Welcome to the first Big Ten Power Poll of 2016. The season is almost here, which means that you are about to watch your beloved football team do battle. At some point during the season, you might be elated with a brilliant performance. At many points, however, you will be incited to use a curse word. Curse words are also known as "colorful language," and colorful words they are indeed. They are wonderful for catharsis and great for adding emphasis to your expressions of joy, surprise, rage or despair. But, like the football teams of the Big Ten conference, not all curse words are created equal. We had 18 voters this week.
1: Ohio State Buckeyes: F***
Total Points: 250 FPV: 16 LPV: 0 High: 1 Low: 2
There’s little disputing Ohio State’s status as the team to beat heading into the 2016 season, and thus they are represented by THE word. The queen mother of all swear words. The Eff Dash Dash Dash Word. There’s no curse word whose firepower is as universally understood. When you drop that F bomb, you escalate things to a new level. On their best days, teams from the Big Ten can go toe-to-toe with the Buckeyes, but the depth of talent is beyond anything the rest of us are prepared for. There’s talent on both sides of the ball and on the sidelines; it’s a flexible and versatile squad in the same way that the Ultimate Curse spices up any turn of phrase. There are few situations where Ohio State won’t have an advantage. There are few situations where adding a "f***" won’t escalate the f*** out of your f***ing tone. Urban F***ing Meyer doesn’t give a f*** about whatever that f***face Harbaugh is up to on Twitter. He’s too f***ing busy skullf***ing your team’s hopes and mother***ing dreams. So you f***sticks can f*** right the f*** off, because the f***ing Buckeyes are once again poised to abso-f***ing-lutely f*** you up.
2: Michigan Wolverines: G** D***
Total Points: 225 FPV: 1 LPV: 0 High: 1 Low 4
Michigan is not to be taken lightly this year. With elite talent and a premier coach, the Wolverines are a force to be reckoned with. Some even place them on the level of Ohio State. Well, the ol’ G-D is among the only words on this list censored as often as f***, and it packs a wallop. From the classic curse word that is the foundation to the explicit invoking of the Lord’s name all the way to that great two-syllable cadence, this is a wonderful alternative for expressing biblical levels of disgust and contempt. Its scope is much narrower than that of the F word, but when you need to switch it up without losing much power it’s a great one. As an interjection, "G** D*** It" is tough to beat, especially in more conservative communities. In fact, some think this one is even more offensive than an F-bomb. Those people are as wrong as those who put Michigan above Ohio State, but they’re out there. With a swarming defense, pro-level offensive line and one of the nation’s best tight ends in Jake Butt, not to mention an elite all-purpose athlete in Jabrill Peppers, the G**d**** Wolverines are going to make almost as much G**d*** noise as their head coach this year, G**d***it.
3: Michigan State Spartans: S***
Total Points: 221 FPV: 1 LPV: 0 High: 1 Low: 4
Michigan State is good at many of the things Ohio State is good at without quite as much talent. Similarly, shit has nearly as many uses as fuck, but doesn’t pack quite the same punch. Nevertheless, this is a word that’s not acceptable on daytime television, and MSU is not to be overlooked, even though State fans would have you believe that they always are as such. In fact, what makes Michigan State a perfect match for this curse word is the level of disrespect its use implies. It’s the same type of disdain that Mark Dantonio can convince his team that everyone has for it. I can just see him telling his team something along the lines of "everyone thinks you’re shit and they don’t give a shit about you; we’ll show them all who’s the shit!" The Spartans will be out to prove that they deserve to be considered elite after getting the living shit beat out of them by Alabama in the Cotton Bowl. They had some company shitting the bed in their bowl game, as Tennessee took a huge shit on Northwestern and Iowa turned in a horseshit performance for the ages in the Rose Bowl (of shit). A stout front seven and proven talent at most offensive positions will help the Spartans absorb the loss of quarterback Connor Cook, and Mark Dantonio has a knack for motivating his players to get the most out of his teams. Still, the top of the Big Ten East could be a real shitshow this year, and they’d better make sure they have their shit together when Michigan and Ohio State come knocking.
4: Iowa Hawkeyes: A******
Total Points: 197 FPV: 0 LPV: 0 High: 3 Low: 6
Iowa is the favorite to represent the West in the Big Ten Championship Game this year, but as our power poll indicates, they’re not perceived to be on the same level as the top three teams from the East. They were the highest ranked team not to receive any first place votes. Similarly, nobody is going to say that "asshole" is the most potent curse word, but it is still much too powerful for daytime television. When you call someone an asshole, there’s a good understanding of exactly what you mean. Similarly, you know exactly what you’re going to get with Iowa: lots of Kirk Ferentz, strategic punting, solid defense, off-tackle runs, deliberate offensive tempo and of course strength and conditioning. Though the assholes in Vegas think otherwise, if Iowa can keep its asshole clean through all its divisional games, the Hawkeyes could be real assholes to the East champion come December.
5: Wisconsin Badgers: Son of a B****
Total Points: 162 FPV: 0 LPV: 0 High: 3 Low: 8
Wisconsin football goes through coaches and players without ever seeming to lose its identity. Similarly, "son of a bitch" remains a solid curse word through the years, outliving its somewhat archaic origin. A son of a bitch is a detestable yet worthy adversary. Its usefulness doesn’t stop there, however, as the interjection form rolls off the tongue nicely and sets up for a powerful finish on that last note. Say it with me now: "Son of a BITCH!" Corey Clement, if he remains healthy, will be yet another great Wisconsin system back, but the quarterback battle, seemingly won by Bart Houston, has been less-than-inspiring. Time will tell how the Badgers deal with the loss of defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, just as time will tell if the shift towards gender neutrality in language will eliminate the viability of "son of a bitch." The Badgers’ schedule is a real son of a bitch, however, with much tougher crossover games than last year and the dreaded road game against those sons of bitches in Evanston. There’s a chance this season might hurt like a son of a bitch for Wisconsin fans, or in the case of that LSU opener, like a sumbitch. Like Wisconsin football, however, "son of a bitch" is too much for Minnesotans to handle.
6: Northwestern Wildcats: C*ck
Total Points: 160 FPV: 0 LPV: 0 High: 5 Low: 9
Nobody’s ever entirely sure what to make of Northwestern. Last year, they shut out Minnesota only to turn around and lose 38-0 at Michigan. Nobody, particularly Americans, is quite sure what to make of the word "cock" either, but it’s definitely not allowed on television. Northwestern is, by virtue of their record, a good team, but just how good they are can be heavily dependent on their matchup. Similarly, cock is always obscene but just how offensive it is depends on its context. The British often use it as an interjection, and this is usually censored on American TV. This has the side-effect of making it sound like "oh ***k," which sounds like a different expletive entirely. But I digress. For some reason, cock is the filthiest word for "penis," and thus it has unique qualities that no other word in this poll has. It’s never considered a mainstream curse, however. Northwestern is going to have to sustain success longer to be seen as a mainstream contender. In a rare circumstance, however, the word "cock" forms part of a powerful curse (one of George Carlin’s original list of seven) that is a little too derogatory and archaic to work today. 1995 did happen once, but Northwestern is going to have to cockslap their non-conference schedule, punch Iowa in the cock and maybe still need a cock-up by one of the elites to get back there.
7: Nebraska Cornhuskers: D***
Total Points: 144 FPV: 0 LPV: 0 High: 4 Low: 10
At one time, Nebraska was a powerhouse. At one time, "damn" was an edgy and powerful curse word. Oh how the times have changed. Make no mistake, the Nebraska brand remains influential and the fans are numerous and rabid, but it’s not quite what it used to be. "Damn" would offend many people in the right context, but it started to pop into literature for your English class in sixth grade. It’s been allowed on the big screen since 1939, when Rhett Butler’s "Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn" was put on trial for the censorship board. They would ultimately decide that the finale of "Gone With The Wind" needed language that strong to carry any weight. "Damn" certainly has strength as a curse, but you wouldn’t bring a damn to a fuck fight. You’d expect Nebraska to beat most Group of Six teams, but you wouldn’t take them straight up against Ohio State. Mike Riley’s second year hopes to see a much more efficient offense, and they proved last year by beating Michigan State that they weren’t quite as bad as their worst games. If Riley truly is the quarterback whisperer of legend, senior Tommy Armstrong will be the key to making this offense run. But damn, the offense better damn well operate, because the deficiencies on defense are pretty damn troubling. They’re a damn sight worse than the top three in the West, that’s for damn sure.
8: Penn State Nittany Lions: B******
Total Points: 124 FPV: 0 LPV: 0 High: 3 Low: 10
Penn State is a once-mythical football name somewhat cheapened by the events of the 21st century. The word "bastard" is similar, with its status as a curse word significantly eroded, especially by its use as part of a South Park catchphrase ("Oh my God, they killed Kenny! You bastards!"). In the discarding of its taboo nature, however, it has taken on a different identity as a curse word for serious situations, with a dignified air about it. Penn State’s identity will be undergoing a change as it transitions to James Franklin’s spread offense with a new OC and a new quarterback. "Bastard" is limited in scope, as will be Penn State if the offensive line play doesn’t significantly improve. The Nittany Lions are yet another team that returns a great defensive front, but questions about the offense are numerous and significant heading into the season. We’ll see what that rat bastard Franklin has in store for the rest of us bastards.
9: Minnesota Golden Gophers: P***
Total Points: 121 FPV: 0 LPV: 0 High: 6 Low: 11
As something involving a golden color that can be frozen, there was a natural choice for the curse word for Minnesota. A mild yet understated curse, piss tends to fly under the radar. It’s the kind of word that has its moments, such as the underappreciated dismissive insult "pissant." Overall, though, it doesn’t have what you’d call a strong foothold on the curse word domain. Piss is not for polite company, but occasionally pops up on daytime television. Minnesota had a perplexing seven-loss season last year, hampered by offensive struggles and the aftermath of the Northwestern game. This certainly seemed a step back from the eight-win 2013 and 2014 campaigns. Minnesota has a long way to go to prove it should be taken seriously every year. People always forget that "piss" is often offensive, just as people often forget that Minnesota football has an offense. Senior quarterback Mitch Leidner might get pissed off at me for saying that, but if he can put up a pissload of points against Oregon State, it’ll go a long way towards establishing the viability of the Tracy Claeys regime. The offense spent the early part of last season pissing into the wind, but seemed to really find its groove after pissing away an opportunity to defeat Michigan. Can they keep from pissing down their collective leg?
10: Indiana Hoosiers: B****cks
Total Points: 105 FPV: 0 LPV: 0 High: 7 Low: 10
Indiana is a team with a much-maligned defense that tries to make up for it by putting up a ton of points with a fast-paced throw-heavy offense. It’s very much a unique entity and doesn’t quite fit in to the Big Ten from an identity standpoint. It’s not that it’s wrong, it just doesn’t translate for everyone. Much like the wonderful British expression "bollocks," Indiana seems like something from a different part of the world. They made it to the precipice of arriving with a bowl berth last year; can they do what "bollocks" couldn’t and carve out a niche here? British people saying "oh bollocks!" is quite funny, as is their describing something as "complete and utter bollocks," but it’s weird to see it happening in America. This all-the-fast-paced-offense-and-let’s-worry-about-the-defense-later mentality is great to watch in the Big 12, but it sure looks out of place in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers are going to need a brass set of them to make all that fancy offensive bollocks fly in the Big Ten East.
11: Illinois Fighting Illini: A**
Total Points: 66 FPV: 0 LPV: 0 High: 10 Low: 13
The Illinois Fighting Illini have only one identity over the past ten years: wild inconsistency. Are they an abject dumpster fire? Are they making progress? Are they good? Are they on the precipice of competing? Depends on the time and the context. The word "ass" is sometimes not even a curse word at all. Some translations of the Bible use the word "ass." You can call someone an ass without being too vulgar, as you can insist you were merely calling them a donkey. In the right context, though, you can pack a punch. Jackass is a step up, and you can of course append "-ass" onto any adjective to augment it. There are many situations in which to use "ass," some benign, some quite filthy. With a highly experienced team but a brand new coaching staff, what are these Illinois Fighting Illini? Lovie Smith is going to turn the ship around, they say, but that’s far from the first time a turnaround of Illinois has been promised. Illini fans can’t expect to light a fire under everyone’s ass right away; with a tough-ass schedule and noted badass Mike Dudek out, Illinois should be satisfied if Lovie can get his ass through the season without making complete jackasses of everyone involved and kick some ass on the recruiting trail. It could be a bright-ass future, but we might spend a long-ass time sitting on our asses waiting for deliverance.
12: Maryland Terrapins: H***
Total Points: 58 FPV: 0 LPV: 0 High: 11 LPV 13
Maryland is in a similar position to Illinois except their staff has been in place for longer and they are climbing out of a deeper hole. The Terrapins do, however, have a favorable schedule for year one of the D.J. Durkin era. They’re not likely to put a scare into any particularly good teams, however. "Hell" is one of the weakest curse words out there, though like all curse words it is useful in its own right. You probably won’t get a serious punishment for saying "hell" in high school, and hell-related expressions can often be made more potent with a stronger curse. Dwayne Haskins, for instance, may have said "Hell yeah!" upon committing to Maryland, but then he went "Fuck yeah!" and flipped to Ohio State. Maryland fans will find themselves wondering why the hell they must suffer through another year of Perry Hills at quarterback. Is it possible that recruiting gets hot as hell under Durkin and Maryland goes on a hell of a run in a few years? Hell if I know.
13: Rutgers Scarlet Knights: Cr*p
Total Points: 37 FPV: 0 LPV: 2 High: 11 Low: 14
Rutgers has fallen on some hard times, and though Chris Ash has arrived to turn things around, this year might be rough. But they’re still in the Big Ten and they still have the resources to build a program from the ground up. Similarly, crap is a curse word that nobody takes seriously, but you still can’t say it in a kids show and you shouldn’t really say it in school either, so it still retains status as a curse word. There’s certainly a parallel with how, say, Michigan State is superior in every demonstrable way, but that’s a bit of a reach. Rutgers is going to have to establish credibility; after last year, they are difficult to take seriously, not unlike someone whose strongest word is crap attempting a rap battle. It could be a pretty crap year for the Scarlet Knights, but that’s no reason the crap has to continue. It just might take a while to clean up all that crap.
14: Purdue Boilermakers: [Blankety-Blank]
Total Points: 20 FPV: 0 LPV: 16 High: 13 Low 14
Discussing Purdue football is objectively difficult because as much as we love to hate, it’s in such a bad place that going to deep ruins the mood. Purdue football is such a factory of sadness heading into the fourth year of the disastrous Darrell Hazell era that it brings an awkward end to any football conversation. When you call someone a [blankety-blank], you create confusion until your steadfast refusal to use a word stronger than that simply creates pity that you feel this is an appropriate way to express yourself. I don’t even have a proper sign-off for this. Please let me stop talking about [blankety-blanking] Purdue.
So there you have it. Who’d we overrate? Who’d we underrate? Leave the fuck out of some goddamn comments below.