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Week 8 Big Ten Power Poll: Historical Generals

How did your team rank in our weekly Power Poll? And more importantly, which military leader would they be?

Simon Bolivar (1783 - 1830) Venezuelan political leader. Together with Jose de San Martin, he played a key role in Latin America’s struggle for independence from Spain.
I really wanted to include Simon Bolivar, but unfortunately his best fit was filled by someone else.
Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Every cool kid loves history. Reading about history. Listening to history. Debating history. It’s all great.

While I don’t condone the actions of many of these historical leaders (and in fact condemn many of them), their military leadership and stories make for good comparisons. It should be fairly obvious to everyone why I’m not covering anybody more recent than 1815. Even if I was, none of your teams are deserving of General Sherman and even though I hate almost all of your programs, none of you are terrible enough to be compared to the traitors of the Confederacy.

Thanks, as always, to WhiteSpeedReceiver for the graphs.

#1 - Ohio State: Alexander the Great

High: 1 Low: 2 First Place Votes: 6 Last Week: 1

“Alexander Mosaic” showing Alexander the Great
“Alexander Mosaic”, Roman copy of a Hellenistic painting. copy circa 1st-3rd century CE
Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Alexander inherited the world’s best army from his father Philip. After reestablishing Macedonian hegemony over local neighbors in Greece, he set out to conquer Persia and the world. His victories and conquests in Asia Minor, Phoenicia, Egypt, and Mesopotamia opened the doors to the Achaemenid empire which he would soon conquer in its entirety.

Ryan Day inherited the B1G’s best program from Urban. So far this season, Ohio State has reestablished themselves as the dominant program in their region area by beating Toledo and Notre Dame and is setting out to conquer the Big Ten. Will Ohio State succeed where Alexander didn’t and reach the ends of the world (India/national champions) or will their fanatical march towards greatness be stopped short when facing a superior force consisting of elephants?

#2 - Michigan: Scipio Africanus

FPV: 3 H: 1 L: 4 LW: 3

Bust of Scipio Africanus
He looks like a Michigan Man
Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Publius Scipio Africanus - Africanus is a cognomen, not his actual name - was born into a patrician family well known for turning out consuls. His father and uncle were killed in Hispania battling Hannibal Barca’s brother Hasdrubal and young Publius was awarded command of the replacement army because he was the only one willing to ask for the position. Scipio was able to defeat Hasdrubal and secure Hispania for the Romans. After a few years of waiting for permission from the Senate, Scipio then invaded north Africa forcing the Carthaginians and Hannibal onto their defensive. At the Battle of Zama, Scipio was able to scatter the Carthaginian cavalry by frightening their war elephants through the use of clever traps. To conclude the battle though, Scipio advanced the whole of his infantry in one single line - no fancy tricks or envelopments - and was able to defeat Hannibal when the Roman cavalry returned from chasing the Carthaginian cavalry.

Like Publius Scipio, John Harbaugh comes from a family known for his craft. He’s very much a Michigan Man in the way that Scipio was a Roman noble. This year’s Wolverines had taken tentative steps early but defeated their lesser competition. They first defeated Penn State’s brother Maryland and when the opportunity came, they demolished Penn State by a simple plan of just running the ball - no fancy passing needed.

I must have mistyped, I could have sworn I put Michigan 14th, not 1st.

#3 - Illinois: Julius Caesar

FPV: 1 H: 1 L: 4 LW: 3

Assassination Of Julius Caesar
Et tu Brutus?
Photo by The Print Collector via Getty Images

Julius Caesar was the junior and reconciliatory member of the original Roman triumvirate with Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gnaeus Pompey. Following his controversial year as consul in 59 BCE, he secured the governorship of Gaul for an extended period of five years in order to avoid criminal prosecution for his actions. Thought to have been kicked to the outskirts of Roman politics, Caesar spent the next decade conquering Gaul - the longtime boogeyman of the Roman people and won praise for showering the people in captured riches. He then won a civil war against former triumvirate comember Pompey as well as the Roman Senate to be declared dictator for the next ten years. It was at this time that his friend Brutus promptly assassinated Caesar and his hopes for transforming the Roman Republic.

Like Caesar, Illinois has spent most of their time in the West division as a junior member but has now defeated their traditional enemies wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota resulting in praise from the people. A matchup against former partner in despair Purdue looms in the future and will decide who controls the West. Should the Illini succeed against their former ally like Caesar did against Pompey, they will travel to the storied halls of Lucas Oil Stadium to be greeted by their old friend Brutus.

#4 - Purdue: Napoleon Bonaparte

H: 3 L: 5 LW: 5

Napoleon At The Saint-Bernard Pass by Jacques-Louis David
Look at that glorious gold hat
Photo by VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images

Napoleon grew up in a Corsican noble family (Corsica was part of France at the time) and upon enrolling in a military school in France at the age of 9, he was bullied by his classmates for being different. Napoleon rose up the ranks of the new revolutionary military in France and eventually became a general. As a general, Napoleon would win a series of victories on the battlefield through the creative use of artillery and envelopment that were the antithesis of common military strategy in Europe at the time. Like Hannibal, Napoleon would go through a difficult crossing of the Alps to invade Italy. His victories gained him popularity and soon Napoleon was betraying the revolution and making himself Emperor of France. His reckless maneuvers in battles against the powers of Europe resulted in a habit of upsetting larger armies. Napoleon met disaster when his army invaded Russia and was forced to retreat during the Russian winter.

Purdue has continually been the odd man out in the Big Ten West by being the passing team while everyone else is running the ball. Jeff Brohm’s creative passing plays and willingness to go to the air while recklessly avoiding the run game courts disaster but he prefers that the ball travel in the thinner air it gets to experience on passing plays even if he needlessly exposed the team to losses. Purdue has left behind their status of also ran in the West and is hoping to become champions of the division. They will need the help of artillery in the form of the Purdue Cannon to do so. Hopefully for Purdue fans, they can avoid playing in winter weather and stay away from the Russian rushing issues that have plagued them in the past.

credit to He was a high school QB for pointing out this was a better comp than Bolivar

#5 - Penn State: Hannibal Barca

H: 3 L: 7 LW: 2

Second Punic War.
Hannibal crossing the Alps
Photo by: PHAS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Hannibal Barca was the son of Hamilcar Barca (a Carthaginian general of the First Punic War) and the leader of the Carthaginian Army during the Second Punic War. He bypassed the Roman Navy and Roman armies in the low mountain passes to invade Italy by crossing the Alps on a treacherous mountain path with his North African war elephants. Once in Italy, Hannibal ripped off a series of lopsided victories (Lake Trasimene and Cannae are my two favorites) against the Romans by selecting highly advantageous battlegrounds and setting up traps for the unwary Romans. Unfortunately for Hannibal, despite his early string of victories he was unable to convince a sufficient number of Rome’s Italian allies to switch sides and a more disciplined Rome eventually stopped engaging him on his terms. This eventually forced Hannibal to retreat back to North Africa to defend the city of Carthage. It was at this point that Scipio Africanus defeated Carthage and Hannibal decisively.

Penn State had gotten off to a good start to the season. Allowing Purdue and Northwestern to self destruct and fall into their traps with unforced errors had the Nittany Lions in a good position. Even against Michigan, the game and season still hung in the balance well into the third quarter. But in the end, an outmatched Penn State was overwhelmed and decisively defeated by their bitter rival.

#6 - Maryland: Frederick the Great

H: 6 L: 7 LW: 7

Frederick The Great
King Frederick II of Prussia thinking about turtles
Photo by Kean Collection/Getty Images

Frederick the Great was the last King in Prussia and first King of Prussia. He greatly increased the territories of Prussia and turned his country into a major military power in Europe. Frederick’s victories over the Austrians during the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War gave Prussia a seat at the “great powers” table of Europe. Under Frederick, Prussia participated in the first partition of Poland - in which Prussia divided the country of Poland into three parts with his rivals Russia and Austria.

Maryland this season has shown that they are finally capable of competing with the great powers of the Big Ten. They played Michigan tightly throughout a close one in Ann Arbor and will look to partition Delaware with their rivals Penn State and Rutgers later this year.

#7 - Minnesota: William the Conqueror

H: 6 L: 9 LW: 6

The Landing Of William The Conqueror, C1884
William makes his landing after rowing the boat across the channel
Photo by The Print Collector/Getty Images

William the Conqueror was a potential claimant and contender for the throne of England in the 1050s and early 1060s despite being across the English Channel in Normandy and talking a great deal about stuff he didn’t really deserve. Following the death of Edward the Confessor, William made his claim along with two others. Adverse winds prevented William from immediately sailing his fleet of ships to England, but the infighting among his opponents weakened their own forces and opened the door for William to defeat Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings and become the first Norman king of England.

PJ Fleck and the Gophers are hoping that the other claimants to the West division fall to infighting and weaken their position in the standings to allow Minnesota to come in late for the victory. The Gophers will attempt to row the boat in the second half of the season and bridge the channel between them and their targets.

#8 - Michigan State: Leonidas

H: 3 L: 10 LW: 10

Modern statue of Spartan leader Leonidas (Sparta
Is this a statue in East Lansing or in Sparta?
Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images

Is this a lazy comparison? If I’m being honest, probably a little. But as we all saw in the documentary film 300, Leonidas’s hoplite phalanx held the pass at Thermopylae until casualties and attrition had weakened their defenses. Although Leonidas’s cause seemed hopeless against the superior forces of the Persians and his own army was massacred, they bought time for the other Greek city states to defeat the invading forces. Michigan State’s defense is also suffering from injuries and are unable to plug the giant gaps in their defenses. The Spartans’ cause seems hopeless, but they will fight on to the last minute hoping to weaken their mortal enemy Michigan in the hope that their allies (Ohio State) will come along and keep the Wolverines out of the Big Ten championship game.

#9 - Iowa: George Washington

Last Place Votes: 1 H: 7 L: 14 LW: 12

Washington Crossing The Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze
We won 10 games last year

If you don’t know who George Washington is and grew up in the United States, I have to bemoan the fall of the American public education system. Before he was the first President of the US of A, George was a soldier and the leader of the Continental Army. His military strategy for the Revolutionary War was simple: avoid large offensives and stay on the defensive. Punt the initiative to the opposing side and buy time for allies to intervene on your behalf. While George did not have any biological sons, he did view his officer staff as his adopted family. When they threatened to revolt upon not being paid their back pay, Washington stopped any serious talk of rebellion by making an address to his officers by reminding them of everything they had been through together.

Kirk Ferentz has pretty obviously modeled his football strategy after the military tactics of George Washington. He stubbornly avoids making aggressive, offensive moves and prefers to stay on the defensive by punting the ball away and forcing the opponent to make decisions. Kirk’s hope is that - like the French - his defense and special teams will bail out his beleaguered offense. While Kirk’s postgame conferences aren’t the stuff of Washingtonian legend, his appeal to Hawkeye fans’ emotions by reminding them that Iowa won ten games last year is an attempt to follow the founding father’s lead.

There were 10 voters in this poll, Kirk. I don’t know if you are aware of that...

#10 - Nebraska: Zheng He

H: 7 L: 13 LW: 9

A modern wall painting of Zheng He, Chinese explorer, admiral and diplomat, Kunyang (the explorer’s birthplace), Yunnan Province (1990).
Rumor has it that his large ships of 120 meters in length and 4 tiers of decks had sell out crowds
Photo by: Jim Goodman/Pictures From History/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Ma He was captured by the Ming armies as a child and castrated. Despite this He would eventually become a trusted adviser to a prince who was the eldest surviving son of the Emperor. This prince was passed over for the throne in favor of his nephew and would have to rebel against him to gain the empire. Ma He would serve as one of his military commanders during the rebellion. He played a crucial role in defending Beijing against the imperial armies and later distinguished himself in the campaign to capture Nanjing. As a reward, He was given the name Zheng and made an admiral. He undertook seven treasure voyages with great fleets designed to impose Chinese control over the Indian Ocean trade, extend their tributary system, and impress the foreign peoples of the Indian Ocean basin. The treasure voyages ended up having the opposite effect, nearly bankrupting the Ming empire and led to a period of isolation for China.

The Cornhuskers were defeated by the Georgia Southern side early in the season and surgically removed a significant part of their coaching staff by firing Scott Frost and Erik Chinander. Since then, with their victories against Indiana and Maryland, Nebraska was tied for first place in the West and being given the spotlight for a big Saturday night game by TV executives. Unfortunately for the Cornhuskers, their highly touted, expensive recruiting class hasn’t yielded the returns expected and Scott Frost’s buyout was throwing money away.

credit to boiler bot #86 for the suggestion

#11 - wisconsin: Charlemagne

H: 9 L: 12 LW: 8

Portrait Of Charlemagne
One of my general electives at Purdue was a history course about Charlemagne. Who said engineers aren’t well rounded, emotionally well adjusted people?
Photo by GraphicaArtis/Getty Images

Charlemagne - that’s Charles the great for you Latin novices out there - was the King of the Franks and the first Emperor of the “Romans” after being crowned by the Pope in 800. Charlemagne was attempting to reestablish the Roman Empire in his own image and spent nearly 50 years expanding the territory of the Frankish kingdom. In reading about Charlemagne it feels like every year he would go out on campaign, defeat whichever tribe was making trouble that year, and then return home for the winter. During Charlemagne’s campaigns against the Saxons, he forced them to convert to Christianity at swordpoint (resulting in several massacres such as the Massacre of Verden).

wisconsin is attempting to reestablish the Barry Alvarez dynasty under Jim Leonhard. Sure the loss to Sparty was a minor set back, but the massacre of Northwestern and wisconsin’s savage yearly winning campaigns against the non-orthodox offense of Purdue share similarities with Charlemagne’s actions. Although the high points of the Alvarez days and Roman Empire are gone, can a new era of prosperity be around the corner for wisconsin?

Excellent charting by WSR.

#12 - Indiana: Arminius

H: 9 L: 12 LW: 11

Hermann der Cherusker
Hermann the German gifts his captured Roman treasure to the priests.
Photo by: Bildagentur-online/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Arminius defeated the Romans at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 CE by trapping three legions under the command of general Publius Varus. His victory is considered one of the most important battles in history as he defeated the greatest military power of the ancient world at their peak and effectively stopped the ever expanding Roman Empire at the banks of the Rhine.

While nobody is confusing anything Indiana has accomplished this year as one of the most decisive games in history, their upset victory over the Illini is proving to be very important. Although the 2022 Hoosiers season may not be remembered for anything else, this upset will be talked about for years to come.

#13 - Rutgers: Gustavus Adolphus

LPV: 2 H: 9 L: 14 LW: 13

Gustav Adolf 1594-1632 Nach Dem Gemalde Von W Camphausen
What do you mean blocking bullets is important?
Photo by The Print Collector/Getty Images

The “father of modern warfare”, Gustavus Adolphus laid the foundations of military practice for the next two centuries. Gustavus inherited three wars along with the crown from his father: Denmark-Norway, Russia, and Poland-Lithuania. The war against Denmark-Norway (Kalmar War) was concluded in a peace that did not cost Sweden any territory. Gustavus and Sweden would see more success in the wars against Russia and Poland resulting in the exclusion of Russia from the Baltic Sea and the transfer of Livonia to Sweden from Poland. At this point Gustavus decided to intervene in the Thirty Years’ War against the Holy Roman Empire and invaded Bavaria. Having survived a gunshot thru the shoulders in an earlier battle, Gustavus was unable to wear iron armor and had two fingers of his right hand paralyzed. Despite this, he continued fighting in the thick of battles which resulted in his death at the Battle of Lützen.

Rutgers is the father of college football. They successfully managed to extract themselves from the non-conference schedule with three victories. But upon entering Big Ten play they have been paralyzed by inept QB play and their vulnerability due to shoddy offensive line protection has resulted in their demise.

#14 - Northwestern: Darius III

LPV: 7 H: 7 L: 13 LW: 14

Alexander And The Body Of Darius
Alexander and the body of Darius III
Photo by The Print Collector/Heritage Images via Getty Images

Darius III was the last Achaemenid King of Kings of Persia. An extremely wealthy ruler, Darius was a failure as a military leader and was kicked around by the Greeks under Alexander the Great. He did not show up for the battle of the Granicus and stayed at home instead. A year and a half after that battle, Darius finally took the field against Alexander’s army at the Battle of Issus but despite outnumbering Alexander by at least 2 to 1 and catching him by surprise, he suffered a humiliating defeat. This defeat was repeated at the Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BCE which Darius fled halfway thru abandoning his soldiers before the battle had been decided. Darius continued to flee from Alexander until his satraps led a coup and deposed him, wounded him with javelins, and left him to die.

Northwestern has so far refused to show up for a game in the United States. It’s at least a year and a half later than it should be for Fitzgerald to fire his coordinators. Northwestern may be a university of extraordinarily wealthy persons, but that doesn’t guarantee success on the field.



Which leader would you like to learn more about in Sunday morning coming down rather than me talking about Purdue’s loss to wisconsin?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    (6 votes)
  • 19%
    Scipio Africanus
    (41 votes)
  • 9%
    (20 votes)
  • 2%
    Julius Caesar
    (6 votes)
  • 4%
    (9 votes)
  • 2%
    William the Conqueror
    (5 votes)
  • 7%
    Frederick the Great
    (15 votes)
  • 9%
    (20 votes)
  • 12%
    Zheng He
    (26 votes)
  • 1%
    (3 votes)
  • 6%
    (14 votes)
  • 4%
    George Washington
    (9 votes)
  • 13%
    Gustavus Adolphus
    (27 votes)
  • 2%
    Darius III
    (6 votes)
207 votes total Vote Now


Should I have found a way to include Simon Bolivar in this power poll?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    (48 votes)
  • 71%
    Of course, I can’t believe you didn’t!
    (119 votes)
167 votes total Vote Now

Requests for the Commentariat

He Was A HS QB: “I want Illinois to be Hannibal only so someone can photoshop shirtless Bert onto the back of an elephant.”

Well, you don’t get Hannibal for Illinois but perhaps someone can fill this request for you and everyone else that wants to see it

BoilerUp89: Brutus the Buckeye as Senator Brutus assassinating Julius Caesar. Also, any book recommendations on these people you got. Throw them in the comments. Thanks, and hope you enjoyed!