As a prelude to the 2009 season, for the next two and a half months we'll be recounting the faces, spirit, and legends of the Granddaddy of All Conferences. As we wrote when we first joined the network:
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.
Here are 80 reasons why the Big Ten will only get better with age:
No. 80 - The Oldest Rivalry in the FBS
Sure, there are more famous entries, but none predates Wisconsin-Minnesota, and the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe. As GopherSports.com describes:
"At 116 games and counting, the series between Minnesota and Wisconsin ranks as the longest in Division 1-A football; and "Paul Bunyan’s Axe" has the history of one of college football’s fiercest rivalries emblazoned on its six-foot long handle. The first game in the series, a 63-0 Gopher victory in 1890, is printed on the handle near the axe’s head."