Ranking the Big Ten rivalries

July, 29, 2008
7/29/08
2:10
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

If you haven't caught on already, we're giving you heaping helpings of hate today. There's already some debate as to the Big Ten's most hated team. Is it Ohio State hands down, or do Michigan and Penn State enter the discussion? You can weigh in.

Let's take a look at the league's top 5 rivalries:

1. Michigan vs. Ohio State -- Nothing else comes close. From the Snow Bowl to the Ten-Year War to John Cooper's struggles to Lloyd Carr's struggles, this rivalry has had it all. The 2006 meeting that paired the nation's top two teams was arguably the most anticipated regular-season contest ever, certainly in the last decade. Most Ohio State fans think Michigan fans are arrogant; most Michigan fans think Ohio State fans are classless. It makes for one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. 

2. Michigan-Michigan State -- Both teams have other rivals (Ohio State and Notre Dame, respectively), but the intra-state matchup has become increasingly more intense. Though Michigan has won six straight in the series, six of the last nine meetings have been decided by eight points or fewer. Last year's game further fueled the rivalry, as Mike Hart referred to Michigan State as Michigan's "little brother," prompting an angry response from Spartans coach Mark Dantonio.

3. Wisconsin-Iowa -- One of the league's most competitive rivalries has some bitterness as well, especially after Bret Bielema, a former Iowa player with a Hawkeye tattoo on his ankle, became Wisconsin's coach. The Badgers hold a 41-40-2 edge in the series, which is strikingly close despite Iowa's string of 18 straight games without a loss between 1977-96.  

4. Illinois-Ohio State -- Buckeye dominance has marked most of the series, but the bitterness is building. Illinois nearly stunned Ohio State two years ago and then completed the upset of the top-ranked Buckeyes last year in Columbus. If the Illini continue to recruit like a powerhouse, they'll continue to fuel this rivalry.

5. Minnesota vs. Wisconsin -- It might not reek of bitterness, but in terms of longevity, this game stands alone. The Golden Gophers and Badgers have played since 1890, making it the most played rivalry in Division I-A. The teams originally played for a slab of bacon and now try to claim Paul Bunyan's Axe. Hailing from bordering states, the two programs are always competing for talent, giving the game some added spice.

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