If you've ever visited Northwestern's Ryan Field on a Saturday in late-November - the Chicago wind ripping off the lake like some aberration from a Jack London novel, skipped Friday classes to drive across the Bible Belt for a game under the lights at Kinnick, peeled off half your face from sun exposure after an early-season kick in East Lansing, lost yourself in a maize and blue flood at the corner of Stadium & Main, danced in the freezing rain at Camp Randall, sat under the blinding white halides at Beaver Stadium, or been born-again in the ‘Shoe you understand why Big 10 football is a religion.
It's just lately the world has become a little agnostic.
College's oldest Division 1 conference enters the modern era with the thick-knuckles and high-brow of Fitzgerald's last tycoon - thick-blooded, sweet, and slow to change, like a vintage port.
Esteemed from the glory days, the retro-eleven boasts more national championships than any other Division 1 conference (when factored using its present membership roll, the BCS collective ranks as follows: Big 10 - 27, SEC - 25, Big 12 - 19, ACC - 16 Pac 10 - 14, Big East 4. Source: College Football Data Warehouse), but only 3 of its 27 occurred in the last thirty years. Compare that to the SEC's 8, and you begin to see the shift in parity that's substituted crisp autumn leaves and cool November snaps for sweat, julips, and electric September nights in the swamp.
"If defense wins championships we've got nothing to worry about. Trust me, I've seen Georgia play D."
- General W.T. Sherman
To reinvent itself for the future, the North needs to re-capture its grit, consistency, and urgency from the bottom up: starting with 2008.
The beloved barons (Alverez, Carr) are gone – replaced by a new generation of young coaches more willing to play with fire. With Paterno primed to retire, and progressive principals already in-place in Ann Arbor, Evanston, Bloomington, Urbana, Minneapolis -- and soon to be West Lafayette, modernization is inevitable.
The North will rise again. And we’re here to cover it. In typical ceremonial excess.
So, who are we?
In the beginning The Rivalry, Esq. was two skinny undergraduates, sheltered and languid in their pursuit of knowledge, camped out at a college town imitation German pub: The Steinkeller.
Now we’re law students. One a Wolverine. The other, a Buckeye. And even though we work a little harder, we still enjoy the same few truths: cold beer in fat mugs, and conflicting ideas about the nature of sport.
Last April when we were supposed to be studying for final exams, we started an under-the-radar college football blog. Fifty articles, and eight-thousand hits later, here we are.
We’re proud to be Sports Blog Nation’s first ever conference-specific forum, inaugurated on the eve of the 2008 college football season.
You're invited to take the concrete stairs down to that little basement bar. The floor is sticky. The beer is cold. And the conversation is…well, sacrilegious.
Welcome to The Rivalry.