Contrived Rivalry with Moo U. Bites Dust — Again
Looking at the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Penn State football schedules, I noticed that Michigan State had been moved from its historical position as the season-ender. Maryland appears last on the schedule in 2017 and 2018, while Rutgers has the slot in 2019. This inspired me to dig deeper to find out whassup wit dat.
We all know that the final game of the regular should be Pitt, especially those of us who are old enough to remember our true rivalry. However, absent Pitt, a little stability would be nice. These vacillating, evanescent, contrived rivalries engineered by the Big Ten truly suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.
Contrived Moo U. Rivalry Is Born
When the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten in 1993, the Gods on high at the Big Ten Pantheon in Indianapolis decided that former last-man-in orphan Moo U. would be Penn State’s rivalry. They contrived a relationship founded on both universities being land grant schools. Michigan State is two states away. Accordingly, that stupid land grant connection was a flimsy basis for a rivalry. Playing the Spartans, we fans never felt the visceral emotions that define a true rivalry. But it was something that grew on us, and it was better than no end-of-season rivalry game at all.
The Big Ten schmuckos couldn’t leave well enough alone. When Nebraska joined the conference, the league wizards divided the Big Ten into two non-geographically based divisions (ludicrously named “Leaders” and “Legends”) in their quest for a conference championship game and consequently, mo’ money. Moo U. , being in “the other” division, disappeared from the Nittany Lions’ schedule. Thus, in 2011, 2012, and 2013, the Big Ten tacitly designated Wisconsin as our rivalry game by placing them last on the schedule. Our big rival was then three states and a great big giant lake away, and it was a team with which Penn State had no significant history prior to the Big Ten. However, at that time we didn’t complain much because in view of the contemporaneous sanctions, we were lucky that Penn State was allowed to play football at all!
Hell, wouldn’t Nebraska have been better as our contrived rival? I’m sure the Cornhusker fans were crying in their wheat beer out there over losing the annual rivalry with Oklahoma. They would have welcomed yet another chance to avenge the 1981 loss to Penn State, which they still haven’t forgotten in Lincoln. Although they’re halfway across the country, Penn State had some great games with the Cornhuskers in the pre-Big Ten era. But a Big Ten contrived rivalry between Penn State and Nebraska was not to be, as the conference had pre-ordained Iowa as the Nebraska rival. Perhaps that was one negotiating point for Nebraska joining the conference. If so, kudos to them for their ability to get their way within the Big Ten Good Old Boys’ oligarchy.
The Return of Moo U.
The Big Ten added Maryland and Rutgers for the 2014 season, shitcanning the asinine Leaders and Legends divisions in favor of pseudo-geographically-based East and West divisions. With the geographical dividing line sort of running north and south through Indiana (because that’s where the Pantheon is), Penn State was in the East Division, which consists of (in no particular order) Michigan, Ohio State, Indiana, Moo U., Penn State, Maryland, and Rutgers. Now, Wisconsin was in “the other” division, so Moo U. was scheduled as our rivalry game for 2014, 2015, and 2016. The battle for the abominable Land Grant Trophy was restored!
Oops, That Didn’t Last!
However, the schedule engineers performed their dubious magic once again starting in 2017,when Maryland is scheduled as the season ending rivalry game, but wait! There’s more! In 2019, Rutgers is the rivalry game. Do we feel any rivalry with these buffoons? Nope. The gods of the Big Ten schedule say it is a rivalry and so it shall be. No shit, man, this sucks! But read on, there’s more dirt to be dug!
Because we coexist in the East Division, Michigan State is still on the Penn State schedule for those years, albeit earlier in the season. So, who, pray tell, is Moo U.’s new rivalry game opponent? Hold onto your hats, folks! In 2017 and 2018, it’s Rutgers. In 2019, it’s Maryland. Oy, vey! It looks like they have Penn State and Moo U. alternating between Maryland and Rutgers, sharing the wealth, as it were. Wealth, indeed!
Orphans, Go Play!
What the hell, this is like the adults relegating us to the kids’ table in the kitchen at Thanksgiving while the big people sit around the big table in the dining room talking about snow and pierogies and Hillary and Trump and shit . We’ll see you at dessert time! Maybe one of you might make it to the Big Ten Championship and then we’d be forced to play with you.
From whence did this lowlife status emanate? Well, I’ll tellya: Before Maryland, Rutgers, and Nebraska, Moo U. and Penn State were the last schools admitted to the Big Ten, so they automatically became not only the lowlife to be condescended to, but also the poor, orphan step-children. Play amongst yourselves, children, but don’t interrupt the adults and the big boys.
Upstart Penn State entered the Big Ten in 1993 and immediately started kicking ass, losing to only the perennial big boys (Michigan and tOSU) and winding up with a 10-2 record. The following year, the Nittany Lions beat the big boys, too, and finished with a perfect season, 12-0. (That was the year Nebraska beat out PSU for #1 in the polls at season end. Are they our rivals?) Although we’ve mostly sucked since then, the big boys and the mommies and daddies of the conference have never forgiven us. Thus, they lump us in with Maryland and Rutgers, hoping we’ll know our place and we’ll leave them alone.
Penn State, Maryland, and Rutgers are all in the Eastern U.S., while the Big Ten’s tradition is Midwestern. Nebraska fits quite well, but what about Moo U.? Methinks it’s the Big Blue effect — there ain’t room for both of us in this state and your green is ugly, besides. The Spartans are viewed in Michigan as Ohio U. would be viewed in Ohio when compared to Ohio State. Furthermore, the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry traditionally drives the Big Ten. The only reason they bother with a Big Ten Championship game is the money; otherwise, the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan game is the real champ in the minds of Big Ten traditionalists.
I have to wonder whether a new trophy will be created for the winner of the annual Big Ten Bottom Feeder Classic between Penn State and Maryland or Rutgers and its companion game, Moo U. vs. Rutgers or Maryland? It would be in the shape of twin catfish with one of Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany’s feet up each fishass. Or it will be merely a statuette of Delany flipping dual birds in the direction of Sparty and Old Main, perched on the base of the old Land Grant Trophy.
I don’t think I’ll be happy until the Pitt joins the Big Ten and our true rivalry is restored, but that ain’t likely any time soon.