College football tradition dictates that we endure a pathetic non-conference slate each season. We welcome each autumn with a laughable mess of directional colleges and in-state suitcase schools, the result of which is a grotesque Cirque Du Soleil pantomime of a cat playing with its kill. Facing a slew of meaningless teams is callous thievery of our long-awaited football joy--a Lucy van Pelt to our Charlie Brown hearts. Yet each year, the MAC gets its payday.
Here at the Hall of Journalistic Approximation (from whence your beloved OTE writers spew forth oodles of punditry), we slog our way through a similar malaise at the naissance of spring. As we sharpen our pencils and our rapier wits to bring you another round of B1G previews, the inevitable stares us in the face: someone has to write about Illinois. And Rutgers. And...who? Oh, right...Purdue. Per-dew? Am I pronouncing that right? Is that a school?
Listen, if you think a week spent reading about whatever mess Illinois is going to cobble together under the guise of "football" is painful, you ought to try writing that slop. I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news to some of you (ahem...looking at you, West) but your team sucks and nobody cares about you. Not even your own fans.
Allow me to elaborate via the Tiers of Relevance, a handy tool for navigating the B1G 2016 slate.
Tier 1: You Da Real MVPs
OSU, MSU, Michigan, and PSU. These guys are why we're here. Big names, big dollars, big wins. Or at the very least, massive fanbases with high expectations. Bowl wins and Natties live here. Even when these stalwarts manage to stink out the house, the collective insanity and shared delusions of the fan bases make them worth keeping an eye on (hey Black Shoe Diaries, glad you could make it). Expected appearance: Late Summer
Tier 2: Shredded Iceberg Lettuce
Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa once per decade. Mmmm, flavorless filler. You keep the blue bloods from rubbing elbows directly with the hoi polloi at the bottom of the interest barrel. Much obliged for the breathing room, gentlemen. That doesn't make you big time, though. You're a regional delicacy at best, like cheese curd or hotdishes topped with crushed corn flakes. Your fans care, but their numbers are few. Even so, they care in that annoyingly Midwestern "we're so blah we laugh about it to cover the sadness" sort of way. The local slang term for that feeling is "HATHATHAT" or some nonsense about a pig statue and a broken chair. Expected appearance: The Merry Merry Month of May
Tier 3: The [REDACTED] Relegation League
Purdue, Rutgers, Maryland, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa nine times per decade. The writers' non-con schedule. A six-element parade of clown cars along deserted streets of indifference. Don't believe me? Try to hate Illinois for something. Better yet, try to drum up an actual reason to dislike Purdue. That's when you know a team is playing irrelevant on "expert"...not only does nobody really love them...nobody even bothers to hate them. Hell, we had to ask someone from the ACC to throw shade at Maryland last year because our 13 other writers and 44 adjunct Northwestern writers brainstormed our way to a collective shrug. Iowa wrote their own hate piece in the Rose Bowl, and most of their fans agreed with it. I'd go out of my way to admonish Rutgers fans, but I've only ever seen two of them. Purdue has more functional ACLs than fans. We can't work with this. Expected appearance: Who cares?
You might think this is totally wrong and that your team really matters. Guess what? Nobody cares. Just like your fans.