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Off Beat Empire: Crowning a Champ

I was going to say awarding the OTE Rusty Trombone Award, but I don’t think we want to be in that Google search...

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 25 Ohio State at Michigan
Not rusty enough
Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The regular Marching Band season has come to a close. Usually, this is when I sign out and give a comment for each B1G Marching Band in honor of BTN’s “The Final Drive”, but this year we have an actual champion to name and a few late shows to tally. I did want to take the opportunity, though, to thank MNWildcat for continuing to provide some editing support. Thank you, readers, for your comments and votes. Most importantly thank you to the various members and staffs of the Marching Bands for their entertainment throughout the season. We are truly fortunate to have such great music ensembles as a part of our Saturday (and sometimes Thursday or Friday) tradition. May you all enjoy either your fun trip to a Championship / Bowl Game, or some well-deserved rest.


For this final week, we had four bands in action (at least available on YouTube). Scoring rules are located here.

Win: The Ohio State Buckeye Marching Band (+9), Nov, 26th “Finis à la Buckeye”

The Buckeyes finished the season strong with a performance of multiple classic music staples, such as the “Overture” to Candide, “Wedding March”, “Habanera” from Carmen, and “Claire de Lune”. However, the best part probably had to be the rendition of the “1812 Overture” toward the end. The sound is great and the drill is fantastic. The Company Fronts for “1812” I thought were particularly good (and really not that hard to perform, but with great effect) and the crowd seemed to enjoy it. This was a strong way for the Buckeyes to end the season.

Place: Penn State Blue Band (+6), Nov. 26th “Motown”

For their finale, Penn State played a medley of Motown, or Motown inspired tunes such as “Are you Ready”, “Stop in the Name of Love”, “Sir Duke”, “I Want You Back”, and some music from Boys 2 Men (not really sure what). I’ll be honest... I’m from the Detroit area and I don’t quite understand the staying power of some of the Temptations era Motown music in halftime shows, but they’ve been a staple for at least 30 years (probably more inevitable than “Thriller” dance or “Salute to the Troops”). I do think Jackson 5 tunes are awesome, though, and would make a great show on its own. The Blue Band gives us a good sound and a fair amount of drill to go with it. This is a solid send-off for the regular season.

I did contemplate a “Featuring our Twirlers” penalty for “Sir Duke”, but it was choreographed and just enough to avoid penalty points. Maybe I’m going soft because it’s the last article of the season...

Show: Wisconsin Marching Band (+4), Nov. 26th “ABBA”

The Badgers decided to send out their seniors with tunes from that Sweetest Swedish Super Group, ABBA. I know more about ABBA music than I really should (especially seeing as I’ve never watched Momma Mia) because it was one of my parents’ pirated tapes for road trips to the UP. However, while I can pick out “Waterloo”, I’m not entirely sure what that first song was (my parents’ tape was the “Take a Chance on Me” vintage). Other tunes included “S.O.S” and “Dancing Queen”. I have to give this to the Badgers... they have found some off-beat, yet familiar pop music themes over the past few years and I kind of like the concept of an ABBA show. The sound here is a little disconnected at times, but there’s a lot of it and there are sections that are pretty darn good (like “Dancing Queen”). They also do some traditionally un-Badger things as part of the drill and I kind of like the look of what they put on the field.

Others Receiving Votes

Indiana Marching Hundred (+2), Nov. 26th “Level Up!”

Indiana sends out their seniors with a variety of video game tunes, including snippets from Halo, The Legend of Zelda, Tetris, and Pokemon, amongst others. This was a fun show, but a bit brief in order to make room for recognizing the seniors toward the end.

Did Not Play, Coach’s Decision

I unfortunately didn’t get video for either Iowa or The Mighty Sound of Maryland. Iowa tends to be shy on YouTube, but Maryland usually posts something by now and unfortunately it’s just not in time for this week.

Scoring Update

For the final readers poll of the season, Purdue (my pick) got a fair amount of love for their “Afternoon at the Opera” show, but the combined forces of the Illini and Michigan won out with 35% of the vote for their “Hans Zimmer” show. Another three points for both Michigan and Illinois.

And Now, the Moment You’ve Been Waiting For...

The winner of Off Beat Empire’s 2022 Rusty Trombone Award for the Best Damn Band in the Big Ten is... Ohio State.

I said in the first article that any preseason ranking of Big Ten Bands has to start with Ohio State. Not only are they good, but they don’t let down at any point in the season, and I truly respect that. I thought they started a bit weak this year with their sound, but the Buckeyes just kept racking up points and the sound really improved as the season went on. They also went five straight weeks with five unique shows, and that is highly impressive.

This is a breakdown for all the scoring in the Constructor’s Cup:

Final Scoring Breakdown

School Appearances Win Place Show Hon. Men. Readers Pick Bonus Penalty Points
School Appearances Win Place Show Hon. Men. Readers Pick Bonus Penalty Points
Ohio State 8 2 3 3 3 4 -2 56
Michigan 7 2 2 2 1 4 45
Illinois 6 1 2 1 3 4 -1 40
Penn State 6 1 2 1 1 9 -2 37
Purdue 6 2 1 2 34
Minnesota 6 1 1 2 3 -1 29
Michigan State 6 1 1 2 2 1 -5 27
Maryland 5 4 4 -1 21
Nebraska 8 1 2 19
Indiana 6 2 1 17
Wisconsin 7 1 16
Iowa 2 1 1 4 15
Rutgers 3 6
Northwestern 1 2

As you can see, although the Buckeyes ended up with the same number of wins as Michigan and Purdue, all eight of their shows were either podium finishes or honorable mentions, and they collected the most Readers’ Poll picks. A Grease penalty didn’t help, but performing with the Hawkeyes gave them an extra 4 bonus points. Again, the Buckeyes rose to the top by being consistently good and making every show count toward the final tally.

I do want to commend the other Bands as well, who I think made the competition more interesting than I expected. I had expected Purdue, Illinois, Michigan, and Michigan State to join Ohio State toward the top, but Penn State really broke through with some good bonus points (+2 for Guns N’ Roses heavy metal, +3 for Malaguena, and +4 for teaming up with Maryland) and I was happy to see Minnesota and Maryland in the mix as well. Indiana had some very good shows, and I was tempted to place them higher for a few weeks. Wisconsin is still a bit unique in their blocky drill and high-step style, but I like that some different things are getting mixed into formations than what I’ve seen in the past.

There were good performances from most of the other bands as well, but we didn’t get quite as much video on Northwestern, Rutgers, or Iowa as I had hoped. I saw all of Northwestern’s performances live, and I was proud of my alma mater, but the YouTube just wasn’t there. I think pretty highly of Rutgers as well, but we need to get a dedicated YouTube channel from them to give them full credit. Iowa only had two videos, but they really counted and I still say that the Cambus show was pure, delightful cheese. I get the feeling that Nebraska Cornhuskers would do better with more consistent video postings, but I’m thankful that at least one fan did give us some regular insight into the Big Red Band.

Of course, Ohio State also benefited from more appearances, but their average was still top notch:

Final Average Performance

School Average
School Average
Ohio State 7.00
Illinois 6.67
Michigan 6.43
Penn State 6.17
Purdue 5.67
Minnesota 4.83
Michigan State 4.50
Maryland 4.20
Indiana 2.83
Nebraska 2.38
Wisconsin 2.29
Minimum 5 Appearances

Beyond that though, kudos to the Illini for taking second. They were right up there on a per-performance basis, edging out Michigan.

I do note that I’m not running the final Readers Poll, and Penn State could potentially catch up to Illinois (and a few other schools could move up a slot or two) with an incremental three points, but I’m done for the year and the championship really isn’t in play. However, if your favorite school is being impacted, please feel free to tell yourself all offseason that the refs screwed you and you should have placed higher.

Anyway, it’s been fun, congrats to the Buckeyes, and again thanks to you readers for sticking with this article throughout the season.


Awarding the Rusty Trombone

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Fair competition. Ohio State deserved the win
    (27 votes)
  • 13%
    I accept the results, but I would make a few changes to the scoring going forward
    (14 votes)
  • 5%
    GTom’s hatred of Rush totally screwed us
    (6 votes)
  • 4%
    GTom’s hatred of the troops totally screwed us
    (5 votes)
  • 11%
    You’re an idiot and have no idea what makes one band better than the other
    (12 votes)
  • 40%
    We’re all winners getting to see these great bands in action
    (43 votes)
107 votes total Vote Now