Do Big Ten football loyalties run deeper?

April, 6, 2009
4/06/09
4:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

If you haven't read it already, check out Mark Schlabach's piece about Michigan fans rooting for rival Michigan State in tonight's men's basketball national championship game in Detroit.

It seems as though the Spartans' effort to embrace Detroit and a state down on its luck, in addition to their underdog status against North Carolina, has found a soft spot among Michigan fans. Perhaps all the Big Ten hate nationally has united Big Ten fans, even those who hate each other most of the time.

But one excerpt from the story caught my attention. 

"There were no anti-Michigan people," said Michigan senior Mike Gradillas, who tends bar at The Blue Leprechaun in Ann Arbor. "It was all pro-MSU. If it was football, I'm sure it would have been different."

Bo Schembechler must be rolling in his grave.

Would it be different in football?

Imagine Michigan was playing Alabama in the BCS national championship game held at Ford Field in Detroit (in Big Ten country!). Would Spartan Nation go blue or turn blue?

How many Michigan fans rooted for Ohio State in the 2007 and 2008 BCS title games against the hated SEC?

On the flip side, I'm curious to see how many Michigan fans or Penn State fans were pulling for Ohio State in the 2007 basketball title game against Florida. Were Iowa fans rooting for Illinois to knock off North Carolina in the 2005 national title game?

It probably depends on the teams involved and the depth of the rivalry/hatred, but my guess is Big Ten fans are more likely to support a rival in basketball than in football. Make no mistake, there are some great basketball rivalries in this league -- Illinois-Iowa, Michigan State-Wisconsin and Indiana-Purdue come to mind -- but this remains a football league with a more extensive history.

But I could be wrong. I'll be posting a mailbag Tuesday, so here's your chance to jump in.  

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