Skip to Main

Edson: Buckle Up for a Wild Big Ten Race

Buckle your seat belt.

We are about to launch into the most interesting Big Ten football season in years. Maybe in decades.

Any one of three teams – Michigan, Michigan State or Ohio State – could win the conference championship.

And not since the days of Bo Schembechler (Michigan) and Woody Hayes (Ohio State) have high profile coaches dominated this league.

For all the talk about the high profile ways of Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer, there is the low-key but also successful way of Mark Dantonio. It should make for fascinating college football Saturdays.

The Big Ten Conference opens play this week. Let the free-for-all begin.

Ohio State and Michigan rolled to big wins on Saturday, with the Buckeyes ripping a solid Oklahoma team. The Wolverines had to overcome a first-half deficit to beat Colorado. But once they got rolling, there was no stopping them.

The team that had the most to prove over the weekend was Michigan State. The Spartans were underdogs heading into their game at Notre Dame. But they were impressive in rolling out to a big lead midway through the third quarter, then holding on for the win.

So what do we make of this Big Ten race?

Many times it comes down to who has the most favorable schedule. In this case, that belongs to Michigan State, which has both the Wolverines and Buckeyes at home.

But the revenge factor will be an extra motivator for both Michigan and Ohio State, who both lost to the Spartans at home a year ago.

Michigan State’s extra motivator comes from its 50th anniversary of finishing No. 1 in the polls after great seasons in both 1965 and 1966. And Traverse City’s Film Festival was the host this summer for the movie that marked that anniversary – Men of Sparta. It was directed by former Spartan All-American fullback Bob Apisa.

If you get a chance to see it, don’t miss it. It’s about much more than football. It’s about the civil rights movement and offers first-hand accounts from those Spartan players about what they went through before landing in East Lansing. In essence, they told stories about not being allowed to eat in restaurants in the south, but were welcomed as equals at Michigan State. Powerful stuff.

So there is a lot of history that goes into this year’s Big Ten football race. And with the strong head coaching personalities involved, there will also be controversy. You can count on that.

You can also count on at least one of the three teams ending up in the college football playoff.

If you like college football – and I contend there’s nothing more exciting than being on a college campus for game day – than you’re going to love this Big Ten football race.

You can be sure Bo, Duffy and Woody are watching this from above.

MAC ATTACK: Just to make sure we don’t overlook two other unbeaten state teams, Western Michigan and Central Michigan are both 3-0 and start Mid-American Conference play next week.

I can’t remember the last time we were three games into a season and Michigan, Michigan State, Western and Central were all unbeaten.

Better keep an eye on this Western Michigan team and its young coach, P.J. Fleck. He won’t be in Kalamazoo much longer. Some big school is going to swoop in and grab him very soon. It’s much deserved. He’s that good.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.