Everything may be rosy now, but let's face facts, Husker fan: come October, the games are going to start. And as soon as those gates open, somebody is gonna rub somebody else the wrong way. A player's gonna make the wrong gesture, a coach will whine over a bad call, the wrong insult will fly across the bar or some student body's inappropriate chant will get picked up by the field mikes. Or one of 5000 others things that causes our college football-loving blood to boil over. And it will be ON.
Because let's admit it to ourselves, we aren't gearing up for this Big 10 thing so we can share manly handshakes and burnt brats with our new Big 10 brethren. It's not beating fanbases like that gives us the rush. I mean, I wasn't screaming like Ric Flair on meth in a living room drunk-men dogpile on Jan. 1, 1995 after NU took down Thug U in the Orange Bowl, because of my enduring respect for the University of Miami. No sir, I hated their guts and victory over a group you despise to the core is always sweeter than a hard-fought win over a well-respected nemeses.
There's no way to know for sure just which team will makes our fillings vibrate with rage, but there's no law against speculation, so let's ask the question:
Who in our new conference digs will truly piss us off?
I truly believe that scientifically is the only way to approach this venture. However, hard data on ranking hatred being completely unavailable, I will instead rely on personal opinion/bias, secondhand accounts, contrived statistics and other useless factors which I will use to form an RPF or Rage Potential Factor. Much can come into play:
Do the teams' antics make you long for an Al Qaeda kidnapping scheme? (Think Miami 80's-early 90's)
Does the appearance of the coach's face on TV make you want to give him the Colin Quinn "Dick On" treatment? (And no, I'm not explaining what that treatment is. All I'll say is that there's no hidden meaning)
Is the fanbase a collection of drunken, abusive chuckmonkeys or insufferably arrogant snots? (Notre Dame practically holds the patent on the latter.)
Any other intangibles deemed necessary. (an odd state or region, weird behavior from locals, I had a bad experience at local Stuckey's - this is a grab bag)
So here's my list from low to high, starting with those loveable little Gophers:
Minnesota - This state holds a bigger place in my heart than any of the other Big 10 states for a few reasons. I spend a few trips up there annually coaching hockey and the locals are usually fantastic. Furthermore, they even joined us in a Rogers, MN pizza joint in cheering on the Big Red against Tejas in the 2009 Big XII Championship. The team will not be a threat in the near future and we have the bond of each having recently shared the Cosgrove Experience, thus a chunk of each of our fanbases has battled involuntary binge drinking in the past for the same reasons. Unless they suddenly develop a Colorado-ish fascination with chucking urine at the visitors, this series should remain fairly collegial.
RPF: 3% - even their mascot is cute
Purdue - The lack of a threat level is basically due to a lack of any news of note involving Purdue beyond their local channels and fishwrap. The closest thing they have to "Rodriguez Fired" or "Tressel 'n' Pryor" was the transfer of Robert Marve, who personified mediocrity for the Hurricanes and promptly blew out his knee for the Boilermakers. They lost 6 in a row to finish 2010, showing a pulse in only two of the six. And, historically, let's not forget the glee that Drew Brees inspired with their upset of K-State in the 1998 Alamo Bowl.
RPF: 7% - if you feel compelled to hate Purdue, it's court-mandated Anger Managment time
Indiana - They've had one winning record since 2002. We're going to be hoping that Mike Ekeler is successful enough to escape the place before his career dies there. Hell, even the basketball team is trying to just above rock bottom. Boys, you got caught watching the paint dry. Or at least being dumb enough to allow Kelvin Sampson access to a phone.
So threat level is zero, but I'm bumping them up a notch for being Indiana. For one thing, I'm still a bit ticked at how those Bloomington frat boys treated the loveable Cutters in Breaking Away. And frankly, I've always gotten a weird vibe from the religiously maniacal types there. "Children of the Corn" may have been about Nebraska, but the odds of being dragged into the weeds by some wild-eyed ginger twit and his teenaged pals seem much higher there. And that would definitely piss me off.
RPF: 12% - yes it's a stretch but being sacrificed to He Who Walks Behind The Rows would suck
Illinois - They haven't been a national factor for a few years but they have quietly turned into an offense that puts points up. Lots of them, mostly thanks to QB's like Juice Williams and now Nate Scheelhaase, who is fun to watch but also leave fans twitching in corners with his decisions at times. It's like watching the Tasmanian Devil play QB after jetting up some crystal meth - anything is possible. Knowing nothing about Scheelhaase personally, all I can say is I wouldn't be shocked to see him moon the crowd in 2012 following a 63 yard TD scramble. He seems...unstable.
RPF: 24% - they could throw a big number on us potentially...always rage-inducing
Northwestern - I've got nothing much here. There's an old Gary Barnett stain on their shirt, but that's about it. We'll bump them up a bit because Fitzgerald has them competitive and a school with this kind of academic excellence is bound to have some arrogant pricks, right?
RPF: 29% - Any excuse to travel to Chicago is a good one, right?
Michigan St. - Decent relationship here, there's the Devaney connection and I heard nothing but good things about their fans from friends who made the trip up there in the past. But, they could likely be our biggest competition for the division title in year one and their visit to Lincoln on 10/29 could possibly decide who takes the trip to Indy. That can be a recipe for bad blood.
RPF: 35% - Do cows talk trash or just chew cud?
Wisconsin - The Barry Alvarez connections means a lot of us have always wished Wisconsin well, and I get the sense that the feelings been mutual. However, now that we're two of the bigger kids on the same block, we're probably going to have an argument or two. Starting with a Camp Randall night game as our introductory Big 10 battle. In the long run, I see this as resembling OU/NU - tense at times, but respectful overall. With the occasional flare-up.
(Also, my buddy Sengstock is a Wiscy grad with a penchant for genitalia humor. That's worth +5% right there.)
RPF: 47% - Cheese - Wisconsin's other white meat
Ohio St. - Have never experienced a game day in Columbus and I know very few OSU fans, but let's just say that secondhandhand reviews of their overall behavior have been...well, less than glowing. The Bo connection may form a bridge, but I get a bad vibe nonetheless. According Stats Inc., they average 57.2 visitor cars keyed and 123 visiting female fans heckled per game*. I'm sensing oil and water.
Also, it's not exactly news, but that whole THE Ohio State University thing? Pretty much the equivalent of the guy at the party who keeps trying to drop into the conversation that he uses Magnums.
RPF: 59% - "What are you lookin' at?" voted #1 Columbus greeting in 2007**
Penn St. - Hatred is simply historical. Losses in '81, '82 and '02 still rankle some Nebraskans even though all were avenged. Nittany fans reluctance to admit that McCluskey was OB doesn't help. Also, more than a few Husker fans regard Joe Paterno as a whiny octagenarian, find the Bernie Lomax jokes he inspires an insult to Bernie and are convinced that 12-year-olds playing NCAA 2011 have more say in Penn St. game planning than he does. Penn St. fans regard anything less than unconditional worship of the man as heresy. Also, they're our designated opposite division rival or whatever the blue hell that is. Happy Valley, we have a problem.
RPF: 78% - Pennsylvania mountain country - Deliverance-style creepiness but farther north!
Michigan - Between the hockey team's penchant for arguing about every whistle and the 2005 Alamo Bowl, one wonders if Bitching At Refs is a required seminar for freshman Wolverine athletes. It got old fast in hockey and won't play in football either. Both sides still have plenty of red ass over 1997. Michigan fans don't understand why they lost one poll after a Rose Bowl victory and Nebraska fans don't believe they should have to share anything with a team that barely edged Ryan Leaf.
Nothing's absolute, but I've met many a Michigan fan who wear their arrogance like a badge of honor. Like the Domers, a plunge into mediocrity has done nothing to dissipate it. Despising them will be nothing new, only more frequent.
RPF: 93% - Please don't let Musberger call these games. Please.
Iowa - The new Thanksgiving "rivalry" game finally makes bedfellows of the neighboring state universities that have always gotten along uneasily. Here's betting betting that "uneasily" changes to more than a few instances of "downright loathing" as time marches on. Think of Iowa as Missouri Lite when it comes to demanding recognition as a national player. The Solich/Cally slide has them crowing that they've "dominated" Nebraska the last 10 years (85-41 to our 84-46, you see)
Basically, this is the fanbase that will always be in closest quarters with us and will constantly demand respect as an equal. Having as many national titles since 1970 as they have conference championships, we will never grant it which will drive some of them beserk. And any time we lose a game to anyone, they will be right here to rub it in our faces.
This is going to be fun.
RPF: 97% - Be sure to remind the Iowegians that they named their stadium after a Nebraskan
Momma said knock you out.
And just to be fair, why will anyone hate us?
Nebraska - "The Greatest Fans in College Football". 1st off, please take that sign down down now, but yes, plenty of Husker fans feel that way. And any quality dig you get in on us will just be countered with us bellowing about the national titles like Booker T at a PPV - "FIVE TIME! FIVE TIME! FIVE TIME!" We'll justify Lawrence Phillips and refuse to get over big-game-altering bad calls (See Penn St. above). But at the end of the day, most of us do want to be pals and a visit to Lincoln will find you treated well by the majority you meet.
RPF for rest of Big 10: 6% - Hey, I love us!
So Husker fans, what do you think? And Big 10 fans, here's your chance to sound off on each other. Who will we actually hate in your opinions? Sound off.
* - not actual Stats Inc. figures.
** - also not true