. The Cornhuskers have backed up those claims by providing a solid program that handily accumulated wins over Florida Atlantic and McNeese State. Head coach Bo Pelini is often criticized for his in-your-face coaching persona, but has been outstanding when it comes to winning.
Nebraska takes on a struggling Fresno State team tomorrow in California which would give Nebraska an attempt to go 3-0 for the first time since 2011. Expect the Cornhuskers to overpower the underachieving Bulldogs.
Maryland is in its inaugural season of Big Ten play and the Terrapins are showing that they are more than just a basketball school. Maryland’s football team also improved to 2-0 after defeating James Madison and Southern Florida. Randy Edsall and company have done a tremendous job this season getting this program on the right track. The team will play against a West Virginia team that enters the contest with one win and one loss. That loss however came at the hands of the Alabama Crimson-Tide, a game that viewers contend the Mountaineers could have won. Expect West Virginia to come out on top of the currently undefeated Terrapins. Also keep an eye out for the stylish patriotic uniforms Maryland will sport.
The last of the recent new additions to Big Ten play is the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The Knights have given the Big Ten some northeast exposure, providing the Big Ten Network a viewership in the New York area. They enter the weekend with wins so far over Washington State and Howard. Now they have to line upp against the always tough Penn State in their Big Ten debut as they try and move to 3-0 and make a statement to their new league counterparts.
Good news for Rutgers fans is the game will be played at home in New Brunswick. Great news since going to Happy Valley and overcoming that hostile environment in Beaver Stadium is a tall task for any football team. Although Rutgers is 2-0 it will be tough for them to get past the perennial powerhouse. Expect Penn State to pull this one out.
One thing is certain the Big 10 is beginning to lay a new foundation that branches out beyond the traditional mid-west region. These small steps today are what will make the Big 10 a compelling option for new institutions in the future. Not many people expected Maryland and Rutgers to have the success they’re having, and expectations will temper as the season progresses – two wins against notably inferior teams are not enough to impress yet. It will be interesting to see what happens this weekend but it seems like Nebraska is the most favorable of the three to remain undefeated.
*Section Photo credit to Eric Francis, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Getty Images