Clemson football was a wild ride in 2021. Without Trevor Lawrence, it would have been a disaster. One would have thought Spencer Rattler would be so inconsistent. Who would have thought that USC would fall the way it did? That last one was probably rightly predicted by many.
There has been some normalcy in the college football landscape this season, with Alabama and Georgia dominating all they meet, and Cincinnati being undervalued due to not playing in a Power 5 conference. However, there have been some positive changes in pace. The Big Ten has seen a significant improvement in its ability to compete with other elite football conferences after years of being dependent on Ohio State and Penn State. The Big Ten is the most complete conference from top to bottom, according to the evidence so far in the 2021 season.
Think about it for a moment. Wisconsin, a team with enough talent to rank 15th in the country prior to the start this season, is probably the worst Big Ten team. They fell six points to the number four team, and have the worst overall record of any conference. This is a decent record for a conference to have as a basement dweller. There are four undefeated Big Ten teams and Ohio State, currently ranked No. 7. The SEC is down to three teams, even though they are the most powerful. Their best overall record (overall) is not in Alabama, Georgia or Kentucky, but Auburn (No. 18) and Arkansas (No. 13), who was just egged by Georgia last Wednesday.
The ACC has been surpassed by the Big Ten as the second-best college football conference. The conference was essentially doomed to be without Trevor Lawrence and Lamar Jackson, who left the conference a few years ago. The conference is now largely forgotten, with Wake Forest, which has yet to lose to another ranked team, in the forefront. They didn't just beat them, but they also leapfrogged over them while kicking them in the face.
But I'd like to say more: The Big Ten is the best college football conference this year.
The SEC is the most prestigious conference, but the Big Ten is the biggest threat. Even Northwestern was able to fight off Duke and Michigan State. Even more amazing is the fact that even though Ohio State has had a slow start to the season or been inconsistent, they have still had some great wins. The Buckeyes are currently crushing the Maryland Terrapins (4-1), and yes, I know that the Terps were beaten by Iowa last week. But, that's another Big Ten team so the point remains.
Week 6 will be all about the matchup between Penn St. (Iowa) and Iowa, which is the nation's No. The 4 and 3 ranked teams, respectively. Personaly, I think Iowa has shown a far better showing than Penn St. so the Hawkeyes should win. It is important that both teams show they can compete against high-level competition. Penn St. didn't have a great 2020 season. It makes sense that they entered 2021 ranked 19th. This is their lowest preseason ranking since 2016. But just because they beat Auburn does not mean that they are serious contenders for a playoff spot. Auburn has been inconsistent at best. This is the Nittany Lions' best win of 2021. Everyone is still waiting for them back to Earth. They don't need to win the Hawkeyes; they just have to prove that they can compete.
The Hawkeyes in Iowa aren't used to the expectations they face now. Iowa has never been ranked higher than No. 3 (2002 and 2015). The Hawkeyes didn't come into those seasons with high expectations. They started out unranked but managed to climb their way up. We all knew that the Hawkeyes were good in 2021 but didn't know how high they could fly. They've dominated all of their opponents this year, even Iowa State, which came in fifth place. Although it was only a 10-point match, that score doesn't reflect how solid Iowa was in that contest.
The Big Ten only hopes for a solid match. The game is still close, and both teams put on a great offensive display, demonstrating their ability to push the ball downfield in opposition to elite competition. Worst case scenario is that both teams appear weak in a low scoring affair and show that the Big Ten cannot compete with Alabama and Georgia. Any team facing the SEC will have my support. Although the odds are against the Big Ten, there's no better time than now to claim the title of best college football conference.