Thursday, December 22, 2011
Take Two: Better budding rivalry?
By Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett
Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.
Today's Take Two topic is inspired by user Lucas from NYC, who asked during Wednesday's Big Ten chat: Which is the more promising budding rivalry: Iowa-Nebraska or Wisconsin-Michigan State?
Take 1: Adam Rittenberg
Both Michigan State-Wisconsin games this season were classics, the first of which was decided on a Hail Mary pass caught by MSU's Keith Nichol.
Before the season, I would have said Iowa-Nebraska for sure. And it still might turn out to be the more heated rivalry in the long term. The schools are from bordering states, the teams are in the same division and the fan bases have a natural distaste for one another. But after seeing the way the season played out, I'm going with Wisconsin-Michigan State. The teams played two epic matchups, first in East Lansing and then in Indianapolis at the inaugural Big Ten championship game. The first Iowa-Nebraska game was pretty much a snoozer, although things will get spicier in the coming years. Both MSU-Wisconsin games featured wild swings and unforgettable plays, from the game-winning Hail Mary from Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol, to Russell Wilson's desperation heave to Jeff Duckworth on fourth down. Not surprisingly, the two fan bases saw the game-deciding punt penalty on Michigan State's Isaiah Lewis in Indy a bit differently. Wisconsin fans can't stand their team repeatedly losing in East Lansing. Michigan State fans aren't too fond of Bret Bielema and remain steamed about the way the title game ended. Most important, both programs are on the rise in the Big Ten and becoming new powers in the league. Need more evidence? I present the Mitten State debate. It all adds up to an excellent budding rivalry between Michigan State and Wisconsin.
Take 2: Brian Bennett
Absolutely in the short term, Michigan State and Wisconsin is the more promising rivalry. The two teams have played six really good games since 2007, capped of course by the two thrillers this season. I'm already looking forward to next Oct. 27, when the Spartans and Badgers hook up again in Madison. Wisconsin looks like the overwhelming 2012 Leaders Division favorite, while Michigan State will certainly contend in the Legends and could repeat if it adequately replaces Cousins. So another Big Ten title game match next year is not out of the question. But here's the problem with getting too smitten by the Mitten Game: the two teams are not permanent cross-division rivals, so they're not guaranteed to play every year. A true rivalry needs annual repetition. Iowa-Nebraska has that, not to mention a fixed date on the calendar in Black Friday. The Hawkeyes have yet to turn this into an interesting series, but the apparent defection of Iowa defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski to the same position with the Cornhuskers could add a little hot sauce into the mix. Eventually, the neighboring state battle will become the bigger of the two. But for the near future, Michigan State-Wisconsin has the juice.