Big Ten: Hate

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

After being away from the laptop most of the day, I'm finally getting a chance to sift through some of your comments and e-mails about Tuesday's series on hated teams, rivalries, etc. A fairly popular sentiment is that I whiffed on the Big Ten's most hated team and should have selected Michigan instead of Ohio State.

 
 Jeff Gross/Getty Images
 There aren't many fans of Jim Tressel's sweater vest outside of Ohio.

Justin from Normal, Ill., writes:

Adam, come on man. You apparently spent too much time covering ND and Depaul and not enough covering Northwestern and the rest of the Big Ten. Anyone who has experience following the Big Ten would know that Michigan is the most hated team in the conference, hands down. Always had been, always will be.

First off, I've covered more Northwestern games than any sane person ever should. I agree with Justin that Michigan always has been the league's most hated program. The Wolverines are viewed by many as arrogant, overexposed and often overrated. But the "always will be" statement is where we differ.

Ohio State has overtaken Michigan on the hate meter after the last six seasons. The Buckeyes and their fans have been in the spotlight constantly, and increased attention usually breeds hatred. Unlike the Wolverines, whose perceived arrogance has become laughable at times in recent seasons (i.e. Appalachian State), many people view Ohio State as projecting the rare combination of arrogance and crudeness. It's Jim Tressel's sweater vest combined with rowdy fans. Plus, Ohio State can back up the smack with its recent success. According to my colleague Mark Schlabach, the Buckeyes aren't just the most hated team in the Big Ten, but the entire country.

As far as rivalries, most of the criticism has centered on including Illinois-Ohio State and leaving out Purdue-Indiana. One user wrote that I neglected some of the rivalries but didn't list any examples. Fortunately, he did list a location (West Lafayette, Ind.). Pretty sneaky, Paul.

Greg from Chicago writes:

Dude, cool out on creating some sort of rivalry between Ohio State and Illinois. A close game 2 years ago and an upset last year do not make a rivalry. A rivalry is something that is entrenched for years (OSU - Michigan or even OSU - Penn St at this point). Not sure if you graduated from Illinois but even my buddies from U of I think you are annoying and crazy. How many different articles can you write to suggest this? It even made the top 5 rivalries in the Big 10?! What? Maybe someday they will be rivals but at this point, Illinois - Michigan is more of a rivalry that has garnered some passion from the faithful (at least on Illinois' side), not glee from an upset win and a close game over the past 2 years.

Greg, you bring up a good point about the importance of longevity when ranking a rivalry. Perhaps I'll create a separate list of "best new rivalries." Illinois-Ohio State would definitely be up there because of recent games and Illinois' recruiting surge. I'd also classify Purdue-Indiana as an exciting new rivalry to watch. Sure, the two teams have been playing forever, but Indiana's struggles until the last few years really decreased the buzz around the game. It's definitely getting good now with Indiana's recent surge and should be a fun one to watch in November as Joe Tiller coaches his last home game at Purdue.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Buckeyes logoMidwesterners are generally regarded as nice people, not the types to be categorized as haters. But one football program has rankled this normally genial crowd for most of the last decade. One program has earned the title as the Big Ten's most hated team, or, as Ohio State would put it, The Big Ten's Most Hated Team.

The hate for Ohio State can't be pigeonholed.

Despite the Maurice Clarett saga and several other off-field stains, this isn't Miami. Jim Tressel is lampooned for his sweater vests, more suited for professors or politicians than football coaches. In many ways, he's the anti-Woody Hayes -- composed, reserved, even bland at times -- but he projects an image seen by some as arrogant and inauthentic. Still, Tressel doesn't stoke the fire like the Head Ball Coach, Phil Fulmer or, more recently, Charlie Weis. Ohio State's fans, regarded by some as crude and classless, probably heighten the hate more than anything else. The rioting after the 2002 game against Michigan certainly didn't help the image of Buckeye Nation. But there's more to it.

Success breeds contempt and Ohio State is enjoying more of it than any other Big Ten program. Since 2002, the Buckeyes are 66-11 with a national championship, four shared or outright Big Ten titles and three national title game appearances. The program has produced a Heisman Trophy winner in Troy Smith and dozens of NFL players. As annoying as it is to hear former Buckeyes introduce themselves as coming from "The Ohio State University" on Monday Night Football, it's also a testament to the program's ability to recruit and develop talent.

Ohio State has been condemned nationally for its flops in the last two BCS title games, and cries of "Overrated!" can usually be heard when the Buckeyes are brought up. But in the Big Ten, Ohio State continues to dominate, losing just two league games in the last three years. The Buckeye vitriol has undoubtedly increased among Michigan fans, accustomed to seeing their team as the Big Ten's best, and, consequently, the most hated. But after four consecutive losses to Ohio State and six in the last seven seasons, Michigan, like its Big Ten brethren, is looking up at the Buckeyes. Michigan used to be the league's most arrogant team. Now the Buckeyes have earned the right to that title.

For the Buckeyes to get knocked off their perch atop the hate-o-meter, the rest of the Big Ten has to catch up. Ohio State has consistently recruited better than any other league team, culminating this spring with the signing of quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who botched the school's official title ("University of Ohio State") and left out the all-important definite article before the name. Rich Rodriguez's arrival at Michigan could shift the league's power balance, and Illinois' recent recruiting surge puts it closer to Ohio State. But for now, the Buckeyes are the clear choice.

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