You often compare your season to a roller coaster, now find out which one!
Photo credit: Arthur Levine for Trip Savvy
Hello OTE! Special thanks to BigRedTwice for allowing me to write the Power Poll this week on a hobby that has taken over my life: roller coasters!
Ok, I’ve heard the same generic statement a million times, "this [insert situation] has been like a roller coaster ride, with its hills and valleys…blah, blah, blah." If that is how you view roller coasters, then buckle up (sorry, I’ll try not to do that again) for a deeper look into some of these masterful works of rideable kinetic art. Since I became a coaster enthusiast/addict in May 2022 (thanks Diamondback at King’s Island), I’ve visited over 40 amusement parks and ridden over 275 different roller coasters. Amusement park attendance is highly regional, so for the purposes of this article, I tried to match each Big Ten school to a specific roller coaster in its region that its fans may have either ridden or can go ride (except for one). For those of you who are unfamiliar, the power poll rankings are voted on by the OTE "writers," so the order of the roller coasters listed does not 100% directly correlate with my personal rankings.
That all clear means you’re out of here, so enjoy your ride on this week’s Big Ten Power Poll!
Photo credit: Hersheypark
1 - Penn State: Wildcat’s Revenge, Hersheypark (Hershey, PA)
188 points, FPV: 10, High: 1, Low: 4, Last Week: 1
(Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC) I-Box, 2023)
Wildcat’s Revenge is an RMC I-Box coaster that sits in the plot of the now defunct wooden coaster, Wildcat. Well, there’s more to it than that. Wildcat’s Revenge actually sits on the wooden supports of the previous wooden coaster, Wildcat. If you haven’t been following roller coaster news for the past decade (a safe assumption), you will have likely never heard of RMC. This company offers a few roller coaster models, but the I-Box conversion is the absolute best thing in the roller coaster market right now. This company takes old, rough wooden roller coasters, then replaces the track with steel and adds insane elements and custom layouts. These coasters are incredibly smooth, chocked full of excellent floater airtime (the gentle feeling of floating), ejector airtime (the forceful feeling of being ejected), and fantastic inversions. I’ve ridden all twelve of the RMC I-Box coasters in the US, and they are all absolutely incredible. Side note, there are now three roller coasters with "Revenge" in their name in Pennsylvania. Kind of weird.
Much like Wildcat, the Penn State football program was in a rough spot, but has been resurrected and is flying high with the new transformation into Wildcat’s Revenge. However, don’t get too excited with this pick Nittany Lion fans. Even though the RMC I-Box may be the best model in the region, I still have Wildcat’s Revenge as my #14 ranked coaster in the nation. Also, Penn State always seems like they are playing for revenge of some sort, haven’t figured that one out.
Wildcat's Revenge POV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuqIRZt5-0U
Vote details because I can't upload WSR's chart: (1st: 10, 2nd: 1, 3rd: 2, 4th: 1)
Photo credit: cleveland.com
2 - Michigan: Millennium Force, Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH)
176 points, FPV: 1, High: 1, Low: 3, Last Week: 3
(Intamin giga coaster, 2000)
Opening in May 2000 (hence, Millennium), Millennium Force was the world’s first full-circuit giga coaster (a roller coaster with a height of 300-399 feet). Cedar Point has always been focused on setting records, and Millie was no different. Even though it has been 23 years since it opened, only six "traditional" (has a lift hill) giga coasters have been built to date. The coaster has incredible views of Lake Erie, big sweeping turns, aggressive speeds, and is very long. The biggest negative about the ride is that it is severely lacking in airtime, the feeling that many coaster enthusiasts most yearn for. Some even refer to the ride as "Millennium Force-less." What cannot be debated is that this ride is an absolute icon.
Uh oh, Michigan is getting a roller coaster from Ohio. Cedar Point is nearly equidistant to Michigan and OSU, plus I’ve seen a lot of Michigan apparel on my visits, so I’m ok with it. Harbs is on a two-game win streak versus the Buckeyes and the program is feeling pretty darn good about itself, so I can see this kind of interstate overreach. Just like Millennium Force, you can’t deny the iconic style of those Michigan helmets. Also, its amazing that watching something this big, blue, and seemingly overpowering can be so dull at times. It doesn’t matter if its style hasn’t been replicated much over the last few decades and has been surpassed by new technologies that add excitement, Millennium Force and Michigan will always have a deep, loyal, khaki following.
Millennium Force POV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MybcORGVkEU
Vote details because I can't upload WSR's chart: (1st: 1, 2nd: 6, 3rd: 7)
This is a good time to mention that many, many coasters start with "The." It’s unnecessary and redundant, so when a coaster name is referenced, there is no point in including it.
Photo credit: Dayton Daily News
3 - Ohio State: The Beast, Kings Island (Mason, OH)
176 points, FPV: 1, High: 1, Low: 4, Last Week: 2
(Built in-house, 1979)
Ok, it was an easy joke, so I took it. The Beast is truly a remarkable roller coaster. It is the longest wooden coaster in the world and gives arguably the best night rides because it goes deep in the woods in near total darkness. Built in-house by the park, it is essentially the world’s greatest backyard coaster. The Beast is a terrain coaster, meaning that it follows the contours of the ground. Enthusiasts complain (yes, this is a theme) about the long, straight sections, but they really just add to the ambiance and help you feel how deep you are in the woods. This coaster changed the game forever and its legacy lives on throughout the world. The head of construction, Charlie Dinn, left after this project to form the Dinn Corporation. The major succeeding wooden roller coaster companies (CCI, GCI, Gravity Group) all have direct and indirect ties to Charlie Dinn. Add it all up, and that’s 105 wooden roller coasters that owe a portion of their existence to the success of The Beast.
Just like The Beast, games against Ohio State used to be best described as long and painful. Night games can be more pleasant because, depending on your beverage choices, you might not be able to see the game as well. Kings Island recently re-tracked major portions of the ride in 2022 and it is now much less rough, similar to Ohio State’s transformation into a passing team. However, it could be argued that it took away the ride’s physicality. Lastly, just like Charlie Dinn, Woody Hayes also has a pretty impressive coaching tree.
The Beast POV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxR-X1sXJ2I
Vote details because I can't upload WSR's chart: (1st: 1, 2nd: 7, 3rd: 5, 4th: 1)
Photo credit: Chun Yip So, Flickr
4 - Maryland: Kingda Ka, Six Flags Great Adventure (Jackson Township, NJ)
155 points, FPV: 1, High: 1, Low: 5, Last Week: 4
(Intamin strata coaster, 2005)
Kingda Ka is the world’s tallest roller coaster at 456 feet (a strata coaster has a height between 400-499 feet) and the world’s second fastest at 128 miles/hour. This coaster took the height record from Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point just two years after it was built and has amazingly held it for the last 18 years. This is basically the last remnant of the coaster wars where parks were focusing on trying to build taller and faster, not necessarily better. The photo shows the entire coaster. Launched start, up the top hat, down the top hat, bonus speed hill, ride over. There are some cool views at the top of this coaster, but that launch…wow that launch. In the front row, I can only describe it as having my eyeballs cleaned. Even if you yell, you can’t hear any sounds because it is going so fast. The fastest roller coaster in the world, Formula Rossa in Abu Dhabi, makes front row riders wear glasses to protect their eyes, and I can definitely understand why.
Much like Maryland, this giant, turtle shell-looking coaster gets out of the gate FAST. However, when September ends and you’re on top of the top hat, there is nowhere to go but down. Then it’s over. It’s good to be known for that fast start, Maryland, but look to Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race.
Kingda Ka POV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDweC0iIHQ8
Vote details because I can't upload WSR's chart: (1st: 1, 4th: 11, 5th: 2)
Photo credit: Stephen Pepper, nohomejustroam.com
5 - Wisconsin: Zippin Pippin, Bay Beach (Green Bay, WI)
142 points, FPV: 1, High: 1, Low: 8, Last Week: 7
(Gravity Group, 2011)
This classic woodie in Green Bay, Wisconsin was built in 2011 and is widely marketed as "Elvis’ Favorite Coaster." Woah, woah, woah. Hold on. Something doesn’t track there. How could Elvis be riding a roller coaster in Wisconsin in 2011? Like Texas, is Elvis back?! No, of course not, there’s a story here. Zippin Pippin at Bay Beach is a near clone of the original Zippin Pippin that operated at Libertyland in Memphis, TN from 1923 to 2005. It may have originally opened as early as 1912 at a different location, but it’s unclear. As a coaster enthusiast at heart, Elvis is reported as having regularly rented out Libertyland to marathon this coaster with his friends. Eight days before he died, he rented the park from 1AM – 7AM and is reported as riding it over and over with his daughter, Lisa Marie. In 2006, the ride, along with its blueprints were sold for $2,500. When the new owner realized that they would be on the hook for removing the ride, they quickly realized that it would cost much more than $2,500, so ownership changed hands again. The city of Green Bay, WI eventually stepped in and purchased the rights to the coaster. No original wood was used in the new replica, but ok, like the coaster enthusiast Elvis was, I’m sure he would have loved this Gravity Group woodie. This coaster only costs an incredible $1 to ride, which is well below the $10ish for most pay-per-ride parks.
Photo credit: Memphis Flyer
Much like the "movement" of this coaster, Fickell is also trying to move in his new offense. It seems to be getting good reviews. I think Badger fans are secretly cheering for Ryan Day so that their coach doesn’t leave the building. The amazingly affordable price to ride also seems very midwestern. Was this just an excuse to tell a cool story which included Elvis? You’ll have to draw your own conclusions.
Zippin Pippin (Bay Beach) POV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmIOXBZ3pCo
Vote details because I can't upload WSR's chart: (1st: 1, 4th: 1, 5th: 11, 8th: 1)
Photo credit: Gazza
6 - Rutgers: Great Nor’Easter, Morey’s Piers (Wildwood, NJ)
122 points, High: 6, Low: 8, Last Week: 6
(Vekoma Suspended Looping Coaster (SLC), 1995)
Vekoma SLC’s are nicknamed "hang and bangs" because of the extreme amount of horrible headbanging that people experience with the hard over-the-shoulder restraints. These coasters actually have great layouts, but are virtually un-rideable because the old trains cause so much pain. Well, except Great Nor’Easter. Morey’s Piers not only changed the trains and added soft vest restraints, which is a big improvement, but they went way above and beyond and re-tracked 90% of the coaster in 2017 using new technology, an incredibly rare procedure. When they re-opened the ride, they used the tagline "so smooth, a grannie can ride," and the first train they sent was full of grandmas. It’s now an excellent coaster, made better if you know how these models normally ride. Also, it’s on a Jersey boardwalk pier sandwiched next to a big water slide and offers amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Rutgers football has very much looked the part of a Vekoma SLC throughout the years. This year appears to be different, however. The team still looks the same from the outside, but Schiano appears to be transforming the program into something not terrible. Selecting Great Nor’Easter for Rutgers is by far the nicest thing I have ever said about this program.
Great Nor’Easter POV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC32bBm3byw
Vote details because I can't upload WSR's chart: (6th: 11, 7th: 2, 8th: 1)
Photo credit: WTOL11
7 - Illinois: Corkscrew, Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH)
102 points, High: 5, Low: 10, Last Week: 10
(Arrow custom looper, 1976)
Corkscrew opened in May 1976 as the world’s first roller coaster with three inversions. This was a natural progression until a park added the first coaster with four inversions (Carolina Cyclone at Carowinds). Then five (Viper at Darien Lake). Then six (Vortex at Kings Island), etc, etc. The current record is fourteen (Smiler at Alton Towers). As mentioned before, when parks focus solely on short-term record-breaking, then the ride experience will likely suffer. To make matters worse, Arrow did not use computers to design their coasters until the late 90’s, right before the company went out of business. It seems like every major park has (or had) an Arrow looper. Some are still ok, but most became so rough that they have long out-lived their glory.
Just like these Arrow loopers, Illinois’ performance can best be described as, "meh." Bert was living high last season on his short-term NFL defensive talent, but the effects of their departures are starting to show this season. Will Bert innovate and capitalize on his recent momentum? Time will tell, but I’ve seen how the Arrow story plays out.
Corkscrew POV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBkTuaL--30
Vote details because I can't upload WSR's chart: (5th: 1, 6th: 1, 7th: 5, 8th: 2, 9th: 4, 10th: 1)
Photo credit: Malcolm Marr
8 - Iowa: Raging Bull (or any B&M hyper), Six Flags Great America (Gurnee, IL)
91 points, High: 7, Low: 14, LPV: 1, Last Week: 5
(Bolliger & Mabillard (B&M) hyper coaster, 1999)
Ahhh, the sweet relief of a B&M hyper (a roller coaster with a height between 200-299 feet). Although I haven’t personally ridden Raging Bull, I have ridden six B&M hypers, and can safely say that I know what I’d be getting. These are remarkably consistent and provide tons of floater airtime. These coasters are rarely down for maintenance, offer high capacity, and are enjoyed by coaster enthusiasts and the general public.
Just like a B&M Hyper, Iowa is remarkably consistent. You know what you’re going to get: great defense, bad offense, and an 8-4 record. This coaster model will never be considered elite, but no other rides offer the consistency and blend of enjoyment for Iowa fans and Sickos alike. Also, I can see the Ferentzi reacting like a Raging Bull at the slightest thought of changing their style.
Raging Bull POV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWX5IwMaCNE
Vote details because I can't upload WSR's chart: (7th: 3, 8th: 7, 9th: 2, 10th: 1, 14th: 1)
Photo credit: Martin Valt
9 - Michigan State: Wacky Worm, 825 installations
72 points, High: 6, Low: 14, LPV: 2, Last Week: 12
Wacky Worm coasters are a staple of carnivals and traveling fairs. These kiddie coasters are heavily replicated and offer uninspiring figure eight layouts. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to go through an apple. These rides are a common punchline in the coaster community. Right now, somewhere, a coaster enthusiast is losing any part of dignity they have left by riding this "for the credit."
Just like a Wacky Worm technically being a roller coaster, Michigan State is technically a football team that offers a credit if your team plays them. These coasters are generally afterthoughts, just like how Michigan State must have been an afterthought of the OTE "writers," who thought that losing at home by 22 points to Maryland is a reason to move them UP three spots in the rankings! We'll see if this "wisdom" holds true next week as well.
Stay strong Wacky Worm. Maybe with enough luck and gumption, you could be the first Wacky Worm to be RMC’d into something great.
Wacky Worm POV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBjjht39uDc
Vote details because I can't upload WSR's chart: (6th: 1, 7th: 2, 9th: 4, 10th: 1, 11th: 4, 14th: 2)
Photo credit: Funtown Splashtown USA
10 - Nebraska: Wild Mouse, 720 installations
65 points, High: 6, Low: 13, Last Week: 11
A wild mouse coaster is a standard family coaster with small cars that travels up a lift hill, does a series of sharp 180-degree turns, has a small drop, sharp turn, another small drop, sharp turn, small drop and you’re done. These first starting popping up in the 1950’s and are still going strong. Many manufacturers make these, with slight variations, but they’re basically all the same concept. These things are everywhere: carnivals, small parks, big parks, everywhere. Aside from the horrible capacity and long lines, the thing that always jumps out to me on wild mouse coasters are the brakes. Trim brakes everywhere. On the turns, before the drops, after the drops, and especially the huge jolt at the end. I have ridden some wild mouse coasters with minimal brakes, and they are actually a lot of fun.
Wild Mouse coasters offer a strong resemblance to Nebraska football. Cruising along through those 180-degree turns and drops, but just knowing that the self-imposed trim brakes are looming. If only the trims could be lessoned and the team could stop hurting itself, then it could stop losing one-score games and become an enjoyable ride. Just like how wild mouse coasters and corn are ubiquitous, Nebraska fans are still packing in that stadium though.
Mad Mouse (Valleyfair) POV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sObp7n0Nsig
Vote details because I can't upload WSR's chart: (6th: 1, 7th: 1, 8th: 1, 9th: 1, 10th: 3, 11th: 2, 12th: 2, 13th: 3)
Picture credit: Encyclopedia Brittanica
11 - Northwestern: Flip Flap Railway, Paul Boyton’s Sea Lion Park (Brooklyn, NY)
52 points, High: 10, Low: 13, Last Week: 14
(Lina Beecher, 1895)
The first roller coasters trace their history back to Russia in the 15th century, where people rode in sleds cut from tree trunks down man-made, ice-covered hills. These creations were so influential that many roller coasters around the world bear the name, "Russian Mountain." Technology continued to advance over the years with wheel assemblies, standard trains, cable lifts, etc.. In the Mid 1800’s, the first roller coaster with an inversion was created in Paris, but was not very popular. The first American iteration of a roller coaster with a loop was Flip Flap Railway at Paul Boyton’s Sea Lion Park at Coney Island in 1895. Ah, but riders quickly learned why this concept was not popular in Paris. The loop was shaped like a circle and only 25 feet tall, which exerted a dangerous 12 g’s of force on the riders. There were many reports of whiplash and neck injuries, which caused the ride to eventually shut down after seven years. This is the reason why modern roller coaster loops are tear-shaped, not circular, to lesson the positive g-forces.
Picture credit: Chronicle/Alamy stock photo
Northwestern burst onto the scene recently with modern football amenities, but things haven’t exactly gone as planned. This season has left Wildcat fans with a lot of pain, but at least it offered one fun memorable part! Just like Flip Flap Railway, Wildcat football is for thrill-seekers only.
Flip Flap Railway video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YZpH7z6-qo
Vote details because I can't upload WSR's chart: (10th: 4, 11th: 4, 12th: 4, 13th: 2)
Photo credit: Baynum Painting
12 - Purdue: Batman the Ride, 12 installations
52 points, High: 8, Low: 14, LPV: 2, Last Week: 9
(B&M inverted coaster, built 1992-2004)
The first Batman the Ride opened at Six Flags Great America in 1992 as the world’s first inverted coaster (train runs below the track with the seats directly attached to the wheel carriage) and wow, was it a hit. Manufacturers selling clones of roller coasters with the same name was by no means new, but Batman the Ride took it to a different level. Six Flags uses the DC Comics IP, so all of the parks that they own have a DC themed section with rides named after the characters: Batman, Superman, Joker, Wonder Woman, etc. However, while the rides themed to the characters generally differ between the Six Flags parks, seven of the parks have or had this exact ride with this exact name. Nicknamed "batclones," these rides are basically a staple of Six Flags. While this B&M invert layout isn’t the best that they offer, batclones still hold up well.
Like Batman the Ride, Purdue started out trying to do things differently under the spread offense of Joe Tiller in the 90’s. The pass-first model that Purdue employs is still very effective after all these years and has been heavily duplicated by other schools. Also, boiler bot…batclone…c’mon.
Batman the Ride POV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HG17CiybS-8
Vote details because I can't upload WSR's chart: (8th: 1, 9th: 1, 10th: 2, 11th: 4, 12th: 3, 13th: 1, 14th: 2)
Photo credit: Joe Schwartz
13 - Minnesota: Wild Thing (or any Morgan hyper), Valleyfair (Shakopee, MN)
40 points, High: 8, Low: 14, LPV: 2, Last Week: 8
(Morgan hyper coaster, 1996)
Oh, the Morgan hyper. This is the same situation as Raging Bull, where I haven’t ridden this specific coaster, but I have ridden two other Morgan hypers and can safely generalize the model. These are generally pretty good! They are big! They offer some airtime! However, there is a reason why only six Morgan hypers were built and none since 2004, they just get out-classed by the other coaster in the category, B&M hypers.
Like the Morgan hyper, Minnesota has been pretty decent. They have been good on defense, but just when they had everything going in 2019, they still weren’t able to put it all together and win the category (Big Ten West division). They have also lost eight in a row to the B&M hyper (Iowa); not great. Keep rowing that boat Morgan hyper, we’re cheering for ya!
Wild Thing POV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSKvcXoiyVA
Vote details because I can't upload WSR's chart: (8th: 1, 10th: 2, 12th: 3, 13th: 6, 14th: 2)
Photo credit: Duane Marden
14 - Indiana: Voyage, Holiday World (Santa Claus, IN)
37 points, High: 7, Low: 14, LPV: 7, Last Week: 13
(Gravity Group, 2006)
At its best, Voyage is arguably the best roller coaster in the world. At its worst, it will leave riders with a massive headache and force them out of the dry park entirely and into the waterpark. This coaster is very long and very aggressive. Packed full of airtime, laterals, and speed. Due to its extreme nature, the park has to re-track significant portions of the ride every year just to keep it tolerable. The park has really tried everything to keep this coaster going: change train manufacturers, get new trains, reduce the number of cars on the train, etc. But there is no simple solution to maintain this coaster. An extensive re-track every year seems to be the only way.
Obviously a homer pick here as Voyage is my favorite wooden coaster. There is no getting around it though, this Voyage on Indiana football is rough. Many IU fans will take the Voyage of football, not remembering how brutal it can be, and quickly decide to depart to something completely different (basketball). Also, there are no easy fixes to this program. It seems like a full overhaul every offseason is the only way to keep this thing going. Did I write this entire article just to try to desperately associate one of my favorite roller coasters with my school? And then when it's my week they let me down AGAIN and end up in the 14th spot? Such is life as an Indiana football fan. FML. FML. FML.
Voyage POV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b61CWb96BOQ
Vote details because I can't upload WSR's chart: (7th: 1, 9th: 2, 12th: 2, 13th: 2, 14th: 7)
Thanks for reading! I hope you learned something today about roller coasters and get the desire to go out and ride one. If you ever want to talk roller coasters, you can find me in roller coaster forums under the name UnworthyRider or in the stands at an IU game in my Voyage shirt and candystripe pants, in a complete state of delusion.