Christmas Gifts for Every Big Ten Football Team
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It's Christmas time around these parts, and Santa's making a list and checking it twice for all the Big Ten teams. It's hard to characterize a football program as naughty or nice—unless you're the NCAA, anyway—but certainly there are some programs in dire need, and what's Santa Claus if not charitable?
So let's look at every Big Ten team and see what Santa's bringing down each of their chimneys. Do athletic buildings have chimneys? Maybe he can just bring them through the front door. Like a UPS guy. Santa should work for UPS. Ehh, he wouldn't look good in brown. Bad for branding.
We're already getting off track. Let's do this.
Illinois: A Real Mascot
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It's nice that Illinois stopped trotting out white frat boys to do some made-up Indian dance before games. That was a step in the right direction, whether Illini fans want to admit it or not.
However, it leaves Illinois effectively mascot-less, which is just solving a problem by creating another problem. College football games should have mascots. They should be goofy-looking, ridiculous creations that would never make an ounce of sense outside a football stadium or basketball arena.
It's easier said than done to give Illinois a mascot, however, since basically any interpretation of "Fighting Illini" in a mascot is going to be racially offensive (hint hint, Illinois). Thus, Santa is going to be happy to bring an anthropomorphized state of Illinois, with arms and legs and a face right around where Rockford is. Does that sound stupid and insulting to everyone's intelligence? Then it's a good mascot.
Indiana: Crippling Basketball Sanctions
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Let's face it, Indiana is a basketball school. It always has been a basketball school, even before basketball was invented—and if that sounds questionable to you, go to Indiana and check it out. We're right.
Because of that, Indiana is full of basketball fans—and embarrassingly few football fans. That's not an environment that's easy to win in (especially against rabid Big Ten fanbases), so we clearly need to do something to get Indiana fans to pack Memorial Stadium every Saturday.
We must destroy Indiana basketball.
Harsh? Sure, probably. But hey, this is a Big Ten football blog, so that's how it goes. Anyway, a set of sanctions that dwarf what Kelvin Sampson (above, in happier times) brought upon the Hoosiers ought to do it, so now Santa just has to figure out how to make that happen without violating his Hippocratic Oath (Santa is a doctor; you didn't know that?).
Thus, Santa will be bringing five years' worth of probation, a postseason ban, a television ban and a heavy fine for IU basketball coach Tom Crean's repeated violations of having weird hair. Seriously, what's up with that? Who does a butt cut in 2012?
Iowa: A New Contract for Kirk Ferentz
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Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is one of the highest-paid coaches in college football history, and he's got a buyout that'll still be over $10 million in 2015. Yes, Iowa athletic director Gary Barta probably wishes he had that decision back.
Ah, but Christmas is for wishes coming true, and contract attorney Santa Claus, Esq. (he is a doctor and a lawyer both) is here to make things happen. And thus, with a flick of his pen and a wiggle of his nose, Kirk Ferentz's contract will now include a Santa Clause (sorry) that states that Ferentz can be fired for cause if the team's season is over before Christmas Eve.
And whaddya know? They're 4-8 this season! Why, it's a Christmas miracle! Thanks, Santa!
Michigan: 5 Years of Reverse Aging for Brady Hoke
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In case it isn't immediately obvious, this Ohio State-Michigan rivalry is just starting to get really good. The last two games have been split between the programs (and one-score games to boot), Urban Meyer's in town to lead the Buckeyes, Brady Hoke's already at 20 wins in his two-year career with a bowl game pending and the two programs are far outpacing the rest of the conference in recruiting.
The only down side to all this? Brady Hoke is already 54—six whole years ahead of Urban Meyer. He would turn 62 in his 10th year at Michigan, and that seems like the ceiling on his coaching career. Guys just don't stick around in this profession after 62 very often, and why should they? What's the point of being a 62-year-old supermillionaire if you're still working 70 hours a week just to keep up with young punks in their 40s?
So since we'd like to keep the Hoke-Meyer rivalry around for as long as possible, Santa will (don't ask us how) reverse-mega-engineer Brady Hoke's body to age in reverse for the next five years, taking him back down to 49 and letting him stay in Ann Arbor for years and years. College football needs this. It demands it.
Michigan State: Stickum
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It's been a rough year for Michigan State, one that should not have been. The Spartans are 6-6 on the season, barely sneaking into a bowl game—and that's with wins against Boise State and Wisconsin.
Alas, five of the Spartans' six losses came by four points or fewer, including two overtime defeats and a last-second field goal by Michigan, and there's nothing tougher than a loss that easily could have gone the other way.
First-year starting QB Andrew Maxwell struggled all season long, and ask a Spartan fan about offensive coordinator Dan Roushar if you want to see a long, creative string of obscenities come out of a person's mouth. But really, the Michigan State offense would have been fine if the young wide receivers could just catch the damn ball.
So Santa's bringing a sleighload of Stickum for the receivers' gloves, as well as an admonishment for Maxwell to stop throwing bullets at the guys who can't catch bullets. Coaches aren't the only guys who need to know their personnel, after all. And before you point out that Stickum and other adhesive sprays are strictly forbidden by the NCAA, look...Santa's not a compliance guru. He's just here to help.
Minnesota: Global Warming
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Here's the problem with Minnesota football: It's in Minnesota. Minnesota is, for five or six months of the year, an Arctic hellscape with snow packed on snow packed on snow packed on gravel roads. It is inhospitable, and temperatures routinely stay at life-threatening levels for weeks at a time unless you're bundled up in roughly 90 layers of clothing.
That's no way to live. And most non-Midwesterners know that, which is why recruiting to the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes Which Will Be Solid Ice Until April is so difficult. So Santa's relaxing environmental restrictions on business and letting that carbon monoxide fly until Minnesota is fit for human habitation, and if that sounds like a negative thing to you, remember the words of the Postal Service in "Sleeping In":
Where concerns about the world getting warmer
The people thought that they were just being rewarded
For treating others as they like to be treated
For obeying stop signs and curing diseases
For mailing letters with the address of the sender
Now we can swim any day in November
See? That's not so bad, y'all. Thanks, Santa.
Nebraska: Another Year of Eligibility for Ndamukong Suh
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Nebraska's rush defense depends on having a strong defensive tackle, and Baker Steinkuhler wasn't that guy on a consistent basis in 2012. Ndamukong Suh was certainly that guy, and while he went second overall in the 2010 NFL draft to the Detroit Lions, Santa just may have found another year of eligibility for Suh to come back to Lincoln for one last hurrah.
Now, we know what you're thinking. "Suh was a senior." "You can't go from the NFL to college ball." "This is stupid."
Look, don't question Santa Claus, OK? If he can figure out a way to get Ndamukong Suh back in Lincoln, he's going to do it.
After all, it's not like things are going great for Suh in Detroit. He's been plagued by a series of blatantly unsportsmanlike actions, like stomping a Green Bay offensive lineman and leg-whipping Houston QB Matt Schaub in the "gentlemen's area." He's been flagged several times for unnecessary roughness in his treatment of Chicago QB Jay Cutler, and it's to the point where if he greets a quarterback with anything heavier than a handshake, the league office is sending him a fine.
So he should just c'mon back to Nebraska. The Huskers could use him.
Northwestern: A Bowl Win
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If there's one pervasive aspect of the Northwestern fanbase's mindset, it's that it (rightfully) demands that Northwestern be treated as an equal member of the Big Ten. And hey, Northwestern's made it to a bowl game in seven of the last 10 years while going 41-39 in conference play in that span. That's almost as close to right down the middle of the road as a Big Ten team can get, which is certainly at odds with Northwestern's historical reputation as a doormat.
Ah, but there's always the fact that Northwestern hasn't won a bowl game in 64 years, its only postseason victory coming in the 1949 Rose Bowl against California, 20-14. Since then, it's been 11 straight disappointments for the Wildcats, all of which have been in the last 17 years. And so, whenever Northwestern wants to be taken seriously, there's always the valid comeback of "win a bowl game first."
So Santa's going to bring that bowl win. He even gifted Northwestern a trip down the bowl pecking ladder so the Wildcats could face Mississippi State instead of Georgia.
Then what's left for Northwestern to do to prove it belongs in the Big Ten? A whole lot of nothing.
Ohio State: A Donation to the Human Fund
Santa's onto you, Ohio State. He sees you when you're sleeping; he knows when you're awake. And he definitely knows when you've got the Big Ten's best returning set of players coming back to a team that already went undefeated in 2012. And he knows when you've got the best coach in the conference. And he knows when you've got the best quarterback in the conference. And he knows when you've got the best stadium and fanbase in the conference.
So don't go asking Santa for anything, Ohio State. He's making a donation to the Human Fund in your name. If that's not going to work for you, go cry into a sheet of paper that says 25-0, because that's probably going to be Urban Meyer's record at Ohio State in 365 days.
Penn State: Anything and Everything Bill O'Brien Wants
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It's nearly impossible to overestimate the impact Bill O'Brien has had on the Penn State football program and the fanbase as a whole (unless you really overestimate it, like "everyone is a millionaire now" or "50 national championships already").
O'Brien took over a football program reeling from arguably the worst scandal in college football history, one facing mammoth NCAA sanctions and that could have been raided out of existence by opportunistic recruiters, and he led it to a surprising 8-4 record in the first year of a lengthy probation.
There's also the uneasy fact that Bill O'Brien is not a "Penn State guy," in that he never coached for Joe Paterno and played football for Brown in the Ivy League. His coaching career has been in the NFL up until this stint at Happy Valley, so everyone's assuming that O'Brien's next stop as a coach will be back in the NFL, leading a franchise.
So since Santa does nice things, he's committing to giving Bill O'Brien whatever the hell he wants to stay at Penn State, no questions asked. New car? Done. New house? Done. Evil space lair floating over Happy Valley? Done and done.
Just don't leave this team.
Purdue: The World's Largest Sousaphone
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Purdue's marching band boasts the "World's Largest Drum," which we must admit is a very cool thing for a marching band to have. You'd think it'd be bigger, honestly—nobody's done anything bigger than that in the world?—but hey, Purdue says it's the biggest and we haven't seen a judge order the school to stop, so there you go.
But why stop there? As it is, all Purdue has is a giant drum around a bunch of normal-sized instruments. There's so much wasted potential there. Why have the world's largest drum when you can have the world's largest band?
Now, Santa's workshop has its limits, and import restrictions being what they are in this modern economy, he can't make the instruments for the world's largest band all in one fell swoop. But he can bring them the world's largest sousaphone, and if you're not immensely amused at the thought of some 15-foot tall instrument on wheels sending out a "BLATTTTT" that could rattle windows from 1,000 yards away, we probably can't be friends anymore.
Wisconsin: THE House of Pain
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By now, everybody knows about the fourth-quarter tradition at Wisconsin's Camp Randall where the stadium plays House of Pain's "Jump Around" and the entire student section, well...jumps around.
It's fun to see, even more fun to experience and it's one of the best fan traditions in the Big Ten. We mean that sincerely.
But here's the thing: That's just a recording. Recordings are inauthentic. They're what got Milli Vanilli in all that trouble. They're traveshamockeries.
So Santa, in addition to his wealth of other professional talents, is a pretty good booking agent. And Santa knows that Everlast and the rest of his old band House of Pain really have nothing better to do on Saturdays than head up to Madison, perform their song to the great delight of Madison's finest and brightest and live happily as heroes in the city that worships at their feet seven or eight afternoons a year.
Merry Christmas to all who came to get down, and to all who came to get down a good night.