Jim Delany: Don't write off Big Ten

ByAdam Rittenberg ESPN logo
Monday, September 8, 2014

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany expressed disappointment in the league's results Saturday but doesn't think the door is closed for a Big Ten team to reach the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Michigan State, Michiganand Ohio Stateall lost high-profile games by double digits on Saturday night. Michigan went scoreless for the first time since 1984, an NCAA-record streak of 365 games. Ohio State dropped its first home opener since 1978. It marked the first time since Sept. 17, 1988, that all three schools lost on the same day.

The spotlight losses ended a day that also featured two Big Ten teams (Northwesternand Purdue) losing to Mid-American Conference opponents, and Nebraskaneeding a last-minute touchdown to beat FCSMcNeese State.

"Big games matter on big stages with big ratings and a lot of attention," Delany told ESPN.com on Sunday. "In the three primetime games, we didn't win any. That's disappointing. I would say this: I said they would be disproportionately impactful but I didn't say they would be dispositive. We're not feeling very good but the facts are the facts. I would just say with 50 percent of the nonconference games and 100 percent of conference games remaining, it's premature to make any judgments.

"It's September 7, not December 7. I would hate to think after two weeks we'd pick any teams for anything."

Delany acknowledged that the Big Ten national narrative, while negative at the moment, is still developing. He's confident that the league race will resonate for the playoff selection committee, which features one current Big Ten athletic director (Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez) and a former Big Ten athletic director (Nebraska's Tom Osborne).

"Why would they wait six weeks to put a poll out? Why would they meet every week? Why would they say, 'Let's disregard the polls?'" Delany said. "They don't have many data points to begin with, so they're going to look at all the data points. I have full confidence. I believe in the system."

Delany is aware of the "big picture," how the Big Ten hasn't won a national championship since 2002 and has struggled recently in high-profile nonleague games. The league is just 8-29 against ranked teams from Power Five conferences since 2010. The Big Ten is the only Power Five conference without a team in the top 10 of Sunday's AP poll.

"No doubt some games matter more than others," he said. "We still have more work to do. We just don't have those [wins] in our rsum. Others do. People can write what they want to write. It's America. But it's at a stage where the narrative is still developing.

"Anyone who writes the story of the 2014 football season after two weeks, that's premature."

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