RIvalries keep fans on edgeWritten by Matt Sussman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Maybe it was preseason jitters. Maybe there was nothing else to do. But until actual games were being played, fans in heart- and mitten-shaped states were ablaze over the Big Ten realignment plan.
Gasp! Separate divisions!
With the advent of Nebraska, giving the Big Ten an anachronistic 12 teams, two six-team divisions were formed, with the winner of each to play in a championship game: beginning next year
• One unnamed division: OSU, Indiana, Illinois, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin
• Another unnamed division: Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern
It didn’t leave everyone happy, but at least Ohio State and Michigan would be guaranteed to play each other every year at the end of the season. But the dismay! There’s a chance that they might play … again! In the championship!
“Ohio State-Michigan is an event of inordinate importance and unparalleled prestige,” wrote the Plain Dealer’s Bill Livingston. “It is not a series.”
“Careers, both playing and coaching, are defined by it because the lack of a rematch raises the stakes,” wrote Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, noting that the Big Ten is “selling out a century plus for an overnight rating.”
“Somewhere,” penned the Sporting News’ Matt Hayes, “Bo and Woody just puked.”
With a potential rematch, The Game is watered down. Its soul was sold to the devil. Tradition has been slapped in the face. Worst of all, with OSU and UM in separate divisions, some of our fans and writers have run afoul with alarmist hyperbole.
Many great college football rivalries, yes, are in the same division. In fact, most are. There is one, however, which recently split into separate divisions. And they aren’t very many miles apart.
Toledo and Bowling Green.
As you remember, Marshall and Central Florida bolted for Conference USA in 2005, leaving an imbalance in the two Mid-American Conference divisions. Resultantly, Bowling Green slid over from the West to the East, separating the Falcons and Rockets by a man-made alignment.
Since then, the rivalry has died down. Nobody cares about it anymore, really. In fact, when the two teams play, the players are so apathetic that they’ll basically play in their pajamas and sleepwalk through the plays. Occasionally you can see players take a break from the football game and begin little sewing circles or games of euchre. I’ve seen UT and BG players even be on the same euchre team!
This year the MAC moved the annual BG-UT game up a week to the second-to-last game. But we already don’t care about the game, so this isn’t a big deal. Who’s up for euchre?
See what separate divisions have done? For those who care dearly about the Ohio State-Michigan game, I’m sorry to say there’s no more rivalry. It’s over. The spirit of the game has been sold out so that tickets and advertising space could sell out. I saw Jim Tressel and Rich Rodriguez friend each other on Facebook. What would Woody and Bo say about Facebook? They’d probably hurl at the thought of technology!
Matt Sussman blogs about the Mid-American Conference at hustlebelt.com.