The Big Ten is coming off its best week of non-conference play in six years, with wins in 12 of 13 games.
It followed the league’s worst showing in non-conference play in 22 years, one in which Big Ten teams lost six of nine games.
The stunning turnaround didn’t result in any chest thumping among the coaches on Tuesday.
“You’ve got to come every week, and some weeks are going to be better than others,” Nebraska’s Bo Pelini said. “I think there is a lot of parity and good football teams out there, and it’s hard to bring it week to week. I think all the stuff of people making judgments on anybody — on any team, any conference — after two or three weeks is ludicrous. I mean, that’s why you play a full season.”
Nebraska’s win against Miami and Indiana’s upset of nationally ranked Missouri on the road highlighted a week in which the Big Ten went 4-1 against opponents from fellow power conferences. Michigan had the week’s only loss, to Utah.
The last time the Big Ten had a winning percentage of .923 (12-1) or better during a week in which it played more than two non-conference games was Sept. 26, 2008, when the league went 11-0, according to STATS. When the Big Ten went 3-6 two weeks ago, it matched the worst non-conference showing since the league had the same record Sept. 19, 1992.
This year’s non-conference record of 35-14 (.714) is fourth-best among the power five, behind the Southeastern Conference’s 31-3 (.912), Pac-12’s 29-4 (.879) and Atlantic Coast Conference’s 32-10 (.762) and ahead of the Big 12’s 19-8 (.704).
The Big Ten is 5-9 against opponents from the power five. Only the Pac-12 (6-2) and SEC (5-2) have winning records against their peers.
— Bo Pelini, Nebraska
“I think a lot of this stuff just gets overplayed. That’s just me,” said Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, whose team won at Pittsburgh. “Football is week to week, and we’ve got a lot of good football teams in our conference and I think teams have represented the conference very well and I’m sure they will continue to. I’m happy when anybody in the league wins.”
The Big Ten came up short earlier in its premier non-conference games, with Michigan State losing at Oregon and Wisconsin losing to LSU.
The conference was 17-47 against Top 25 opponents since 2007 before Indiana toppled then-No. 18 Missouri 31-27. It was the long-struggling Hoosiers’ first win against a ranked team since 2006, their first on the road since 1987 and a week after a three-point loss to Bowling Green.
“We’re still us,” said Indiana coach Kevin Wilson, whose team has won two of its first three. “We didn’t play that great Saturday, but we played a lot harder and we battled for four quarters and we sucked it up, gutted it up, and made a play and we got on the right side.
“We’re close to having a couple losses, we’re close to maybe having another win. There’s a very fine line between winning and losing. We’ll see if we have the courage and leadership and pride and see if we can back that effort up again.”
Big Ten play starts in earnest this week with Northwestern at Penn State, Iowa at Purdue, Maryland at Indiana, Minnesota at Michigan and Illinois at Nebraska.
The four other Big Ten teams face non-conference opponents, with Wyoming at Michigan State, Cincinnati at Ohio State, Tulane at Rutgers and South Florida at Wisconsin.
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