Big Ten Football: Power Ranking the Best Rivalries in the Big Ten
The Big Ten Conference is one that's rich in history and tradition. Many of its members have a long and historic football past. Some of the teams have been facing each other since the 1800's.
As the 2012 season wraps up with Rivalry Week, it's fitting to take a look at the best current rivalries from the Big Ten.
When the Big Ten expanded in 2011 and teams were placed into divisions, some traditional games were lost. Penn State and Michigan State no longer battle each year for the Land Grant Trophy. The Heartland Trophy is no longer passed yearly between Iowa and Wisconsin.
Since a few of the former rivalry games will only happen once every few years, only current Big Ten rivalries were considered for the list. This slideshow highlights several conference rivalry games and ranks them from 10-1.
Rankings were decided by a few different factors: history, competitiveness and trophy name if applicable.
10. Illinois vs. Ohio State
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This matchup has been contested 98 times since the first in 1902, a 0-0 tie. The trophy associated with the rivalry is the Illibuck, a carved wooden turtle that is the second-oldest trophy in the Big Ten. In 1925 and 1926 a live turtle was passed between the schools until a wooden replica was made in 1927.
Illinois found success early on in the series, winning the live turtle in 1925 and the trophy in 1927.
In the years since, the Buckeyes have had the upper hand. Ohio State boasts a 64-30-4 record in the game and have won the last four meetings.
Perhaps the best memory for Illinois fans came in 2007. That's when the Illini traveled to Columbus to take on No. 1 Ohio State and upset the Buckeyes, 28-21.
Unfortunately for fans of this rivalry game, the end seems near. With the recent additions of Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten, Illinois is set to move over to the Legends Division, likely ending its yearly tilt with the Buckeyes.
9. Purdue vs. Illinois
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The battle for the Purdue Cannon dates back to 1943 and was first won 40-21 by the Boilermakers. The cannon idea was conceived years earlier by Purdue students wanting to celebrate a victory, but it wasn't made an official trophy until the 1943 game.
The Illinois vs. Purdue rivalry is actually one of the most competitive in the Big Ten. This battle has been played 87 times, with the trophy being presented for the last 60 meetings. The Boilermakers control the trophy series 31-27, but the Illini hold the overall game record, 42-39.
Purdue has won the last two meetings, including a 20-17 road victory earlier this season.
Currently both teams are in the Leaders Division and meet yearly. Illinois is set to switch divisions in 2014 and could replace Iowa as Purdue's protected game so that this competitive matchup can live on.
8. Nebraska vs. Penn State
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This is the newest rivalry in the Big Ten, considering Nebraska just joined for the 2011 season. Though the game hasn't been played very often, it's shaping up to be a great college football rivalry. The two teams have met just 14 times, twice as Big Ten members, with both winning seven games.
The history between Penn State and Nebraska really started with a controversial game in 1982. The second-ranked Cornhuskers traveled to Beaver Stadium to take on the eighth-ranked Nittany Lions. Penn State scored on a late touchdown drive that was aided by a questionable call.
Fuel was added to this rivalry when both teams went undefeated in 1994, but Nebraska was named the National Champion.
The schools have met each of the last two years, both won by Nebraska. The 2012 game included a controversial replay call late in the game that took away what would have been a Penn State go-ahead score.
This game has the potential to be one of the best in the conference moving forward. If the Big Ten wants it to grow, the conference might consider moving the date of the game to the day after Thanksgiving. Currently that day is saved for Nebraska vs. Iowa, but an NU vs. PSU matchup might garner more attention.
7. Northwestern vs. Illinois
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The battle for the state of Illinois is another classic Big Ten battle. Northwestern and Illinois first met in 1892. The two teams have now met 105 times, with number 106 coming up this week. Since 2009, the teams have played for the Land of Lincoln Trophy.
From 1945-2008 the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk was used as the annual trophy to the winner.
The overall series has been fairly even throughout the years, standing at 54-46-5 in favor of Illinois. The Illini currently have a two-game win streak heading into the 2012 meeting.
A highlight in the series was when the 2010 game was played at Chicago's Wrigley Field. It marked the first time a football game had been played there since 1970. Illinois defeated Northwestern 48-27 in that game.
6. Indiana vs. Purdue
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The battle for the Old Oaken Bucket has been played 114 times and goes all the way back to 1891. The trophy itself originated in 1925 and dates as one of the oldest college football trophies around.
The Purdue Boilermakers have dominated this in-state matchup, beating the Hoosiers 71 times. Purdue set the tone early on in the series, winning the first game 60-0. The Boilermakers currently hold the trophy, winning 33-25 last season.
This is a great college football tradition, as the game has been played every year since 1920.
Despite the records, fans of the two schools always know they have something to look forward to in their last game of the season. The winner of this game gets bragging rights in the state of Indiana for an entire year.
5. Michigan vs. Minnesota
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This is the battle for the Little Brown Jug, the oldest rivalry trophy in the country. Michigan and Minnesota began playing against each other in 1892, a game won 14-6 by the Gophers.
From 1929-1998, the game was contested every year. As the Big Ten schedule changed, the game was lost a few times over recent years. Now that both teams are in the Legends Division, this rivalry is scheduled to be played every year with no breaks currently scheduled.
The Wolverines hold a clear advantage in the series, winning 77 times, including the last five meetings.
Sure, it hasn't been very competitive, but what makes this rivalry great is the history and the fact that it's two classic Midwest, Big Ten Schools who don't think too kindly of one another.
4. Iowa vs. Minnesota
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This battle goes all the way back to 1891, a meeting won by Minnesota 42-4. The Gophers and the Hawkeyes have met a total of 106 times and have played for the right to raise the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy since 1935. The trophy is a bronze pig.
Minnesota leads the overall series 61-43, though Iowa took the victory this year 31-13.
Of course, a pig is very fitting for the game of football. The idea of the trophy came from a story of the governors of both states betting a hog against each other in the 1935 matchup.
Not only has this game been competitive throughout its long history, but the fact that the winner is rewarded with a giant bronze pig statue makes it near the top of the Big Ten.
3. Wisconsin vs. Minnesota
Minnesota and Wisconsin battle each year for the right to lift Paul Bunyan's Axe at the end of the game. This rivalry began in 1890 and is the most played game in college football history. The two teams have met 122 times.
While the Gophers hold the overall series lead with a record of 59-56-8, recent games have been controlled by the Badgers. Wisconsin has defeated Minnesota every year since 2004.
The prize of this historic rivalry is the giant axe that gets carried around the field after a victory. The trophy was instituted in 1948 and has been lifted by the Badgers 38 times and the Gophers 24 times.
Though the recent series has not been close, there's no denying the history, tradition and passion of this Big Ten rivalry.
2. Michigan State vs. Michigan
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The in-state battle between Michigan and Michigan State is one of the most heated in all the land. The two have met a total of 104 times since 1898. Beginning in 1953, the Paul Bunyan Trophy is presented to the winner each year. The trophy is a statue of the folklore legend and is meant to represent the lumber industry in Michigan.
The Wolverines have lifted the trophy 35 times while the Spartans have claimed it 23 times. The overall series is led by Michigan. However, until the Wolverines 12-10 victory this season, the Spartans had won each game from 2008-2011.
With the schools being separated by just 65 miles, this natural rivalry is more than just a football game. Top recruits from the state are often targets of both teams. Fans in Michigan are taught from an early age which color to cheer for.
If not for another huge game on Michigan's schedule each year, this may be the best rivalry in the Big Ten Conference.
1. Ohio State vs. Michigan
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This rivalry game needs no introduction. It's without question the best in the Big Ten and arguably the best rivalry in the entire country. "The Game" as it's known, has been played 108 times, dating back to 1897. Michigan holds the edge 58-44.
The names that have been associated with this game over time are historic. Hayes, Schembechler, Howard, Woodson and George have all left their mark on this matchup.
This game is how every player at Ohio State and Michigan measure themselves. No one wants to play four years without winning "The Game" at least once.
Ohio State and Michigan traditionally play each other as their regular-season finale, which usually adds to the drama.
Perhaps the most memorable meeting between the two came in 2006, when both squared off at 11-0 and ranked one and two in the BCS for the first time ever. Ohio State came out victorious at home, 42-39, led by quarterback Troy Smith.
Though the Wolverines hold the overall series lead, the Buckeyes had won seven straight before falling 40-34 in Ann Arbor last season. (Technically OSU did not win in 2010 since the win was vacated.)
Fans of both schools have a downright hatred for the other and anxiously await this game each year. There's no contest here, Ohio State vs. Michigan is by far the best rivalry going in the Big Ten.