As part of our ongoing effort to educate Husker fans on the Big Ten conference, I thought we'd take a look at how the teams from each conference match up relative to football. There's no set formula to this, although the teams are somewhat ranked by football prowess, most of the match ups were done much like an online dating service - which team's fans would be most comparable.
At first glance this was more difficult than I originally thought it'd be. Some teams were easy to place (Ohio State - Texas), and some just fell into a slot because there was nowhere else to put them (Illinois - Texas Tech).
On second glance, I realized that I'm in the rare position of being able to insult two full conferences of schools with one shot. Woohooo!!!!!!
Texas Longhorns Ohio State Buckeyes
This is the easiest head-to-head comparison between the two conferences. If you think Texas fans have a sense of self-entitlement, you have yet to meet Buckeye fans. On top of that, Ohio State has more money than everyone but Texas, they expect to win all of the time, and when they don't, they're sure that everyone else ganged up on them and made it happen.
Oklahoma Sooners Michigan Wolverines
This second easiest comparison. Think "old money" here, not current events. Despite being down the past few seasons, Michigan still has the winningest program in college football history. Both have had legendary coaches (Bo Schembechler, Walter Camp - Barry Switzer, Bud Wilkinson). Both have fan bases that can be annoying, but overall are pretty respectable (all the Ohio State fans will hate Corn Nation forever for that line).
My advice on the Michigan - Ohio State rivalry? Pick a side. Wolverine fans can have the same sense of self-entitlement as Buckeye fans, but they've been knocked down a notch or two the past few years. It's made them more bearable, even though they'll probably be bitching about 1997 every time you talk to them.
Why else pick Michigan? They're in our division and it will be more fun beating them every year. Will they ever hate us as much as they hate Ohio State? (If you even thought about that for more than a second, you probably don't belong here. Hey, SB Nation has tennis and golf sites you might like.)
Oklahoma State Cowboys Purdue Boilermakers
You're thinking Michigan State, right? It makes sense - Oklahoma State is to Oklahoma as Michigan State is to Michigan - the little brother scenario. What makes that match up even funnier is that it would be more about Michigan than Michigan State, and that would irritate Spartans fans even further (and we wouldn't want to do that, would we?). Plus, coaches melt down there (John L Smith and Mike Gundy). Good coaches leave and go on to win national championships with other teams (Nick Saban and Les Miles), and both schools sport atrocious colors.
Unfortunately, Oklahoma State really fits with Purdue more than Sparty. Both teams like to whip the ball around, make a lot of noise, pull off an upset here or there, and then fade off into basketball season.
Cowboy fans are a lot like the Purdue fans I've known. If it's a good season, they're talking a lot. If not, they're looking at the ground, hoping you don't notice them, and hoping you don't mention it. We probably won't be hearing a lot from them any time soon.
Missouri Tigers Michigan State Spartans
Iowa would be a good fit with Missouri too. As Husker Mike said before the Tigers and Hawkeyes played in last season's Insight bowl - "It's the annoying black and gold team of the past against the annoying black and gold team of the future" - a great line from the voice of reason.
I'm going to put Michigan State into this slot instead of Iowa, though, for reasons that will become clear further down the page. I have a feeling that the Spartans will be a thorn in our side much like Missouri, and they tend to have a "chip on their shoulder" attitude that comes from being stuck in the same state as the Wolverines.
To give some credit to Missouri - they were a pain in our side the past few seasons. Unfortunately for them, it never translated into any championships. Each year involved getting their hopes up, having them dashed, and then waiting for basketball season.
Missouri always wanted recognition from Nebraska fans, wanted to be a designated rival. Cute, really. Most Husker fans don't understand this yet, but that'll be Michigan State in the years to come.
Michigan State shared the Big Ten title last season, so they're going to be more annoying than usual because they will have deluded themselves into thinking it will last. Hey, at least they have basketball. Tom Izzo's team is sure kicking ass this year, eh?
Colorado Buffaloes Iowa Hawkeyes
Oh, lookie. It's the really irritating black and gold team of the past paired up with the really annoying black and gold team of the future.
Regardless of the past few seasons, no one amongst our former Big Eight/Big 12 foes has been more hateable than Colorado, and I can guarantee that no one in the future will be more hateable than Iowa. Both states share a border and a commonality in that they think they're better than Nebraska. Coloradans at least have the Rockies to point to as a source of great beauty (even though they had nothing to do with their creation), while Iowa has...... dirt that holds moisture better than Nebraska's, which is a big deal if you're a farmer. Oh, and forests. Iowa has lots and lots of forests.
Colorado wins the match up with Iowa instead of Missouri for one reason only - at least Colorado and Iowa have won conference championships. Iowa last won the Big Ten in 2004, sharing the title with Michigan (also the last year that Ohio State didn't win a Big Ten title). Colorado's last Big 12 title came in 2001 under Gary Barnett, who responded by driving the program into the ground.
As far as the fan base goes, I'm not sure if you'll find as many hippies in Iowa City as you did in Boulder, but it might not be as far off as you'd imagine. Did I mention how annoying Iowa fans are?
Texas A&M Aggies Wisconsin Badgers
If you thought about this in terms of school culture it's probably the worst comparison on the list. Texas A&M is closer to North Korea culturally than Wisconsin, but if you stopped for moment, you'd realize that most Aggie fans are pretty respectable, decent people unless you happen to be a Longhorn or Red Raider. Same with Wisconsin fans - pretty decent people, unless you're from Minnesota. Or Iowa. Key thing to love about Wisconsin - beer and cheese, the best in the nation. Then there's the Barry Alvarez connection.
Other similarities - neither team is a division-mate, but both have one of the better shots at wining a title than most of the other schools in the conference. Hey, wait. I didn't really insult Wisconsin, did I? In that case, here's an old joke I used to tell when I lived in Texas.
Why are there no fat women in Texas? ‘Cause they're all shipped off to Wisconsin where they'll fit right in and find a fat guy to love them. Good enough?
Kansas State Wildcats Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State fans are as excited to have Nebraska in the Big Ten as Kansas State fans are pissed that we're leaving the Big 12. For the Nitts - it's probably that we're taking their place as the "new guy" and therefore they can start pretending that they're part of the Big Ten's longstanding tradition of whatever it is they're talking about right now.
I wonder how long this love fest from Penn State fans will last. Penn State is not in our division, but is our "designated rival", and you know it won't take long before they're talking about the 1994 National Championship we stole from them, or how the 1982 catch was in bounds. If we can beat them consistently, you know damned well that Penn State fans are going to turn on us quickly - be prepared for it. (Oh, look, it's already started.)
Having said that, I am so glad to be playing Penn State on a yearly basis that I can hardly contain myself.
Kansas Jayhawks Minnesota Golden Gophers
These two schools remind me of each other so much, I thought I'd put them together. They're another set of schools that can't seem to get their acts together in football and then spend the latter part of the season wishing it were basketball season.
Did you know that Minnesota has won 18 Big Ten football titles? That's third behind Michigan (42) and Ohio State (35). Unfortunately, the last one was in 1967. Kind of like Kansas - whose last conference championship came in the Big Eight in 1968. Kansas had a pretty decent season in 2007, but got confused with success and rid themselves of Mark Mangino, much like Minnesota got confused with success and got rid of Glen Mason. (Okay, fine, both coaches deserved it. Mangino for being a monster, and Mason for giving up enormous leads in games the Gophers should have won.)
Nebraska should rule Minnesota in football, but they'll probably beat us the majority of the time in basketball. I'm guessing they'll be just fine with that.
Want a clincher? Nebraska gave Minnesota their worst loss in school history in 1983, winning 83-14. Nebraska gave Kansas their worst loss in school history in 1986, winning 70-0. Kansas gave Nebraska their worst loss in school history in 2007, winning 76-39. Minnesota didn't give Nebraska their worst losses but they beat us every year from 1940-1949, winning the '43, '44 and '45 games 54-0, 39-0, and 61-7 (yay, we scored in '45!), and the Gophers have a winning record against Nebraska, 29-20-2. Time to even things out, even if it'll take nine years to do it.
Iowa State Cyclones Northwestern Wildcats
I really wanted to slot Iowa State with Iowa so that we could all wave to them and say "Oh, hi neighbors, how you doing! Could you keep your distance, please, because you smell like hogs."
Really, though Iowa State belongs with Northwestern. The thing that seals this marriage is their fans. Iowa State fans were always fun to be around - they never got too bent out of shape about the near-constant losses to Nebraska (and everyone else). They still have fun at their football games, regardless. It's like they've accepted their fate.
Northwestern fans are largely the same way, but mostly because they know you're probably going to be working for them some day. Key difference - Northwestern has won conference championships, the last coming in 2000 under the late Randy Walker. Iowa State, not so much.
You were probably thinking that Baylor and Northwestern would be a better match, weren't you? Nah. The difference is that Northwestern has had some pretty decent teams lately, while Indiana has sucked at football for quite a while now. Throughout their history, Indiana has only won two Big Ten titles, in 1945 and 1967. Baylor's last conference title came in 1994, when shared the SWC with Texas Tech, mostly because everyone else was on probation, drunk, or in jail.
Again, though, it goes back to fans. I don't think I've ever met an Indiana football fan. Or a Baylor football fan. Do they exist? God bless ‘em if they do and they're still functional enough to hold a job.
Texas Tech Red Raiders Illinois Fighting Illini
Like I said earlier, these two teams are together because there doesn't seem to be anywhere else to put them. They're the odd ones out, but we'll try to see what we can find.
Believe it or not, Illinois has won 15 Big Ten titles, the last coming in 2001. Texas Tech's has won 11 conference titles, most of them in the Border Conference, before electricity came to Lubbock. The Red Raiders' last conference championship came in 1994 when they shared the SWC title with Baylor. Only a slight similarity there.
How ‘bout this, then. Both schools featured a masked rider on a horse as their mascot. No? Well, since Illinois got rid of Chief Illiniwek in 2007 and has no mascot, you might as well picture a masked guy on a horse and call it good.
Both teams had great seasons in 2008, but both lost just enough games to not win their conference titles, and both teams sucked in their bowl games, Illinois getting stomped in the Rose Bowl against USC, while Texas Tech sucked it badly in a loss to Ole Miss.
I did say they were the odd ones out. Texas Tech wasn't in our division in the Big 12, and Illinois isn't in our division in the Big Ten. That's good enough for me. And Ron Zook sucks. The jury is still out on Tommy Tuberville.
Agree with these match ups? Disagree? I'd love to see how you'd match them up. There are no wrong answers.