I started waxing nostalgic and homer-like about how being a fan in the Big10 is the best earlier this week (links to part 1 and part 2). This topic lacks controversy, at least here in Big10 country, and for the most part the non-Big10 fans have let us have our day in the sun. Here is some more rambling from me on why being a Big10 football fan is real neato keen.
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6. The Rivalries: Not The Rivalry, esq, which is also clearly awesome (Graham, is that how you wanted me to say it?), but the football rivalries between Big10 teams. We've got some hum-dingers with some real history to them, so I'll outline some of the ones I know best .
Ohio State/Michigan: Traditionally two of the Big10 powerhouses, and often the front runners for the conference championship, this match-up can, in many years, be considered the conference championship. (It also happens to be the namesake of this blog.) This modern day border battle may just have it's roots in a real battle: The Toledo War of the 1830's, over the "Toledo Strip," which, contrary to popular belief is NOT a gentlemen's club. In any case, this battle is epic, and it means a lot to both universities. Michigan leads the all-time series 57-42-6, but Ohio State currently has a six game win-streak in the rivalry. This rivalry has all the makings of the big ones: hatred, proximity, and history.
Michigan/Michigan State: What do you get when you match two state schools in the same who are just an hour apart in historic logging country? The Paul Bunyan Trophy (not to be confused with Paul Bunyan's Axe), created in 1953, the year Michigan State joined the Big10. Michigan has a 34-20-2 lead in the series, and has dominated the 00's, but State won last years meeting, and has a strong team coming back this year. This could just be the Spartans time to even things out a bit.
Minnesota/Wisconsin: The aforementioned Paul Bunyan's Axe is the trophy awarded to the winner of this, yet another border battle, and one close to my heart. This is the oldest rivalry in college football, dating back to 1890, but "The Axe" was not introduced until 1948. While Minnesota leads the all-time series 59-51-8, Wisconsin leads the series since the Axe was introduced, 34-24-3. Prior to the Axe, Minnesota and Wisconsin played for the Slab of Bacon trophy. The Slab was "lost" in 1943 after a Minnesota victory over Wisconsin, and disappeared until it was "rediscovered" in 1994 during a Camp Randall renovation. I think everyone can agree that the Axe is a much cooler prize.
Minnesota/Iowa: Most Gopher fans would tell you that Wisconsin is our most bitter rival, but in my heart of hearts, Iowa is the most bitter. This battle for Floyd of Rosedale, a bronze pig statue, started in 1935, and the bitterness behind story of how the trophy came about still lives on today. The story goes that Minnesota was particularly rough on Iowa running back Ozzie Simmons (one of the few black players in college football at the time) in their 1934 match-up. The following year, leading up to the game, the governor of Iowa, in a manner of speaking, told reporters that if Minnesota pulled that type of play in 1935, the crowd would take care of them. This lead to Minnesota threatening to pull out of the series because Iowa's governor was threatening violence against Minnesota's players. To quell the issue, Minnesota's governor sent a telegram to the Iowa governor betting a Minnesota prized hog vs an Iowa prized hog that Minnesota would win the game. Minnesota won the game, Governor Floyd Olson won the hog (from Rosedale Farms in Iowa), and then Floyd the pig died of cholera. Governor Olson then had a local sculptor create the bronze pig that the teams now play for. Because Minnesota dominated the early years of this rivalry, they still hold a 39-33-2 edge over Iowa, but the Hawkeyes have won 13 of the 19 match-ups since 1990.