The Long Goodbye
This was it, my friends. After years of slow erosion of its core identity in the quest for media dollars, the Big Ten we have long known and loved has closed its doors forever. From 10 teams, to 11 teams, to Leaders & Legends, to East & West. We now plow ever farther into the uncharted waters of NIL, transfers, 12-team playoffs, and superconferences that feel more like the NBA than regional cohorts based on our shared cultural experiences. At the risk of being melodramatic, this feels like one of those moments that we will look back on as a watershed of sorts.
College football as we know it is changing, and likely not for the better. As an Ohio State fan, I have always hated Michigan. It is my birthright. But I was always forced to grudgingly respect their belief in (and adherence to) their own special mythology—the “Michigan Man” ideal. Now, it seems the zero-defect, win-at-all-cost, one-game-season nature of the sport has subsumed that annoyingly admirable aspect of the sport as well...and under the leadership of a Michigan Man to boot. That so many Wolverine fans seem largely fine with this—often to the point of playing the victim—is perhaps the clearest marker of how the Overton window on the relationship between college sports and the universities they represent has forever shifted.
This all makes me sad, because for so long the B1G faithful could look at successes elsewhere in the college football world and at least plausibly believe we were doing it better—or at least differently for reasons we cared about. Stronger academics. Less greed. More honesty. Some ethereal Midwestern-ish values that may not have been unique to us, but felt like something that at least reflected who we thought we were. Perhaps we were only telling ourselves that to feel better, and things were never so good. But that moral high ground, however real it was, has been eroded for years by the aforementioned waters. Now it seems there’s no denying it’s gone the way of Atlantis. I never thought I’d write a eulogy for the idea of the Michigan Man, but you never know what you’ll miss until it’s gone.
For my part, it’s been a pleasure to be a part of all this, such as it was. Big Ten football has been a mainstay of my life. It’s actually the only sport I really care about. I started writing here ten (10!) years ago, while living in Kansas, because I loved everything about Big Ten football and college football in general. That year, I joined Jesse Collins in the stands to see Minnesota play Nebraska for the $5 Bits of Broken Chair, watched newcomers Rutgers and Maryland both beat Michigan in Ann Arbor, and froze my ass off in TCF Bank Stadium...only to see a Minnesotan named Dan thumb his nose at mother nature with a Dilly Bar. Oh, and my team won the national championship with a 3rd-string QB.
The challenge of living abroad now is not only watching the games, but explaining college football to foreigners. In the era of Ted Lasso, NFL in London, and streaming everything, the conversations come up more. It’s becoming harder and harder to make a clear distinction between pro football and the FBS. I find myself yearning for folksiness of Jim Tressel in a sweater vest, talking about “our great young people” and his belief in the value of education. I yearn for the class and leadership Lloyd Carr displayed in victory and defeat, on and off the field. I miss Mark Dantonio’s curmudgeonly, coach-em-up ways and his refusal to buy into the cult of fame. Now we have Jim Harbaugh selling his disgraced coaching staff as leaders of “America’s team” amidst multiple scandals. We have Ryan Day screaming about Lou Holtz in post-game interviews like a frat boy after a fight that consisted only of shoving. Then there’s the Mel Tucker saga.
I think perhaps we’ve lost the plot a bit.
I’m not sure where all this goes next. Yesterday, Oregon played Jonathan Smith’s Oregon State for the last time as a conference opponent in Autzen Stadium. Oregon’s next home game against a conference opponent will be against Michigan State, coached by Jonathan Smith. The times, they are a-changin’.
The hardest thing about the Good Old Days is knowing when you’re living in them.
Thanks for a great season. Stay safe, stay thankful for what we had, and hopeful for what might yet be.
Ten B1G Things, once more for old times’ sake
- Contrary to reports, cheaters do prosper
- Since Woody Hayes was hired in 1951, OSU coaches born in the great state of Ohio are 38-17-1 in the Game, while coaches born elsewhere are 3-13-1. Ryan Day is from New Hampshire
- Someone should alert Sherron Moore that it is not, in fact, “Michigan University”
- May god grant you the delusional confidence of James Franklin selling losses in the only games that matter every single year as something very few teams can do
- Desmond Howard calling Pete Thamel a coward for not standing among a fanbase whose lunatic fringe threatened him with violence tells you everything about where this is headed
- Mike Yurcich is probably surprised to learn that the difference between getting fired and a game-of-the-year fight against a top defense while relying a good-not-great QB is 9 points
- Wisconsin players running to midfield with the Axe only to stop short because the Gophers were singing the alma mater was a perfectly polite Midwestern moment
- The lowest over/under (25.5) of any college football game this century still proved to be too high for Iowa-Nebraska in 2023
- The previous record low was 27.5, set two weeks ago when Iowa faced Rutgers
- Tom Allen will make a great analyst on Nick Saban’s staff
- Nobody has more to be thankful for this year than Northwestern fans, who have secured 7 wins and possibly the only feel-good story of the season
- It’s hard to believe that next year, OSU and Michigan would just play again next week
- Instead, Michigan opens as 23.5 point favorites over Iowa...yipes
- Thanks for everything B1G West, you messy bitch
Ohio State at Michigan | Michigan makes it three-in-a-row, 30-24
GF3: Plenty of OSU fans are rushing to pin this loss on McCord, but there’s enough criticism to go around. First and foremost, Ryan Day. No killer instinct. No clock management. Next, Jim Knowles. You can’t sit in a base defense and allow a 7-minute drive in the 4th quarter. McCord wasn’t great, but he wasn’t the only issue. That INT early proved to be hugely impactful. So did the final one. But this starts and ends with the coaches. Ryan Day gets paid an eye-watering amount of money and just got out-coached for four quarters by an assistant aggressively executing Jim Harbaugh’s gameplan. Ryan Day coached not to lose. And he did.
This sure feels like I’m seeing the rebirth of John Cooper—some guy from elsewhere who thinks it’s “a very important game” and not the bloodlust rivalry it is. A guy who pumps out a stupid amount of NFL talent but can’t beat Michigan. Next year really feels like it should be a a do-or-die for Day, but it probably won’t be.
All that said, it does seem like a number of the loud, very-online Michigan fans seem to think this win means there will be no consequences for Michigan or Harbaugh after everything that’s happened this season. Lots of “Tony Pettiti has to hand Jim Harbaugh the B1G trophy next week lolololol.” Given how fast Michigan turned tail on their lawsuit after seeing the evidence the NCAA had, I’d expect this is not over. Perhaps this is wishful thinking, but with 40-some players departing and this hanging over his head, this could at least conceivably be the end of Harbaugh.
For Ohio State’s part, the culture needs to change. Massively. I find myself hoping that, in retrospect, that field goal attempt will someday be looked back upon as the beginning of the Brian Hartline era for the offense. Or at least the moment when Ryan Day learned he had to go for the jugular. Time will tell.
Like 2006, this game lived up to the hype. A well-deserved win by Michigan’s players. Sadly, the Game may never have implications like this again. It is, in more ways than one, an ending. Beat Michigan.
RMB: A great game to close a great regular season. The last real season of college football. I watched JJ McCarthy barely able to walk after last week’s game, and I was certain this was going to go badly. It didn’t. It was a terrific game with great plays both ways that came down to the final seconds. So now we go to the CCG (where it would be horribly fitting for the Big10 to end it’s last real season with a shit Iowa team upsetting 12-0 Michigan. And if we manage to hold serve in that one it’ll be the playoff, where we all know it will end extremely badly. Still, this has been a wonderful team that has been a joy to root for. BEAT IOWA.
Brian: I mean, what can you say about this one? A game that lived up to the hype. Two great teams. Both played valiantly. A classic that went down to the wire. In the final analysis, quarterback play was probably the difference. That and Blake Corum. As a result, Michigan continues its three-year run atop the conference. One game away from a three-peat to close out the Big Ten as we know it.
Iowa at Nebraska | A perfectly Ferentz finish, 13-10
Stewmonkey13: Winning >losing. Iowa football constantly tests this boundary, but the theory holds. It was an incredibly stupid game played by incredibly stupid teams. This played right into Iowa’s favor and to the detriment of UNL, both of which have plenty of experience in such games but from opposite sides of the spectrum. Fuck Michigan.
BRT: That was Iowa and Nebraska both doing what they do best: Nebraska self-immolating at a critical juncture, and Iowa pulling out a win they didn’t deserve.Textbook. I did not really enjoy football this year and am pretty glad it’s over.
Wisconsin at Minnesota | The Axe heads to Madison, 28-14
Kind of...(Chris): After a 11 mostly frustrating and underwhelming games where it was clear 1) UW’s talent-level wasn’t what we had been led to believe, and 2) the transition to the Air Raid was FAR from as seamless as had been indicated, it was cathartic, and just downright fun, to bludgeon Minnesota and bring the Axe home. No idea if Phil Longo had any internal discomfort about running the ball 44 times, but the 267 yards was proof of the wisdom of such an approach. If Braelon Allen is done as a Badger, he went out in style. If not, maybe Longo will realize that this doesn’t have to be a one-time-per-season sort of thing. Either way, UW now leads the all-time series against Minnesota, and, after spotting the Gophers a 7-0 lead, the lead was gained emphatically.
WSR: I think that was a rather fitting end to the season. Show flashes of competence, get decimated by injuries, and let a bad opponent look great. I hope that when I wake up in the morning I don’t find out that we backed into a bowl.
PSU at MSU | Nits cap another successful Franklin season, 42-0
misdreavus79: If two-year samples are the norm nowadays, Penn State is officially on “beat the teams you should beat” territory. Now let’s ascend to the next tier.
Northwestern at Illinois | Dave gets a new hat, 45-43
LPW: David Braun deserves the Big Ten coach of the year award for what he’s been able to pull off: capping off the final Northwestern B1G West game (and a 7/5 regular season) by freeing the Land of Lincoln Trophy from captivity in Chambana. The ‘Cats beat floundering Illinois 45-43 in a game that took me back to the Cardiac ‘Cats games of the Randy Walker and early Pat Fitzgerald eras. Ben Bryant went 24 for 32 for 234 yards for two passing touchdowns and two interceptions. Anthony Tyus, Ben Bryant had rushing tds. Offensive Lineman Dom D’Antonio recovered a fumble for a td. This game was insane, and we easily could have lost this one. I’m just on cloud nine right now, and I’m so happy we have the HAT back where it belongs.
thumpasaurus: I don’t think I was the wrongest anyone’s ever been way back when I decided to become a College Football Guy. If you’ve followed me enough you know I had the bonafides at one point. I just picked the wrong fucking team, and I’ve paid a heavy price yet again. May they follow me to hell. I give up. Maybe I don’t deserve all the bad things that have happened in my personal life this year, but this game? This game I did deserve for trying to be a college football guy as an Illinois fan. What a fucking idiot. I regret it all. Good thing corporate is presumably coming to wipe me off the internet soon.
Illinois is never going to make a bowl again now that we’re in the mega conference era, which means that I will die without having seen them play in one in person. Given that, I don’t give a shit if they ever beat northwestern again. I don’t give a shit if they ever beat anyone again. Honestly, if they never played another game, I wouldn’t give a shit.
I chose the path to getting the absolute least amount of enjoyment out of this sport that anyone could: moving hundreds of miles away from the big ten team with the fewest bowl appearances since I graduated, and supporting that team. Until it’s cleansed by the merciful hand of corporate brand strategizing, my sports blog portfolio on here stands as a testament to a young adulthood wasted not just on petty diversions, but on engineering the least enjoyable way to consume those diversions. I don’t give a shit if they ever take the field again
He was a high school QB: I put a grand on Nern money line and now have $1800 to blow on making me less sad. I didn’t watch the game as I went to a Mankato State hockey game and didn’t even bother checking the score because I knew what was coming.
AlmaOtter: It was a disappointing season, all in all. A serious and unmitigated letdown compared to last season. That said, I’ve immensely enjoyed writing for OTE! That part was an absolute delight, a wonderful found community that kept me reasonably sane during a challenging fall. For that, I am wildly thankful for all of you.
But the actual football played by the Illinois Fighting Illini? It tended to be disappointing and frustrating and exhilarating and usually colossally dumb. The HAT game epitomized this. I have a few more projects in store before the season wraps up, which I’m really excited for! But I think it might be for the best that whatever just happened at Memorial Stadium will be the last snap for my team this season.
Indiana at Purdue | Boilers throw a bucket on embers of Allen era, 35-31
BoilerUp89: Hudson Card is a gamer. He had to sit out last week with an injury he’s been battling all year, but today he went 21/34 for 3TDs, 275 yards and added 12 carries for 85 yards and the game winning TD. This year’s roster had a lot of injuries at thin positions, but in the end the best guys were young and are set to come back for another year. Hopefully Walters can use this win as a bit of momentum towards next season.
BuffKomodo: In the words of Tom Allen, if you only need a yard you should be able to get it. Can’t think of a more fitting end to the Allen era than that loss. Don’t expect a bus/tarmac firing though. December 1st is the date.
Maryland at Rutgers | Terps win “Old Bay & Gabagool” trophy, 42-24
Larry31: I’m shocked Rutgers came out so flat. Maryland rolled out to a 28-3 lead in the second quarter before two Maryland turnovers led to 14 Rutgers points to close the 1st half 28-17. Maryland cruised to victory in the 2nd half, scoring two more touchdowns while holding Rutgers to only 7 point for the entire 2nd half. No coincidence given Maryland had no turnovers in the 2nd half. The difference in this game was simple. QB play. Taulia went 24/31 [77%] and 11.6 yards per catch. Wimsatt went 13/34 [38%] and a measly 4.9 pards per catch. Yuck. Maryland gave up 190 rushing, but that’s what Rutgers does well. I’m okay with Maryland allowing 355 total yards on offense when we got 498 yards of offense against a very respectable Rutgers defense. Today’s performance makes those bad losses to Illinois and Northwestern hurt a little more thinking about what could’ve been real progress [a winning conference record and 8-9 wins.]
RUReady4Brazil: Rutgers just ran out of gas after their game against Ohio State and was mostly demolished the last three weeks. Everyone would have signed up for 6-6 prior to the season so big picture, 2023 is a success. The thing is that outside of Iowa, running an offense where you cannot pass the ball can only take you so far nowadays. Maryland had tons of mistakes including turnovers and still cruised to a victory because they could and were willing to throw the ball. When you can throw the ball, the margin for error is much higher. Now Rutgers needs to circle the wagons and ensure if they play an old Big East rival like BC or Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl, they have to win that game to validate the wins in the previous two years and keep a leg up in Northeast recruiting, their only chance to compete in the Big Ten.