Here's a week by week look at the 20 Big 10 games I want to see most if I take off my homer hat (networks allowing). This isn't just a simple compilation of the top teams and rivals playing each other (yawn) - these are some games of interest from top to bottom.
August 30th sees a great kickoff for the Big 10 fans 2008 Season
1. Illinois at Missouri. Who would have guessed this would turn out to be a critical game in 2007? Think about it - another score by the Illini and you would have never heard Missouri and NC in the same sentence. 2 of the surprise teams of 2007 are looking to show they weren't just flash in the pans.
2. Michigan State at California In 2007 Cal made a lot of noise and climbed the polls with an early win over Tennessee before fading in the conference. Michigan State took the opposite route, getting a lot of 2nd looks after their bowl appearance. This won't get the hype of Illini-Missouri, but it promises to be just as interesting and just as important.
3. Michigan hosting Utah will be the dawn of the RR era.
OSU hosting Youngstown... just joking. Unless you an OSU fan, or a friend or family of the 3rd string I can think of no reason to watch this game.
4. Penn State hosting Oregon State offers our 1st real look at what may be JoPa's best chance to pick up 1 more title before retiring from the program he put on the map. Many put Oregon State in the top 4 in the PAC 10 for 2008.
5. OSU at USC is the biggest regular season non-conference match up of the year. Hard to believe but I think they haven't met since 1990. If you don't like seeing highly ranked big name programs collide in inter conference play in the regular season, you don't like NCAAF.
6. Michigan at Notre Dame matches 2 big name programs with even bigger questions entering the 08 season.
7. Iowa hosting Iowa State might be the best state rivalry you've never bothered to watch.
Side Note: Purdue hosting Oregon is the biggest underdog mismatch the Big 10 faces in non conference play and won't be worth the bag of chips you go thru watching. Purdue won't win, but how they show will say a lot about what the new coach will have when he takes over in 2009 (this is nationally televised?).
8. Iowa at Pittsburgh was a "Who cares" until Pittsburgh knocked WVU out of the NC game. Some have Pittsburgh ranked pre season, which could make this 1 a shocker to many if the Hawks pull the upset.
9. Indiana hosting Ball State. These in state teams feature among 2 of the best passing offenses you probably haven't heard. Airing it out against, shall we say, porous pass defenses this should be a fun game to watch. Ball State's Nate Davis single handedly put 4 Cardinal games on ESPN for 08 by impressing the execs with his performance in a lopsided bowl loss. Rrumors are the Hoosiers are looking at making the no huddle a common place staple in their offense.
Sept 27 sees the beginning of the Big 10 conference schedule
10. Wisconsin at Michigan is not RR's ideal way to start his era in the Big 10, particularly at home.
11. OSU at Wisconsin is the opening round of the 3 favorites for the Big 10 title. The pesky Badgers have been giving the Bucks scares, fits, and upsets since I was in college. I am not expecting it to end any time soon.
12. Iowa at Michigan State. In 07, a youthful Hawkeye squad came from behind against 1st year Spartan coach to win in double OT, propelling the Hawkeyes to 6th in the Big 10 and dropping the Spartans from 5th to 8th. Look for this game to be equally significant in 2008.
13. Penn State at Wisconsin will have BCS and NC implications no matter who wins the OSU-Wisconsin game. Can Wisconsin get past injuries and over the hump to capitalize on having OSU scheduled at home?
14. Penn State at Ohio State dubbed "PSU in the Shoe" by xxx84xxx may be the game of the Big 10 season. With memories of 2005 and potential NC implication, look for this game to live up to the hype.
15. Michigan State at Michigan gives RR his 1st chance to coach in the Big 10's biggest in state rivalry, and 1 last hurdle in a sadistic introductory Big 10 schedule that sees him playing in order Wisconsin, Illinois, Penn State, then Michigan State.
16. Minnesota at Purdue may have no consequences on the bowls, but it may be Minnesota's best chance to pick up a conference win.
17. Iowa at Illinois Will Zook still be in the hunt or just chasing bowl position? Either way, this is critical for both teams in determining their bowl invitation.
18. Northwestern at Michigan will be my chance to scout just how far the Wolverines have come before The Game. With their last games against Illinois and OSU respectively, don't be surprised if both teams are 6-4 and finding this game critical for a bowl spot (regardless of how you finish in your conference, NCAA says 7-5 get the nod before 6-6).
19. OSU at Illinois Illinois pulled the upset and rode it to a BCS invitation in 2007. If Zook is as strong as he says, repeating just might do the same in 2008. (Sounds far fetched? Here's a possible scenario: OSU-PSU-Wisc finish their series 1-1, Illinois goes 1-1 against PSU and WIsc)
20. The Game Michigan at OSU. Forget the new coach, new system, QB problems, polls, rankings, Lloyd Carr, past records, etc. RR has had a whole season to acclimate his players to his system. This is OSU-Michigan baby... college football just doesn't get any better.
The "Big" Game
The truth is the "BIG" game(s) depends on which team you support.
They may not expect to challenge for the conference title in 08, but match ups between Illinois, Michigan State, Iowa, and Michigan looks to hold a top 4 finish and an invitation to the Outback bowl in the balance.
They may be a long ways from the top 25, but the conference match ups between Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana, and Northwestern not only hold a lot of implications for pride, a Bowl invitation likely waits for the team that can come out on top.
In the end, what a lot of people miss is that it's not all about titles, championships, trophies, and records.
It's also about anticipation and surprise at the team and individual level as athletes strive to perform in excess of expectations.
It's not just about personally selling out making sports significantly more important than they really are. Programs rise and fall from year to year. Sometimes athletes stumble, and sometimes they inspire with performances well beyond expectations.
Perhaps I can best describe it another way - what would be more surprising for 2008: OSU or Penn State going undefeated and playing for the NC -or- Minnesota finishing 7-5 and receiving a bowl invitation? ...and if that's the expectation, whose fans would have more to cheer about at the end of the season should both occur?
The key isn't to just sell out, set expectations, and celebrate performance. It's possessing the perspective to frame these elements in the right context.
The fan with perspective will always find something to cheer for in the performance of at least 1 athlete in every game, and can appreciate the performance or share empathy for their opponent, even if it's your rival.
The fan without perspective is just sad, petty, pathetic, obnoxious, and during most years is in search of something other than his team's performance to maintain an interest in sports, typically manifesting in a negative emotional projection.
Come on - I know ...all of you have pictured the following while reading some posts/blogs...
In the end they appear to be either the scrawny annoying neighborhood snot nose pest who spends ½ his time taunting neighbors and small animals, the other half using his notebook to shield his head from the rocks being hurled his way or...
...some balding middle age fat guy in a stained T-Shirt and skid marked tighty whiteys hacking away at his keyboard to produce unsubstantiated and uninspired dribble in an effort to elevate himself to the level of the taunting snot nose pest.
So now, when you see me type perspective, you know exactly what I mean.
42% voted PSU at OSU as The Big 10 Game for 2008
42% voted OSU at Wisconsin
14% voted PSU at Wisconsin (I confess, I voted here to keep it a tie)
Go Big 10 08, about 4 months away.
This is a Prove It blog, not a bastion of free speech. As a courtesy to my other 6 readers, leave an idiot comment and I will zap it or trash you with facts as the mood hits. Either way the most you can hope for is that it will be a waste of time for you, the worse is that everyone discovers you have no idea what you spend your Saturdays watching and the rest of the week discussing - so you can't say you weren't warned.