80 Reasons to Love the Big Ten - Nos. 26 - 22

No. 26 - Eddie

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Sure, you know Eddie George -- Ohio State's Heisman Trophy winning running back.  But did you know that after a successful freshman showing Eddie was relegated to third string status?  As Wikipedia reports:

As a freshman running back for the Buckeyes, George was an instant contributor. He scored 3 rushing touchdowns in a win over Syracuse University. However, he suffered a major setback in a game against the University of Illinois. In that game, George fumbled at Illinois' 4-yard line that was returned 96 yards for a touchdown. Later in the game, with Ohio State leading by 2 points in the final quarter, George fumbled again, this time on Illinois' 1-yard line. Illinois recovered the fumble and drove for the game winning touchdown.

Before the Illinois game, George had carried the ball 25 times and scored 5 touchdowns, but for the rest of the season, he had only 12 more rushing attempts and didn't score once. In the following season, George was used as the team's third string running back, behind Raymont Harris. He carried the ball only 42 times, mostly when Ohio State had a large lead late in games.

Eddie roared back to starting status his junior season, rushing for 1,442 yards and 12 touchdowns.  Then...

As a senior...George rushed for a school record 1,927 yards and 24 touchdowns, an average of 152.2 yards per game. One of his best performances of the year was in a 45-26 win over the University of Notre Dame, where he rushed for 207 yards, his third 200 yard game of the season. He also rushed for a school-record 314 yards and scored 3 touchdowns in OSU's victory over Illinois. In the 3 years since committing his 2 fumbles in the Illinois game as a freshman, George had over 600 rushing attempts and fumbled only 6 times. Ohio State finished the season with an 10-2 record and George won the Heisman Trophy in the closest vote in the history of the award at the time, beating University of Nebraska's Tommie Frazier by 264 ballots.

George was the No. 14 pick by the Houston Oilers in the 1996 draft.  He finished second in school history in career rushing yards (3,768) and third in rushing touchdowns (44).  George now operates a chain of restaurants in Columbus, Ohio and Nashville.  Notably, the urinals feature upside-down Michigan logos.

Perhaps most curiously, Ohio State isn't the only Big Ten school George is affiliated with.  As Wikipedia reports: "George is currently attending the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, pursuing an MBA in the Executive MBA program in the class of 2009."

No. 25 - Magic Defense

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In 1983, the No. 2 Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs -- led by the "invincible" Herschel Walker -- to claim their first national championship.  But it wasn't just a Holy Grail, after a 17 year quest.  It was the beginning of the "Linebacker U" mystique.

As Sports Illustrated describes:

A friend invited into the Nittany Lions' locker room before the opening kickoff tried to ease Paterno's obvious tension by asking him what he thought Herschel might do on his first few carries. "Hey, are you kidding?" said Paterno. "If we knew that we wouldn't be sitting here fidgeting."

As it turned out, Penn State knew exactly what Walker was going to do, and how to stop him. In the Sugar Bowl the Lions unfolded what they call the "Magic Defense" -- as in "now you see it, now you don't." Lineman and linebackers shifted into various configurations, sometimes showing an eight-man front, sometimes a five or a six. They switched from a nose to gap alignments, and at times as few as two defenders got down into a four-point stance, forcing the Georgia linemen to recalculate their timing and blocking angles while trying to remember their assignments and the count. ...

Walker was held to 107 yards on 28 carries.  Paterno's response?  "Being No. 1 is important to our fans and our kids, but not to me."

No. 24 - Not For Sale

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Michigan Stadium (a.k.a. The "Big House") is the sport's grand ballroom.  This epic concave bowl is often referred to as "The Carnegie Hall of all Sports."  Graced with thin Arc Deco signage and iron gates the stadium is the Grand Dame of college venues.

Still, there's one thing missing from this unpretentious brick and steel bowl: advertising.

Since inception in 1927, the University has refused to pollute its icon by allowing commercial interference.  Even with the recent renovation, there are still no plans to allow advertising inside the stadium.  So even while sold out, the Wolverines refuse to sell out.

No. 23 - Old Oaken Bucket

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The Big Ten plays host to a number of rivalries, big and small.  Consider this intrastate affair:

Found on a farm in southern Indiana, the oaken bucket is one of the oldest football trophies in the nation. The winner of the annual Purdue-Indiana football game gets to add a bronze "P" or "I" chain link and keep the trophy until the next face-off. Ironically, the first competition in 1925 led to a 0-0 tie, resulting in the first link on the chain being an "IP."

Indiana and Purdue first faced off in 1891 and Purdue leads the all-time series 69-36-6.  Purdue leads the Bucket series 55-26-3.

No. 22 - The Wildcats

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What's in a name?  Expressions of courage, loyalty, and spirit.  Few teams represent their brand as well at the Northwestern Willdcats, who epitomize the scrappy nature of their mascot.  As NUSports.com reports:

"... football players had not come down from Evanston; Wildcats would be a name better suited to (Coach) Thistlethwaite's boys ... Stagg's boys, his pride, his 11 that had tied Illinois a week ago, were unable to score for 57 minutes. Once they had the ball on the nine-yard line and had been stopped dead by a Purple wall of wildcats." These lines were written by Wallace Abbey in the Chicago Tribune following the memorable Northwestern-Chicago game in 1924 that heralded a new era in Northwestern football. From that day on, all the Northwestern athletic teams have borne the nickname of "Wildcats."

Following the Chicago contest, which NU lost 3-0 on a last-minute field goal by Bob Curley, Northwestern met the famed "Four Horsemen" of Notre Dame and battled the Fighting Irish to a standstill before bowing 13-6. Northwestern's points were scored on two drop kicks by All-American Ralph "Moon" Baker. After that, there could be no question of the appropriate nature of the new nickname.

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