I got my Big Ten spring football prospectus the other day. Always exciting to know what’s up and who’s down, although this prospectus, just like financial offerings, accentuates the positive.
You know how they say, “Past performance may not be an indicator of future results?’’
When it comes to investing, I believe that. . . In college football, though, “past performance’’ is a pretty good way to go.
In other words, you could do worse than picking Ohio State and Wisconsin to meet again in the Big Ten championship game. Both made good cases for inclusion in the Waffle House Invitational before failing to measure up.
The weird part about the Buckeyes-Badgers thing? Even though Ohio State defeated Wisconsin 27-21 in a game that was more Buckeye-oriented than the score would indicate, I think the Badgers are a better investment to return to the championship game.
This is where you have to read your prospectus closely.
I am not saying Wisconsin will be better than Ohio State. I am saying that not all Big Ten divisions are created equally.
If, for example, they were fast-food chains, the Badgers would be more attractive. They dominate their market. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, have several competitors capable of churning out better burgers.
TWO LEAGUES IN ONE
Basically, in the modern world of college football, the Big Ten is two leagues in one. That’s pretty much true of all the mega-leagues. Anything more than 12 is one league in name only. And 12 is pushing the envelope.
The prospectus hints at that by saying, “As a result of the nine-game conference schedule and the Big Ten’s schedule rotation, every player will have the opportunity to play against every other team in the conference at least once during a four-year period.’’
Playing a league opponent once in four years is a good thing?
What the prospectus doesn’t say is that Ohio State will have Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State in its face every year, while Wisconsin contends with usual suspects Iowa, Northwestern and Nebraska.
No disrespect to the Hawkeyes, Wildcats and Cornhuskers. Kirk Ferentz generally finds a way; it’s just a tough deal finding skill. Pat Fitzgerald has done a fabulous job of keeping the private-school Cats in the hunt, even if NU’s celebrated media alums don’t always seem to appreciate that.
The wild card is Nebraska, still trying to regain its perennial-power bearings. Everyone seems to think new coach Scott Frost, who worked wonders at Central Florida, will be the answer. I like the hire a lot, but want to see the Cornhuskers prove they can regain the spotlight. Bringing in Frost was a no-brainer, but is hardly a sure thing in a Tom Osborne kind of way.
Until they prove otherwise, these guys are no Wolverines, Nittany Lions and Spartans.
HAPPY RETURNS FOR SPARTANS, WOLVERINES?
Even more to the point, savvy investors will note, the “returning starters’’ section seems ominous for Ohio State.
Michigan claims nine returnees on offense and 10 on defense. Michigan State lists 10 offensive returnees and nine defenders back.
That’s a lot, although there is some fuzzy math. Michigan lists four offensive starters lost. And the Big Ten chalks this up to an asterisk: *some players split time as starters.
Ohio State is not immune to creative accounting. Among its 15 returnees (8 on offense, 4 on defense), it lists three Kickers/Punters. Even if one of them is a Chaser, this isn’t Quidditch.
WHY TCU, BYU AND NOTRE DAME MATTER
Buried in the small type, but not to be missed by shrewd investors, are the nonconference opponents. They are essential to any resume submitted for the approval of the Waffle House Invitational committee.
In that regard, Ohio State and Michigan might rate the edge. The Buckeyes will play TCU in Arlington, Tex., along with Oregon State and Tulane. Michigan will open at Notre Dame and face Western Michigan and SMU.
Wisconsin, if it’s in the hunt, will catch heat again for three home games (Western Kentucky, New Mexico, BYU) unless BYU finds its bearings, and maybe not even then.
Michigan State (Utah State, at Arizona State and Central Michigan) and Penn State (Appalachian State, at Pitt, Kent State) are neither terrible nor sexy.
Compare with SEC stalwarts Alabama (Louisville, Arkansas State, Louisiana Ragin Cajuns and the Citadel.) And Georgia (Georgia Tech, Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee, and UMass).
Unlike some experts outside the Waffle House Belt, I do not have a problem with SEC nonconference scheduling. Many of them play an annual instate rivalry game. And the Crimson Tide always seems to have a marquee early-season game.
IS EIGHT ENOUGH?
It will be interesting to see if the SEC follows the Big Ten and Pac-12 and goes to nine league games. Nine is an awkward number. But it’s always good to have extra “inventory,’’ to use commissioner Delany’s word, for the Big Ten Network and the league’s myriad other television partners.
On the other hand, the SEC loves its full houses. And I’m guessing the Tide and the Dawgs draw well even when the opponent is the Citadel or UMass. Fannies in the seats or Nielsen ratings? It’s good to have choices.