Special thanks to Gopher Nation for taking one for the team and coming up with the questions.
*1.* ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg recently ranked the top 5 rivalries in the Big Ten and there were some controversial results (Illinois v Ohio State as #3?). Clearly Ohio State vs. Michigan is the #1 rivalry in the Big Ten, but give me your next three. Your school does not have to be included in this list, but regardless of who you choose defend your picks.
Michigan-Michigan State: Far and away the second most bitter rivalry in the Big Ten. It was only further enhanced with Michigan’s 4th quarter comeback victory in East Lansing last year followed by Mike Hart’s “Little Brother” speech and Mark Dantonio’s “Pride Comes Before The Fall” rebuttal.
You know Mark D has to be licking his chops at what will likely be his best opportunity to beat the Wolverines in Ann Arbor – a feat which hasn’t been accomplished since the year Yours Truly was born (1984).
Penn State-Ohio State: While I wouldn’t call it a “rivalry per se” this is probably the closest thing we have to one in the Big Ten, NOT Michigan State (I’ll explain why later in this post). Despite OSU’s 10-5 series advantage since we joined the Big Ten, these games are usually competitive; particularly at Penn State.
Aside from PSU’s 63-14 blowout in 1994 and OSU’s 37-17 shellacking last year, Beaver Stadium has provided some quality showdowns in this series that weren’t decided until the final minutes (See: 1995, 1997, 2001). The series’ luster was also further enhanced when JoePa broke Bear Bryant’s all-time wins record in the famous 2001 showdown where Zack Mills emerged out of nowhere and led PSU from 18 points down in the 2nd half to win the game.
Minnesota-Wisconsin: The only rivalry outside of Michigan-Ohio St. and Michigan-MSU that I consider legit because:
A. The teams have been playing each other practically every year since 1890
B. Their trophy is Paul Bunyan’s Axe…That’s right, a fucking axe. How badass is that? Certainly, a lot more badass than a Land Grant Trophy.
I have to admit, it’s a guilty pleasure of mine to watch Minny-Wisconsin highlights because they always show the members of the winning team taking turns unleashing their inner George Washington by pretending to chop down the goalposts with the axe.
*2.* Obviously winning every game is important and beating really good teams sends a stronger message than beating Minnesota. Assume every team is .500 this year and the outcome of your next two games means nothing outside of pride and a year’s worth of bragging rights. Give me the two schools you would want to beat (in order) and why. What makes beating School’s A and B significant?
Michigan – Explaining this choice would be like explaining why you would want to bang your celebrity crush; the reasons are pretty damned obvious…
Ohio State – We’re 2-5 against them since Jim Tressel took over near the beginning of this decade, we suffered our first ever blowout loss (i.e. by more than a TD) at home to them last year and we’ve failed to reach double-digits in points in Columbus since joining the Big Ten. Needless to say, our fan base is getting pretty restless and is itching for a sign of hope that we can actually beat these guys more than once in a blue moon, let alone beat them in Columbus.
*3.* Take the two teams from above that you claim are your biggest rivals and give me a new mascot for them.
Michigan – “Gob” from Arrested Development.
Actually, this is more of a metaphor for Rich Rodriguez but screw it, I’m having too much fun with this one: He’s a founding member of the Magician’s Alliance, he insists his tricks be called “illusions” because “tricks are what whores do for money (and cocaine)”, he doesn’t ride around Schembechler Hall on a segway nor has he made his family’s $700,000 yacht disappear but just give it some time. He is also constantly vying for attention and respect from the masses.
Ohio State – The “Extreme Gang” in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle.
They drive a large van, bully the heck out of everyone who crosses their path, wreak havoc in 7-11′s, and provide the image to everyone that you better not get in their way or they’ll fuck you up (according to the rest of the Big Ten)..That is, until they foolishly allow Harold and Kumar to steal the keys to their van and it’s later discovered they’re actually a bunch of softies who listen to Wilson Phillips mix tapes (i.e. being exposed by SEC teams in the previous two BCS title games).
*4*. There are some new rules in college football this year. My favorite is the Big Ten experimental rule which states that after every win this year you get to pluck one player off their roster and bring them back to your
campus. Looking at your schedule give me two players you would pluck (assuming a win), why you would take them and what would you do with them?
Arrelious Benn, WR Illinois. Would be an excellent “fill-in-the-gap” measure for what will be an extremely depleted and unproven receiving corps for us in 2009. Plus, he’s only a sophomore so there’s no chance of him bolting to the NFL without ever playing a down for us.
Eric Decker, WR Minnesota. The fact that my second choice is also a receiver indicates just how desperately in need we are for proven receivers in 2009.
Whoa, talk about a brain fart: We don’t play Minnesota this year. So, replace Eric Decker with Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis
*5*. Brian at MGOBlog was kind enough to post a diary entry which gives us and new coach Rich Rodriguez a list of Michigan traditions that maybe we were not all aware of. This has inspired two final questions…
5A – Are there any Michigan traditions that he missed? (here is your chance for some Michigan cheap shots)
Yeah, spouting themselves off as a classy, holier than thou program.
5B – Are there any traditions of your school’s rival that we should all be
Rival? What rival? Michigan is not a rival; it only seems that way because we’re sick of losing to them all the time but Wolverine fans see us as just another opponent.
Ohio State has provided us with plenty of memorable contests, and is the closest thing we have in the Big Ten to a “rival” but we’d be kidding ourselves if we thought we were on the same pedestal as Michigan in their eyes.
As for Michigan State, give me a fucking break…This was an artificially created “rivalry” from day one, a “con job” if you will. The fact that the two schools are “land grant institutions” (replete with an abomination of a trophy that weighs at least 10 tons and looks like somebody took a huge chunk of their wooden drawer and adorned it with plaques, images, and some recreational sports trophies) is the only thing these two schools have in common. There’s no geographic bitterness like you have in Michigan-OSU or Michigan-MSU whatsoever.
A small part of me would actually like to see the series with Pitt renewed so we can at least have a true rival to look forward to playing on a yearly basis but we all know that there won’t even be further talks about this until JoePa is gone. So, in the meantime, this answer will remain incomplete.