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B1G Power Poll Week 12: Dragons in Pop Culture


Hi Big Ten fans,

This was a great fall for dragons with HBO’s House of the Dragon dominating the pop culture discourse for a few weeks. This made me realize no one has ever done a DRAGONS Power Poll. Crazy! I think many of us would agree that dragons are easily the coolest fantasy animals and popular culture has no shortage of them. This Power Poll brings you 14 Big Ten-worthy dragons. Note that franchises which have dragons which could exceed this whole list were limited. For example, with Game of Thrones dragons I picked only one living dragon from each series. For Harry Potter, two across 8 movies. One dragon from Middle Earth, etc. So without further ado, the 2022 Big Ten Conference as DRAGONS (for Week 12).

1. Ohio State Buckeyes- King Ghidorah

King Ghidorah, the famed three-headed cosmic dragon from the Godzilla universe is perfect for Ohio State. Ghidorah is, simply put, an asshole. Genuinely malevolent and has immense power to back it up. He is able to fly despite his huge mass and use high energy gravity beams to destroy enemies. He is also an impressive sight to behold with his three heads, two tails, and massive wings. Ohio State’s performances this season have been impressive. Ghidorah rivals Godzilla in size and is virtually unstoppable except when facing Godzilla. In this Ohio State scenario, is Godzilla another Big Ten team or perhaps a non-conference power house? Doesn’t matter. The Buckeyes as Ghidorah certainly haven’t faced their Godzilla yet.

2. Michigan Wolverines- Smaug

Smaug is one of the most famous dragons of Middle Earth. He debuted as the main antagonist of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Smaug is considered the “last great dragon of Middle Earth.” A massive dragon (though small by Middle Earth standards; see Ancalagon), Smaug was intelligent, greedy, and cunning, as well as cruel. He was very powerful and he easily took control of the Dwarven Lonely Mountain destroying the city of Dale in the process. Smaug’s greatest personality traits though, and perhaps the source of his demise was that he was arrogant, vengeful, and self-absorbed. In the end his arrogance and quest for vengeance was his downfall... I feel like this is a possible Michigan scenario for the rest of the season, but what do I know.

3. Penn State Nittany Lions- Blue-Eyes White Dragon

Yes, I partially picked Blue-Eyes White Dragon because of its colors for Penn State. However, it also fits because the Blue-Eyes White Dragon is one of the most powerful spirit monsters in the Yu-Gi-Oh! universe. However, despite its immense power, a single Blue-Eyes White Dragon is often no match for the more powerful spirits like Exodia and Obelisk. So it’s strong, but not top of the deck strong. Like Penn State is a good team. Great, even. But not at the top.

4. Minnesota Golden Gophers - Drogon

Drogon is the first of two Game of Thrones dragons on this list. Obviously, this is show Drogon who is absolutely massive compared to the books. Drogon surprised the people of Westeros and even his mother, Daenerys, with his size, strength, and ferocity. He disappeared for a bit (Minnesota’s 3 loss stretch this season), but then he reconnected with Dany and led her to various victories (before her life was cut short, but that has nothing to do with Drogon). These dragons of this world are still vulnerable though as Drogon has experienced spear and javelin injuries and his siblings were killed by such. But he’s not dead yet.

5. Iowa Hawkeyes- Vhagar

First of all. Vhagar is a raggedy bitch. Okay now that that’s out of the way, Iowa is also raggedy. Vhagar, though massive, is just not the dragon she once was. Old as hell and slow. Like Vhagar, Iowa football of 2022 is not the Iowa football 2021. Sure they can munch on some smaller, lesser teams, like Vhagar did to poor Arrax, but eh. Intimidating in name only.

6. Purdue Boilermakers- Rathalos

Rathalos, the male variant of this species of monster, is the flagship creature of the Monster Hunter video game franchise. Rathalos has a phenomenal design in a series that is chock-full of amazingly designed monsters and creatures. The thing about Rathalos though is that despite looking so cool and being iconic is that it’s an annoying hunt for seasoned hunters as he rarely lands where you’re able to attack him. Purdue, like Rathalos, looks cool. I’ve always liked their color scheme, their train theme, their big drum. But Purdue is just not GREAT. They’re good though! Rathalos is also scary for up and coming, low-ranked hunters, and Purdue is often a wrench to teams trying to make a name for themselves like Illinois this past weekend.

7. Maryland Terrapins- Hungarian Horntail

The Hungarian Horntail featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was a highly aggressive species of dragon that Harry had to face in the First Task of the Triwizard tournament. The Horntail ended up breaking free of its chain and chased Harry around the outside of the Hogwarts castle. This dragon was one of Harry’s closest brushes with death as the Horntail stayed on him even while riding his Firebolt broomstick. This dragon was was doing pretty well until it wasn’t. An abrupt maneuver by Harry had it hit a bridge and plummet into a crevasse. Sounds like Maryland who was doing pretty darn well before dropping two consecutive games including a complete shut-out by Penn State.

8. Illinois Fighting Illini- Ukrainian Ironbelly

The Ukrainian Ironbelly featured in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is a story of liberation. This dragon was locked up deep, deep underground in the crypts of Gringott’s Wizarding Bank where it was abused for years as one of the high security features of the bank’s vaults. Hermione, Harry, and Ron ended up freeing this dragon and used it to escape from the bank. After all that time underground, this dragon breathed the fresh air, and took flight in a breathtaking sequence. I’d say that sums up a bowl eligible and ranked Illinois. Who cares about the Purdue game? They’re freee.

9. Michigan State Spartans- Maleficent

Michigan State is Maleficent because green fire. Just kidding. But gosh these things are hard and tiring to write. Anyway, the original Maleficent (not the Angelina Jolie revamp) is the evil fairy godmother of Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. She uses her magic to transform into a dragon to try and kill Prince Phillip, Aurora’s true love. She is eventually slain by getting the Prince’s enchanted sword to the heart. Maleficent is often ranked highly on a list of Disney villains, but when you actually look at her you realize she’s pretty boring and generic. And a sword to the heart as a dragon?? How unoriginal. Michigan State, like Maleficent, doesn’t really stand out this season. I forgot Maleficent existed as a “pop culture” dragon until I Googled, “pop culture dragons.”

10. Wisconsin Badgers- Toothless

Toothless is the iconic dragon of the How to Train Your Dragon film trilogy. Toothless is considered to be the alpha of all dragons as the trilogy progresses and he has the capability of harnessing great power. However, Wisconsin in 2022 is clearly not that Toothless. They’re clearly the goofy, average, cute and cat-like (badger-like?) Toothless. However, Toothless is loved and I don’t know about you all, but I love the Big Ten West much more when the Badgers are at the top of it. I want Wisconsin to be in the alpha dragon state again. /sigh

In spite of Zuzu’s bullshit beliefs, this is still too high for wisconsin

11. Nebraska Cornhuskers- Kohaku River (Haku)

Okay I know Haku is a super cool dragon, so why would he be Nebraska? Hear me out. Haku, or the Kohaku River spirit is a dragon from the Miyazaki film Spirited Away. He has a humanoid form that he occupies for most of the movie and he is a guiding help to the movie’s protagonist, Chihiro, a ten year old girl lost in the spirit world. Haku looks awesome and he’s a hero. However. He got beat up by some flying paper, and had his mind controlled by a big-nosed bath house witch. Shameful. Pathetic, even. Like Nebraska’s football performance this year.

12. Rutgers Scarlet Knights- Spyro

Spyro is a young, spunky little dragon from a unique line of rare purple dragons (per the The Legend of Spyro lore) and fights dark forces and bad guys in his world. Rutgers is Spyro because I want him to be, darn it! It fits though because over the weekend Rutgers showed the makings of being a young, spunky team with potential to be able to fight the dark forces of the Big Ten, especially in sophomore quarterback Gavin Wimsatt continuing to show growth and the makings of being a solid to great quarterback.

13. Indiana Hoosiers- Mushu

Mushu as a character is worth more than #13. Sure. Fine. However, Mushu as a dragon leaves a lot to be desired. He starts out conning Mulan and her ancestors into thinking he was the “great stone dragon.” A dragon that in theory is far more impressive than he is. Not too dissimilar from how Indiana conned their fans early on into thinking they were going to be good this year with a 3-0 start.

14. Northwestern Wildcats- Trogdor the Burninator

“S. More different S.” In many ways this dragon is a compliment. One of the first dank memes of the internet of the good old YouTube era (a time past), Trogdor the Burninator in all his majesty perfectly captures Northwestern. Why? Because he’s a mess. Those consummate V’s. That beefy arm sticking out of the back of his neck there. And his tiny wings as a wing-a-ling dragon. A messed up looking drawn dragon stands out among the much more majestic dragons of this list. That’s number 14 babyyyy. And we love Northwestern for it.

There. Are. So. Hard. To. Write. Any-hoo, are there dragons you think I missed and were a better fit for your team? Let me know in the comments below!