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Week 9 Big Ten Power Poll: Halloween Decor

Spooky, scary Big Ten play sends shivers down your spine.

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Halloween In Vaughan
Photo by Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images

In a not particularly fresh and unexpected tradition around here, we typically feature a Halloween-themed power poll at the end of October. We’ve done candy, couples’ costumes, and probably a bunch of others I’m too lazy to look up. So it’s getting a little difficult to think of new ways to approach the season.

However, the ol’ idea well hasn’t yet run totally dry, so this year, I bring you: Halloween Decor. While I’m not personally a huge fan of Halloween, I do love coming up with a homemade costume every year, and I also love candy. Furthermore, I can appreciate that the American public’s enthusiasm for Halloween is the lone thing that keeps us from visiting retailers and finding Christmas lights mixed in with back-to-school supplies in late June— and for that, we must be grateful to this annual fright fest.

Because there are fourteen teams (you guys, adding USC and UCLA to this list might literally kill me), I’ve had to employ a rather capacious definition of what constitutes decor. If you don’t like it... well, go hang out at a Trunk or Treat with all the other cool kids and leave me alone. May your treat bag be filled only with Mounds bars, tootsie rolls, and little boxes of raisins.

Thanks to WSR for the great graph work, as always!

#1 - Ohio State: 12-foot Giant-Sized Skeleton with LifeEyes(™) LCD Eyes

First Place Votes: 9 High: 1 Low: 2 Last Week: 1

Home Depot’s $300 giant-sized skeleton smashed into a troubled Halloween season. The year was 2020, the mood was tense and dour, and no one knew how, exactly, we should be doing Halloween in a pandemic. But Home Depot knew. The answer, it turned out, was with a massive, poseable skeleton that quickly became an online hit, and has quickly sold out every year since.

The great appeal of the skeleton–aside from his sheer size, which appeals to a society that tends to love excess–is that he is poseable, opening the door to attention-grabbing yard tableaus, and even multi-seasonal use (the one near me has been throwing the bones since August, and in a few weeks, I suspect he’ll turn his talents to stringing lights, as he did last year.)

Like Skelly, OSU has spawned numerous attempts at duplication, but none are quite the same as the original. The price tag is a little obscene for a yard decoration (or I’m just poor), but price is no matter when you’re elite. Home Depot’s seasonal gamble paid off in both sales performance and immediate icon status, just as OSU’s investments in its program have created an unstoppable football juggernaut. Skelly is the King of Halloween, and like it or not, OSU is the King of the Big Ten.

#2 - Michigan: McDonald’s Halloween Buckets

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

BACK FOR A LIMITED TIME!!!! Not sure if you’ve heard, but if you’re a person on the internet, (and you are, if you’re reading this) you probably have - McDonald’s is bringing back Boo Buckets! Yes, instead of a greasy paper bag, you can have your kid’s meal (sorry, your child’s kid’s meal, because of course that’s why you’re ordering one of these) served in a plastic bucket designed to evoke nostalgia for Halloweens of yore, when you were young and free and didn’t need to think about soaring food prices, the death of democracy, and scary urban legends your mother-in-law keeps forwarding to you from Facebook about fentanyl hidden in Halloween candy. (That’s not actually happening, Brenda, settle down.)

Were the buckets ever that great? I mean, no, probably not. But they’re cute and fun, and we’re all in need of a pick-me-up, and if these Made-in-China pails deliver that, then I’m not here to steal people’s joy. I do think we need to talk about the fact that they no longer have lids though– back when they debuted in 1986, they had proper, squash-shaped lids. Today’s version has no lid, but has the suggestion of a lid, something I find far more insulting than had the lid just been fully omitted. Just level with us, McD’s– “What, lids? In this economy?”

Also big in the 80s, and also seemingly back for a limited time, Michigan is chugging its way through the conference en route to its Big Important Game against OSU at the end of the regular season. Questions have been raised about how “for real” the Wolverines are, and some of these questions were quieted by beating the snot out of Penn State. On paper, Michigan should have no trouble handling its in-state rivalry game against MSU this weekend, but if they do… let’s just say that Wolverines BACK : Wolverines actual quality :: Nostalgia Pail : shitty tiny hamburger.

#3 - Illinois: Cute Halloween

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

Before we fully delve into Cute Halloween, let’s talk about how cute Illinois fans are:

That’s right, y’all. The era of Illini disrespkt is upon us! Illinois has been third in this distinguished poll for two straight weeks now, behind only Ohio State and Michigan, and it’s still not enough! They want moooooooooore.

Poor @toonboy92484

So maybe the Illini fans aren’t being the cutest right now, but I’ve still decided to give them “Cute Halloween.” Favored by those (me, it’s me) who really cannot with bloody, horror, scary Halloween, this version of the holiday focuses on friendly jack-o-lanterns, friendly ghosts, cute bats, good witches, etc. etc. Basically, take any emblem of Halloween and put a smiley face on it:

Illinois’ unlikely rise has been the feel-good story of the Big Ten this year. In stark contrast to Ohio State, Bret Bielema’s band of misfits and an Art Sitkowski keep getting it done, not with style, but with heart. And because of their gruesome recent history in terms of wins and losses, the rest of us aren’t that mad about it. Someone has to “win” the West, and most of us would prefer it’s not Wisconsin again. Or Iowa. Or Minnesota. Or Nebraska. So, in spite of the slander of a few disgruntled Twitter users, most people aren’t hating on Illinois too much right now— keep fighting the good fight, punkin’.

#4 - Penn State: Halloween Lights

H: 3 L: 5 LW: 2

I have absolutely no way to substantiate this, but to me, it seems like Halloween lights are more popular in my area than in previous years. I can’t say I mind this, as lights always look nicer to me than the infernal inflatables that are the eyesore of every major holiday. And, I can admire the commitment to putting up lights not once, but TWICE in the span of a few short months. A well-executed lights display is always a joy, no matter the season, so go on with your Clark Griswold selves, Halloween light people.

Like a classic light display, Penn State knows how to throw a classy-looking spectacle. The White Out is an impressive tradition, even non-fans must admit. Last week’s Minnesota game was the White Out, and the Nittany Lions blanked the Gophers in a way consistent with opaque spectacle in the stands. While, the White Out reportedly turned dangerous as fans overloaded the stadium outlets, ultimately, the Gophers were the only ones who got burned.

#5 - Maryland: Carved Pumpkins

H: 5 L: 9 LW: 7

Halloween 2022
Even meerkats love Halloween!
Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images

Maryland is having a perfectly nice fall. They’ve shed the “September Maryland” stigma by winning a shocking three out of four in October, and they had the opportunity to be bowl-eligible with a win last weekend. It seemed like an easy goal, one they could smash like teen hooligan busting jack-o-lanterns in the street, for they were playing lowly Northwestern.

But much like carving pumpkins always sounds much easier and more fun in theory than it ever turns out to be in practice, beating Northwestern proved to be a tough gourd to crack. With 3:48 left in the game, Northwestern tied it at 24, and it appeared the Terps were on their way to saving bowl eligibility for their final game of the season against Rutgers. Luckily, only 14 seconds later, Roman Hemby would score on a 75-yard run to put the game away and spare the turtles epic humiliation.

#6 - Purdue: Fake Cobwebs

H: 4 L: 9 LW: 5

Halloween in Washington Photo by Nike Laurenz/picture alliance via Getty Images

Like carved pumpkins, fake spiderwebs are something of a Halloween staple. Visually, the impact can be quite dramatic, and because we’ve all experienced the real-life horror of unexpectedly walking into the real deal, the horror of the spiderweb has a verisimilitude that zombies and 12-foot skeletons just can’t match. At pennies per square foot, they’re also among the most economical of Halloween decorations. Inflation may have come for your butter, your meat, your gas, and well, everything... but you can still afford a spiderweb. God bless us, every one.

Purdue also often stars as a workmanlike filler for the Big Ten West. But now, with other teams falling on unexpectedly hard times/extremely stubborn coaches, Purdue found itself in the surprising position of being a potential star of October 2022. After beating Nebraska in Week 7, they were a trendy choice for winning the West! Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s powers over the Boilermakers appear to be truly of the occult, and Purdue once again has settled into its role as an also-ran. (Still ranked above Wisconsin though, because we are football-knowin’ professionals around here!)

#7 - Wisconsin: Plastic Spiders, $5 for a Gross

H: 5 L: 9 LW: 8

Have you ever found yourself in the position of needing to acquire 144 black plastic spiders? Sure, we all do from time to time, and luckily, this is the United States of America, and you can obtain your very own gross of fake arachnids for less than a fiver! (Plus $6.99 shipping... that’s how they get you.) The site promises that these spiders will add “authenticity” to fake spider webs, or deliver a “spooky scare” to unsuspecting party guests when you are zany enough to add them to a .

I have a feeling I’m going to have some weird dreams tonight after searching for “fake plastic spiders” pics.

Wisconsin, while far from the dominant “real thing” that they were in days of yore, is still creeping about the West, capable of sneaking up and surprising teams in ways thought impossible only a few short weeks ago. While Purdue fans are already stampeding to the comments section to inform me that they totally knew they were going to lose etc. etc., I’ll add that perhaps they did and their powers of predicting doom are impressive—but it probably didn’t lessen the sting of being bitten by Wisconsin’s spider in the candy bowl.

#8 - Michigan State: Inflatables

H: 3 L: 10 LW: 10

I hate inflatable yard decor. To me, this is an obvious statement, as they are so cheesy, hideous, and tacky that it’s hard for me to imagine anyone liking them. But if the past few years have taught me anything, it’s that you can never be surprised at the total crap that people will enthusiastically embrace. It’s also possible that I’m more scarred about these things than most, given my long exposure to Lil’ Red. Given the sheer number of these monstrosities I see in the wild, hating these is clearly a less obvious stance than I think it should be—and they continue to sprout in yards across American like brightly colored, idiotic fungi.

I’ll allow the Stay-Puft Man, but that’s IT.

While I could have awarded MSU this dubious honor based on their predilection for tacky, brightly colored alternative uniforms, a deeper analogy actually works better. After much ballyhooed seasons courtesy of Kenneth Walker III, the Spartans have gone limp for a good portion of this season. After being left in a crumpled heap by both Minnesota and Ohio State (two very not-equivalent teams), many are wondering if a win versus Wisconsin was worth anything substantial—or if it’s simply a puff of hot air and no substance.

#9 - Minnesota: Political Yard Signs

H: 7 L: 11 LW: 6

I know, I know. Political yard signs aren’t Halloween decor. But given Halloween’s proximity to “the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November” (that’s when Election Day is, if you didn’t know!), it’s not at all unusual to spot a plastic zombie hand breaking ground in someone’s yard next to a school board candidate’s name in even-numbered years. So I’m counting it. Besides, some of these candidates are positively ghoulish.

Whatever your party affiliation, I hope that you’ll vote mindfully this year, and not just for whatever letter you’ve voted for your entire adult life. This is a critical election year, in local races all the way up to the big leagues, and it has never been more important that people be willing to put the principle of democracy over party. Say it with me: principle over party. Now go forth and vote that way. Because if the Good Ship Democracy goes under, it’s a hell of a lot of work and danger to raise it again.

Though that was all very serious and I meant every word of it, it’s also worth noting that Peej’s boat also seems to be taking on some water as well after a throttling in Happy Valley. What began as a season of hope for Minnesota (“We’re going to win the West!”) has turned rather sour. Rutgers is still good for what ails ya and is a great way to end a three-game skid, but this season is Minnesota’s best chance for greatness in the foreseeable future, and the Goofs need to start bailing water right now.

#10 - Nebraska: Sound-Activated Ghost

H: 8 L: 13 LW: 9

First, I want to note that Nebraska actually lost a place from last week, proving that they are indeed capable of losing to Bye, as we all suspected. Good job, Huskers.

In doing “research” for this article, I came to the sad realization that the sound-activated ghosts of my youth are actually very hard to find now. There are some similar products that you can switch on and off at will, but the sound activated ghost with the familiar wail that you can hear above? Ebay or bust, baby. My brother still has one, and it’s remarkably sensitive to sound as I discovered when I visited two weeks ago, but I didn’t realize the thing was actually an antique. They sure don’t make them like they used to.

Initially, I thought this would be a great Nebraska comparison because it’s whimsical, cute, a little annoying, and ultimately quite harmless—all nice enough things for Halloween decor, but less desirable for one’s football team of choice. However, as often happens when writing Power Polls, it turns out that this one works on multiple levels as both Sonic Control Ghost and Husker Football saw their glory days some 25 years ago.

#11 - Iowa: Disgustingly Realistic Gross and Scary Stuff

Last Place Votes: 1 H: 9 L: 14 LW: 12

If I lived in Iowa— and thank God that I don’t— I’d dress up this year as Kirk Ferentz with a little baby Brian snuggled close to me, reminding any Hawkeye that I encountered that this is their fate, as long as Kirk is coach. Nepotism is indeed a scary thing, and no one knows that better than Iowa fans.

Happy Halloween, Iowegians! Boo!

I originally envisioned this entry as the yard display that is a little too realistic. You know the one—severed limbs, super-realistic zombies dripping brains, horror films recreated in stunning detail on a patch of dying Kentucky Bluegrass. Like, I know you never matured past age 21, Chad, but now you live a block from an elementary school, and I’m not sure all of this is really necessary to celebrate the season.

But for Hawkeyes, reality is just as scary as anything Chad put out in his yard—with an offense that continues to break new ground in measures of ineptitude and an increasingly recalcitrant Kirk displaying a cold-blooded lack of remorse for what he’s done to his own program, this is as scary as it gets if you bleed black and gold.

#12 - Rutgers: Witch that Crashed

H: 10 L: 12 LW: 13

Cue the whimsy—which is not something I thought I’d ever say in relation to Rutgers! But they’ve managed to go and land themselves the most whimsical decoration on this list. At this point, Ye Olde Crashed Witch isn’t particularly fresh or new, but she’s still sort of funny. Recent variations have evolved to include safety commentary such as “Don’t Text and Fly!” which is, I suppose, good advice.

Rutgers isn’t really up to anything fresh and new either, and is still skating by on its old schtick of being generally bad at football! But behold! They are not, as it turns out, the very WORST at football, for the Indiana Hoosiers somehow managed to lose by a touchdown to the Scarlet Knights. Did Rutgers cook up a potion to take out Indiana? Who knows, but they can prove it wasn’t just magic if they can duplicate their success against the reeling Gophers this weekend.

#13 - Indiana: Zombies/Yard Cemeteries

H: 10 L: 12 LW: 13

Nothing adorns a house more beautifully than the suggestion of death and decay filling the front yard, daring the HOA to make a move on the peaceful repose of Izzy Dead and Barry A. Live. “I may have spent $425,000 on this suburban dream,” such decor says, “but I’m still very, very edgy.” No, you’re not, and it may be time for you to take up a more substantive hobby.

Nevertheless, a yard of death is perfectly fitting for the University of Indiana, who just two short years ago was living their dream, winning their division, and being denied the chance to play in the CCG because they are not named Ohio State. Now, with losses to Nebraska, Rutgers, and Maryland—games Indiana should expect to be wins or at least competitive in, things are looking bleak in Bloomington.

Here Lies Indiana Football:

b. 2020

d. 2021

#14 - Northwestern: Spirit Halloween

LPV: 12 H: 12 L: 13 LW: 14

Alright, so Spirit Halloween is not itself decor, though one can argue that as a reliably seasonal festooning of hundreds of vacant retail spaces across this fine nation, it is an adornment of sorts. And one can also argue that Northwestern is a football team, of sorts.

Spirit Halloween is perhaps the ultimate symbol of retail resilience, blooming wherever it is planted like a weed emerging from a rock face. As malls clear out and retail giants close for good, there are precious few takers for the cavernous spaces—except for Spirit Halloween. Invading the host for a couple of months of the year, then vanishing again until next September is the perfect seasonal accompaniment to our capitalist society. Come in, grab some cash, sell some cheap shit from China, and bounce until next year? It’s not the worst business model. Pat Fitzgerald seems to have learned this, and with his stubborn resistance to changing his ways, he’ll keep scooping up that paycheck until he’s evicted... which will be exactly never.

Happy Halloween, Wildcats!

Have a safe and happy Giant Skeleton Season, everyone! Talk spooky to us in the comments.


12-Foot Giant Skeleton with LifeEyes(TM) - would you? Did you?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    I have bought the giant skeleton and also my spouse hates me.
    (4 votes)
  • 33%
    I haven’t been able to get one yet, but I would love to!
    (60 votes)
  • 64%
    No house-sized reminders of my own mortality for me, thanks.
    (117 votes)
181 votes total Vote Now


What’s BRT’s Halloween costume this year?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Wonder Woman
    (8 votes)
  • 29%
    History Professor Barbie
    (59 votes)
  • 37%
    Zombie Scott Frost
    (76 votes)
  • 29%
    Sexy Abraham Lincoln
    (60 votes)
203 votes total Vote Now