We like to pride ourselves on this site for our diverse community. Over the years that we've been active, we have acquired members on our staff and in our readers from every Big Ten school, along with even a few conference outsiders. Though it's pretty easy to find school specific blogs out there, conference wide ones with the breadth of OTE are really rare. I like to think that's what makes us special. Or at least that's what I tell myself inside at night.
If you've been coming to our site for any length of time, you know that generally there're two things we like to write about. The schools we love, and the schools we hate (at least, during the season). In these things we're all pretty obvious. But, sports life isn't so black and white. Fandom, like upholstery, comes in many shades of gray. While it's pretty easy to articulate why you are a fan of your main team, sometimes those extra allegiances can be surprising. So, when one of our readers asked what all of our secondary teams were in the conference it seemed like the perfect topic for an off-season post.
And then, because I'm a law student, I decided that over-analyzing it would be a good idea. So I went above and beyond the first question. Oh yes, yes I did. Beyond the jump, you'll find not only the second teams of our writers, but also a look at which teams (based on the opinions of our staff) are the most loved and hated in the conference.
Before we get to all that, though, let's start with the easy stuff. We have eleven writers on staff, and while we make an effort to cover all the teams of the conference to one degree or another, we all definitely have primary allegiances, and some teams in the conference get more representation than others in that regard. When graphed out in pretty excel colors, our primary fan allegiances look something like this:
The graph really shouldn't surprise anyone, but it's good to get it out there. So, who do we like as secondary teams? Who do we hate? Or mildly disfavor? Read on to find out...
Just as our primary allegiances were relatively expected, so should be our primary hatreds. Most of the time, these come from our school's traditional rivals, though there are some outliers in the pack.
It shouldn't really surprise anyone that, with the number of Ohio State writers we have on staff that Michigan is our most primarily hated team, though what might be surprising is that Michigan is also the most hated team of one of our non-Ohio State writers. Of course, we have Michigan writers and Iowa writers and Wisconsin writers on staff too, so Ohio State isn't all that far behind Michigan. Also in the receiving votes category were Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and newcomer Nebraska. Guess the honeymoon period is over on that one.
I'll admit it. I was surprised by some of the responses to this question. Our writers, like I'd imagine, most of our readers, have some very interesting reasons for rooting for teams other than the primary ones. The favorites for secondary team allegiance were Penn State and Wisconsin. For the Nittany Lions, perhaps it's the cool uniforms, or the mystique of having a geezer for a coach. I don't know. And with Wisconsin - well, it seems like the hard drinking cheeseheads inspire respect, if not outright drunken love, in many. Also receiving votes were Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Ohio State.
Here's what our writers had to say about why they rooted for the second teams that they did:
Jon (Primary Team: Ohio State)
I'm not going to lie. Growing up in Columbus, attending Ohio State and living in the shadow of one of the most successful, tradition rich programs in the sport has given me high expectations. Having been spoiled rotten, I can't pick a team that lacks: 1. Sustained success historically, 2. A passionate fan community that packs the stands in good times and bad, 3. A unique, on-campus stadium with distinctive architecture and 4. At least one national championship.
That leaves me with Michigan State, Iowa, Illinois, Penn State, Michigan, and Nebraska.
I also can't pull for a team that is living in the past. So farewell Michigan State, Illinois and Michigan. Did you really think I was going to pick the Wolverines?
Now things get interesting. I like Iowa's grit, and the fact that they play in a state where college athletics are king, but I can't get over those nineteen consecutive non-winning seasons. I admire the fact that Penn State doesn't put the names of players on its jerseys, its clean, retro look, white out tradition, and legendary patriarch, but its stadium looks like it was made out of an erector-set, and State College is just a bit too "country" for my taste.
So that leaves Nebraska. Like Buckeye football, Cornhusker football is everything to the people of an entire state. The program sits in a part of the country that is often misunderstood and overlooked, and is built on honest virtues. Like Ohio State, the Huskers play tough defense, and physically dominate opponents. There's nothing flashy about the formula, it's just good ole boys, hard work and hustle.
Memorial Stadium is decorated like the Horseshoe. It's filled come hell or high water. The fans stand up the entire game. And win or lose, they're proud to be Cornhuskers.
Like Ohio State, Nebraska is one of the five most winningnest programs in the history of the sport.
What's not to like?
Graham (Primary Team: Michigan)
My #2 team is of course Wisconsin. Not only do the teams play that quintessential Big Ten smashmouth football, but the teams are built behind great defensive and offensive lines, another trait I admire. The fans are dedicated and friendly while the town of Madison is magical (50+ bars!). Last time I was in Madison, people were sleeping on the iced over lake in their tents. Need I say more?
Bama Hawkeye (Primary Team: Iowa)
I know that this may surprise some, considering the heat I've taken for some negative projections that I've made, but I really like Penn State. Always have. I like the tradition of the uniforms. I like that their coach is older than my son's great-grandfather. I like the tradition of linebackers. And fullbacks. And tight ends. And yeah, I like that they lose to Iowa. Know this though - I'm cheering for the blue and white against the ten other Big Ten squads.
Hilary Lee (Primary Team: Wisconsin)
Well, this should surprise exactly no one. My secondary team is Northwestern. The only surprising thing about this one is perhaps that I consider them my second team and not my first. After all, the masthead says I go there for law school, and I do often write very glowing things about them. So why is Wisconsin and not Northwestern first in my heart? Well, it all has to do with how I grew up. See, I never attended the University of Wisconsin (I almost did, and perhaps if that coin flip went differently I would have, but that's a story for another time...) In fact, I'm not even from Wisconsin. No, I grew up in Illinois, outside of Chicago.
So what gives? Well, despite technically being from the Land of Lincoln, my entire extended family is from Wisconsin. And 90% of them still live there. My dad grew up in Appleton, and I have relatives in all the major Dairy State cities. My mother even lives in the state now, though she did not originally hail from there. That meant that all through my youth I grew up watching and cheering for the Badgers. I went to a former Big Ten school for undergrad that is now Division III, so I had no college allegiance to upend all that.
Attending Northwestern for grad school has certainly made me a Wildcat - and that'll never change, but neither will my deep love for Bucky. Wisconsin was my first football love, and though they've made me cry like Justin Bieber more times than I care to recall, I'm still with them after all these years. So, On Wisconsin! And Go ‘Cats! Rawr!
JDMill (Primary Team: Minnesota)
I have to go with Penn State. JoePa has built the kind of proud, sustained football tradition that I would love for the Gophers. When they have an outstanding year, they are vying for a national championship, when they have a good year, they're vying for a Big Ten Championship, when they have a down year, they are most likely still going bowling.
I also love the plain white helmets and simple jerseys that don't get messed with on a week to week basis. I love the tradition of the "White Out." But the bottom line is that JoePa runs a good, clean, hard-nosed program, and for that reason, Penn State is the only team in the Big Ten, besides the Gophers, that I feel good about cheering for.
GregGoBlue (Primary Team: Michigan)
Gotta love Wisconsin football. That's just old school football: run game, defense, special teams. That's my kind of football, and the kind I'd like to see back in Ann Arbor. Plus, Madison is the closest thing to the best college town ever: Ann Arbor, MI (unlike that corporate trash heap in Ohio... sorry Jon, welcome to LA).
Wisconsin is a paragon of academics, plays tough football, and has a rabidly dedicated fanbase who aren't a bunch of apes. What's not to like?
Ted Glover (Primary Team: Ohio State)
Minnesota. I grew up in suburban Minneapolis, but my football oxygen was consumed by the Vikings and the famed Purple People Eaters. The Gophers were terrible growing up, but I had an affinity and sympathy for them, much like one has towards a very sick relative. You feel bad for them, and you hope they get better, but at some point you have to go on and live your life. I had enough sports heartbreak with the North Stars and Vikings to invest too much into the Gophers, but they're my home state team, so I wish them well.
And how can you not cheer for a guy like Jerry Kill? He's a plain spoken, no nonsense coach that gives you the feeling he can take the Gophers to a level of respectability they haven't been to in my lifetime. A lot of my relatives, to include my Dad, are still big Gopher fans, and I would love to sit and watch the Gophers play in the Rose Bowl with him one time. For as much as they've endured and persevered, they deserve it.
Ricardo (Primary Team: Wisconsin)
My secondary team has to be The Ohio State University. Why? Mostly because I love when all the frat boys and sorority girls in Ann Arbor are sad. Additionally, I respect the hell out of the sweater vest, love stout defense, and appreciate a run game. I have similar respect for Iowa, but just can't bring myself to generate even feigned positive feelings for them. That being said, come Bowl Season or March Madness I close ranks and cheer for every Big Ten team not represented by a gopher.
ChadNUDJ (Primary Team: Northwestern)
Picking a secondary Big Ten team falls into two categories for me: pre-getting into/attending Northwestern, and post-Northwestern.
Pre-Northwestern, I was an Ohio State fan. My dad was born and raised in Ohio, attended countless OSU football games (including many OSU-Michigan games), worshipped at the altar of Woody Hayes, and loved nothing more than days when OSU won, and Michigan and Notre Dame lost. Growing up in Florida in the era before pre-multiple cable channels and the internet showing every game, my Dad and I would plunk down $20 bucks at the end of each November to watch OSU-Michigan on pay-per-view, since the only game you could get that same Saturday in Florida was FSU-Florida (my Dad believes to this day that any SEC team would lose 2 games, minimum, each year playing against Big Ten teams in Big Ten weather). Dad loved Buckeye football, so I loved Buckeye football. (I had a similar relationship with Indiana basketball courtesty of my Hoosier-fan mom and grandparents, and being 7 years old when Steve Alford never seemed to miss a shot en route to the NCAA Tourney championship).
Post-getting into Northwestern, though, I severed my OSU ties. I mean, can a fan of the Big Ten's "nerd" school really root (even secondarily) for a team that played Maurice Clarett, or Andy Katzenmoyer (he of the "barely academically qualified despite taking AIDS Education and Golf" academic resume)?
So if I had to pick a secondary team now, I'd pick Penn State. I dig the uniforms that never change, I respect the tradition, and all the fans of PSU I've ever met have been great people. Plus, aspirationally, JoePa is what I want Fitz to become as a coach -- the loyal face of the program, a legendary winner, and a coach that develops his players into good players and even better men off the field. JoePa's players graduate, his teams win with ethics and character, and Happy Valley is full every home Saturday of thousands of rabid fans (something I'm hoping happens to Northwestern, one of these days). Plus, JoePa wins bowl games, something Northwestern desperately needs to figure out. And Fitz has already mastered JoePa's one weakness, by regularly beating Iowa.....so yeah, Penn State's my 2nd Big Ten team.
Though our primary enemies chart was pretty predictable, the secondary enemies graph is a bit less so. It's much more evenly distributed. It seems that when you get beyond traditional rivalries, any team is up for grabs in terms of hatred and/or sheer annoyance.
I don't think Ohio State's topping of this list is any surprise. The Buckeyes are a very polarizing team - and whether it's their recent and continued success on the football field or their fans' behavior when it comes to advertising that success, they seem to draw a lot of ire from other schools' fans. The one strange inclusion on this list is Penn State. You'll recall that Penn State was one of our most beloved secondary teams.... And yet they're also one of our most hated secondary teams. Who knew people felt such strong opinions about the Nittany Lions? I mean, they're from Pennsylvania. Okay, point taken.
Overall Fan Factor:
Any article written by a soon-to-be-lawyer wouldn't be complete without a section that drew arbitrary conclusions based on sketchy math. And, what kind of law student would I be if I completely disregarded precedent? (Hah, see what I did there? Yeah, yeah you do.)
Ahem, anyway, in order to take a measure of just how much we liked and hated the teams in the conference, I put together a very simple formula. Teams got 2 points for every writer who listed them as their primary team. One point was added for every writer who listed them as a secondary favorite. Two points were subtracted for every primary rival, and one point subtracted for every secondary hatred. The result is a graph that is..... well, just take a look.
Note: Indiana and Purdue have values at 0.5 solely so they can be displayed on the graph...
Far and away the most well regarded team in the conference is... Wisconsin! Now, as a Badger fan I am of course happy about this, but I was rather surprised by it. Though Ohio State and Michigan have many devotees, they have just as many people who hate them. The Badgers, on the other hand, really don't. Wisconsin has a few primary fans and one primary rival on our site, but most of their score is due to a great deal of secondary love and little secondary hatred. Really, though, what's not to like? We drink ourselves silly and have tons of cheese. And, even when we're good, we aren't obnoxious about it.
Coming in close behind Wisconsin were Northwestern and Penn State. Northwestern's score is explained by a complete absence of hatred directed at them. I'm sure this is the point where any Iowa reader will make the obligatory, "that's because they're just Northwestern" joke, but really it's not all that surprising - though the Wildcats have been going to bowls lately, and they do have a few recent championships, it's hard to build up sufficient hatred when you've only been playing football since 1995. Er, I mean, when your team is awesome. Yes.
Though Penn State topped our secondary hatred and secondary fan graphs, the combination of primary and secondary love was just too much to overcome for the surprising level of secondary dislike directed at them, leaving them solidly on the positive side of the graph.
The most surprising entry on the graph, at least for me, was Ohio State. Somehow, despite being disliked by many, the power of their fan's affection was juuuust strong enough to put them in the positive section. Their long time rival, Michigan, wasn't so lucky (more on them in just a bit...). This perhaps the one entry that I am not quite sure about in comparison to the average Big Ten fan. The amount of invective directed at Ohio State that I've heard of the years from non-OSU fans makes me wonder if all of our writers are being entirely honest...
Also in the positive was Minnesota, which can be explained by the fact that we have a Minnesota writer, and it's kind of hard to hate a team that has been well, so bad for so long. And that Gopher is just so adorable. Like a beanie baby.
Indiana and Purdue are both sitting at exactly 0. Apparently, if the Hoosier state were to suddenly cease existing, nobody in the conference would really notice. For football, this doesn't entirely surprise me. I strongly suspect that if we were to do this graph over again except ask for basketball opinions, we'd have a different result.
And now the negatives...
Iowa and Michigan State start it off, both hitting -1 on our scale. Despite having a fan on this site in Bama Hawkeye, Iowa also was listed as both a primary and secondary rival, just edging them into the red. Michigan State was only listed as a secondary rival by one of our writers, but because we don't have anyone covering Sparty full time, it was enough to put them down in the negatives too.
Newcomer Nebraska comes next at a score of -2... I guess that honeymoon period really is over. I'll be interested to see how opinions of the Cornhuskers change after a season or two in the conference. Maybe we'll have to do this graph over then...
Illinois also made the negative side, coming in at -3, largely due to a single strong reaction and one secondary rivalry. We also have no full time Illini writers, so, like Michigan State, they really had nothing to bolster their score. And it's not like there's anything particularly appealing about them to inspire secondary fandom.
And the most disliked team in the conference? No, it's not Ohio State. Apparently, around these parts, it's Michigan.
Part of the Wolverine hatred comes from having more Ohio State writers on the site than Michigan writers. Part of it comes from a rather surprising primary hatred derived from one of our writer's childhoods. But really, most of what happened here is that the Wolverines simply don't have any secondary fans. Like Ohio State, they are apparently a very polarizing team. Either you love them or you hate them, and there really is no middle ground.
While this has all been quite fun, I should make the typical lawyer like disclaimer that this is probably not actually representative of fan levels across the conference as a whole. I mean, Purdue and Indiana do have fans... Right? Right?
Or, maybe we are pretty close to the overall conference opinion after all...
Well, tell us what you think in the comments! Who are your primary and secondary teams? Who do you hate first and second? I might end up putting together a graph of our reader reactions to measure it against those of our writers...