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Week 2 Big Ten Power Poll Rankings: Hot Sauce

When you want to spice up your life but you don’t want a misdemeanor.

Photo by Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

From the “writers” that brought you all things potato, this week’s power poll features the potato-friendly mother of all condiments, hot sauce! Every week we take it upon ourselves to fixate on a particular topic and rate things within it alongside the premier football programs of the best punting conference in the land. Is it a passion topic? Is the author clearly talking out of their ass? You can probably tell either way. My last attempt at this highlighted investment vehicles so…we’re shifting gears a little bit.

Hot sauce is without a doubt the most versatile, and therefore most indispensable, condiment at your disposal. No, it’s not ketchup, and you should be ashamed of yourself. To quote the great George Motz, “Ketchup can go fuck itself.” No matter what you’re eating, once you add ketchup it now just tastes like ketchup. For fries, fine. Everything else, if you’re adding ketchup I assume you’ve acquired a terrible version of that thing. I’ve lost track of the theme.

You can use hot sauce on meat, vegetables, grains, hell you can even make fruit-based sauces. It can bring heat, flavor, texture, and depth to countless dishes, and it makes the kitchen a better place. If your idea of spicing things up is to bust out the pepper shaker on your birthday this is not the power poll for you, and enjoy your steamed cauliflower. Let’s pay homage to this wonderful culinary blessing.

Actually before we get started, a quick acknowledgement. There are, based on quick napkin math, about a billion hot sauces. While the B1G is quickly approaching just as many members, for now we’re just a bit short and therefore many sauces available for selection have been left on the cutting room floor. We’re going to prioritize more well-known brands to at least attempt to connect here. All that to say thoughts on other great/terrible hot sauces are more than welcome in the comments, but if you’ve got a hot sauce you’re really chapped about going unmentioned here, I don’t need your shit. Insubordinate, and churlish.

Since this preamble could’ve ended before it started, let the power poll commence!

(1) Penn State Nittany Lions: Hot Sauce Committee Part Two - Beastie Boys

Last Week: 3 | High: 1 | Low: 4 | First Place Votes: 8

I hesitate to resort to pop culture references at the top spot, but I feel this is a worthy exception. The eighth and, unexpectedly, final studio album released by the legendary Beastie Boys in 2011, Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 brought vintage Beastie wit and flow and showed the group could still produce the freshest beats even 25 years after their debut hip-hop record. A year after its release, Adam Yauch aka MCA passed away from a lengthy battle with cancer and the group essentially disbanded. RIP MCA.

President George Washington once crossed (the) Delaware and lived to tell the tale, and now Penn State has joined his company, dispatching the Fightin’ Blue Hens 63-7. Though not exactly a marquee matchup on the schedule, the performance was enough in the eyes of the voters to vault the Nittany Lions to the top spot.

(2) Michigan Wolverines: Secret Aardvark

Last Week: 2 | High: 1 | Low: 5 | First Place Votes: 5

I absolutely love this hot sauce, which is perplexing because it is both habanero and mustard based, two things I dislike! But the synergy is real here and Secret Aardvark works with anything. Also if heat isn’t for you (or I suppose if it is), don’t let the habanero presence fool you, this is much more mild than almost any other habanero sauce. Try it out and thank me later.

Michigan continues to roll through their self-imposed Harbaugh suspension, easily disposing of UNLV over the weekend with a well-rounded attack. Can they continue to weather this brutal punishment one more week when…ahem…Bowling Green comes to town? They have to, there’s a September Heisman at stake.

Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

(3) Ohio State Buckeyes: Huy Fong Sriracha

Last Week: 1 | High: 1 | Low: 4 | First Place Votes: 2

An absolute classic, this medium-heat chili sauce works on everything and is used everywhere. The bottle is iconic, but even if you don’t recognize it you’ve probably tried it, as fast food and fast casual restaurants favor sriracha even if they don’t display it in the proper bottle. So popular that Huy Fong never advertises it, and even that purposeful lack of effort isn’t enough: there’s been an extended shortage of supply that is breaking hearts worldwide.

Ohio State keeps winning but is losing some steam in the conference race with nondescript performances (by their standards). They were efficient in their win over Youngstown State but “only” scored 35 in that one and did allow a TD. And we here at OTE demand excellence! From everyone except ourselves!

Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune/Shannon Kinsella/food styling/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

(4) Iowa Hawkeyes: Tapatío

Last Week: 6 | High: 4 | Low: 7

A staple in the MC household, Tapatío doesn’t have a ton of kick as a more watery sauce with a red pepper base, but it’s a versatile option that fits most any food. If you’re looking to spice up your morning eggs (or really any relevant breakfast dish) but don’t want to obliterate your digestive system as your first act of the day, Tapatío is one of the first options that comes to mind.

Speaking of lacking heat let’s talk Iowa offense. As everyone around these parts very well understands, despite only being in the non-conference portion of the schedule the Hawkeyes find themselves below the Ferentz Line. Brian Ferentz is behind the 8-ball with a slew of low scoring B1G West rock fights in his future, and if he can’t manufacture some more points, well, they’ll find another way to extend him.

Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune/Shannon Kinsella/food styling/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

(5) Maryland Terrapins: Valentina

Last Week: 10 | High: 1 | Low: 7 | First Place Votes: 1

If you like a thicker hot sauce and aren’t chasing scovilles this may be your bottle of choice. Another chili pepper sauce, Valentina is a staple of Mexican street fare for two simple reasons: it’s mild enough for most people to handle and it has great flavor. Is it the liquid Old Bay? Only our friends out East can say.

Maryland has understandably shot up the rankings this week after…a close battle with Charlotte? The Terps were able to command the 4th quarter and pull away late, but Charlotte built an early lead that Maryland wasn’t able to break until they were into the 3rd quarter. Again, to Charlotte. This may be a case of winning when other teams also lost/looked bad.

(6) Minnesota Golden Gophers: Beyoncé’s Bat

Last Week: 5 | High: 2 | Low: 10

As Beyoncé noted in hit single Formation, “I got hot sauce in my bag.” Totally understandable! Some food works better with hot sauce even though the place making it doesn’t offer any as an option. And who knows what you’re going to be facing at a potluck, etc. With hot sauce readily on hand, one can be confident they have an out for their taste buds in most situations. However, word on the street is that Queen B is not referencing actual hot sauce there, but rather a baseball bat she has named “Hot Sauce” that she uses to smash up a car in her HBO special Lemonade. What a world!

Minnesota followed up a miracle win over Nebraska with a more boring affair with Eastern Michigan, struggling early but finding their running game to close out relatively comfortably. We’ll learn a lot this weekend, when the Gophers head to Chapel Hill as decided underdogs.

(7) Rutgers Scarlet Knights: Frank’s Red Hot

Last Week: 12 | High: 3 | Low: 11

Another mega classic, without looking this is probably as mild as you can go. There’s just no kick. But heat is only part of the equation, and the flavor of Frank’s just works well with food. In my mind fried chicken and Frank’s are practically married to each other.

Perhaps benefitting from other teams looking shaky, Rutgers shot up the rankings with a beatdown of Temple and perhaps coupled with a surprise blowout for their Week 1 opponent, Northwestern. Rutgers plays host to Virginia Tech where they will be favorites once more. Maybe this Schiano guy really is a Rutgers whisperer?

Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

(8) Wisconsin Badgers: Cholula

Last Week: 7 | High: 6 | Low: 13

A mini-confession, this is likely my favorite hot sauce at home. Yes, it’s a watery table sauce, but when looking to add some flavor to Insert Food Here it’s often the one that hits the right spot. They also make some solid flavor variations that are nice for a one-off change. Shoutout chipotle.

And look at that, another favorite in Wisconsin! Well that worked out. Wisconsin got punched in the mouth early on the road at Washington State and struggled on both sides of the ball. Over the course of the game they figured things out and came within a 2-point conversion of tying it later in the 2nd half, but turnovers killed in this one. Their trajectory will depend on how well they can settle into their new offense/defense on a week-to-week basis.

(Author’s note: you can tell we outsource the graphs to a different “writer,” and you can tell which one)

(9) Purdue Boilermakers: The Last Dab

Last Week: 8 | High: 6 | Low: 11

The spice fans have probably been reading along saying “most of these sauce choices are pretty…pretty mild.” Well hold onto your butts because we just inexplicably turned it up to 11 with The Last Dab. This sauce features the Apollo pepper, which is bred from the Carolina Reaper and Pepper X, making it just about the hottest pepper source possible. And it is famous, of course, as the final hot sauce used on the hit interview show “Hot Ones,” where tradition dictates that host Sean Evans and his guest (usually) dab a little extra hot sauce on their already insanely hot wing before eating it. Check out the show if you haven’t. A+ interviews with what are now A+ list celebrity guests.

And what says spicy like our upcoming home ‘dogs to Syracuse? Purdue rebounded nicely from their Fresno fiasco with a road win at Virginia Tech, softening up the Hokies for Rutgers. That’s B1G West hospitality! How much credit you want to give the weather delay that knocked this game from the morning slot to the night slot is up to you. It’s early in the Ryan Walters but his defense is starting to generate turnovers.

(10) Michigan State Spartans: Heartbeat Hot Sauce – Jalapeño

Last Week: 4 | High: 6 | Low: 14 | Last Place Votes: 3

I have to pay homage to at least one green sauce here and we’re going to shoutout this jalapeño-based gem. Definitely hotter than most of the selections to this point, and if you’re a fan of jalapeños this one brings the heat while tasting almost like you’ve added fresh jalapeños to your dish. I’d ignore its place on the ranking; I don’t have much experience at all with this one so it’s just been inserted into the lineup. And hey, a green option that has a random lineup slot this week? By god that’s Sparty’s music! MSU crushed Richmond like the spider they are, but have taken a freefall in the rankings regardless. It makes me think something else is weighing heavily on minds…

(11) Illinois Fighting Illini: Hot Sauce (AND1 Mixtape)

Last Week: 11 | High: 6 | Low: 13

Man, when those AND1 mixtapes first came out back in the day, Hot Sauce was a revolution. Handles we’d never seen before and maximum flair, Hot Sauce was top dog among a whole roster of new viral (before viral was a thing like today) stars. But basketball as a sport has evolved so much as a sport since then (and Hot Sauce/AND1 get some credit for that) and looking back on this with present day eyes makes Hot Sauce look…underwhelming.

Same can be said for Illinois, who escaped a dangerous Toledo squad to open the year and could not escape an even more dangerous Kansas team (what a phrase) in the battle of good former Wisconsin area head ball coaches. The 2023 Illini campaign has been about trying to prove the program can withstand losses of a good DC, legit NFL secondary, and decorated RB. The results have not yet been encouraging.

(12) Indiana Hoosiers: Taco Bell Fire

Last Week: 13 | High: 8 | Low: 13

This is really for Taco Bell sauces as a whole but we’re focusing on Fire, which to me is the only one that qualifies as a hot sauce. Mild is dark water, Hot adds a small kick to make the Midwest feel like it’s leveling up, and Diablo is trying so hard to uppercut your throat it forgets that you’re still trying to enjoy food. Fire isn’t very good, but it fits the bill and like the rest of their options, it seems to only have a synergy with Taco Bell foods. T-Bell is a Top 3 fast food option and it’s because the food and hot sauce go together perfectly despite neither being anything special on their own.

Indiana did a good job of dismantling Indiana State last week, but that’s never going to move the needle. You know a program stinks when everyone keeps joking about them missing Larry Bird, an iconic figure but one the played in the 70s and not even the applicable sport. Indiana is currently hanging its hat on a respectable showing in a decided loss to Ohio State, which we’re still figuring out who that says more about.

(13) Nebraska Cornhuskers: Da Bomb

Last Week: 9 | High: 9 | Low: 14 | Last Place Votes: 7

Another shoutout to Hot Ones (seriously, they’re great interviews), Da Bomb is the most offensively painful hot sauce on their lineup and ours. It both brings incredible heat and offensive, painful taste, so even though it is the 7th hot sauce out of 10 used on the show, it is almost universally considered the worst. And I think that’s by design. This is the Malort of hot sauce.

And we’ve entered the winless brigade! Nebraska really should have beaten Minnesota to start the year but Nebraska’d that one away, and now they’ve added fuel to the insufferable Coach Prime fire after getting outplayed in Boulder. Without looking it up I want to say Rhule is one of those coaches that tears everything down and therefore sucks in Year 1, but he will have to find a way to exorcise the Husker close game demons to succeed.

(14) Northwestern Wildcats: Tabasco

Last Week: 14 | High: 10 | Low: 14 | Last Place Votes: 6

Pure ass. Seriously curse the soul of whoever decided Tabasco was a great thing to bring into the world. If you’ve been reading along wondering why anyone would write an article around hot sauce and your only experience has been with Tabasco, I get it and implore you to try…anything else. Gift this to someone that has wronged you.

Perhaps a little unfair to Northwestern for the association; they got a blowout win (I know, UTEP) and didn’t earn the most last place votes this week! But then you remember the allegations.

Sorry for making hot sauce boring yell at me in the comments.