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Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Big Ten bashing unites league's players, coaches

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- A few hours after Penn State wipes the turf with Syracuse on Sept. 12, Nittany Lions linebacker Sean Lee will flip on the TV and commit an act of treason. 

He'll start rooting for Ohio State. 

"I want Ohio State to beat up USC this year," Lee said. "We're going to root for them every chance we get, outside the Big Ten. We know what type of team they are, and we want to play against a team that's done well outside the league, too."

The feeling is mutual. 

"You see teams want each other to win, except when you're playing each other," said Ohio State safety Kurt Coleman, who will be pulling for Minnesota against Cal on Sept. 19. "Especially nonconference games and bowl games, you want the Big Ten to represent well. It's a good sign."

The Big Ten has become a national pinata in recent years, with seemingly everyone taking a swing at a league that has struggled in BCS bowl games and marquee nonconference matchups. But all the outside bashing seems to have brought players and coaches closer together.

Indiana linebacker Matt Mayberry recently defended Illinois quarterback Juice Williams through Twitter after Missouri's Sean Weatherspoon had called out Williams. Big Ten coaches spent much of Monday defending the league's record against the SEC and lending their support to colleagues for the coming season.

Much of the discussion traces back to Sept. 12, when the Big Ten's most visible program (Ohio State) faces a team that has tormented the league more than any other (USC). 

"Everyone in this league wants to see Ohio State do well outside the conference," Illinois coach Ron Zook said. "Obviously, it's going to be a big game in September when they play Southern Cal."