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The Big Ten Needs To Take Notes From The SEC

There are a lot of rumblings coming from the north that the grandest rivalry in college sports is about to undergo a serious change.  But before the Big Ten moves the Ohio State-Michigan football game from the third Saturday in November to the middle of the season, commissioner Jim Delany should put in a call to Mike Slive.

First things first, I’m a southern guy.  I work for a site called “MrSEC” for gosh sakes.  But I can tell you this without hesitation: The single greatest college football rivalry in America is Ohio State versus Michigan.  We’re talking pure hate, people.  And before I get notes from Iron Bowlers, just remember, OSU and Michigan have similar resumes.  Auburn fans might not like to hear it, but the Tigers are looked down upon by Alabama fans because they simply don’t have as much national clout or history as the Crimson Tide.  (That doesn’t mean they can’t earn that kind of clout in the future… blah, blah, blah.)

OSU-Michigan is a battle of equals.  The Iron Bowl can be viewed as Auburn’s battle FOR equality and respect. 

North Carolina-Duke deserves consideration as a great rivalry, too, but let’s face it, that’s basketball.  Those teams could play three times in one season (more if the NCAA tournament bracket fell just right).  That doesn’t compare to a one-time, winner-take-all battle for bragging rights.

In addition, Michigan-OSU has a longer history.  With major media centers nearby, it’s had more than 100 years to cultivate a national following.

I lived in Columbus, Ohio for three years and seeing an OSU-Michigan game (in the spitting snow, no less) won me over.  The show outside the stadium was as rich as the one inside.  From the dotting of the “i” in The Horseshoe to the Mardi Gras-esque show outside (beads and all), nothing compares.

So for the Big Ten to even consider moving the sports’ grand game is ludicrous.  For tradition’s sake alone it should be left at season’s end.  But there’s another obvious reason not to move it:  The chance of Michigan and OSU meeting in back to back weeks is ridiculously slim.

Instead of The Third Saturday in November, let’s consider The Third Saturday in October.  Traditionally speaking, Alabama and Tennessee are the SEC’s two winningest programs.  They have battled one another in the middle of the SEC regular season for decades.  Yet after nearly 20 years of SEC Championship Games the Tide and Vols have never met in Atlanta.  Not once.

And what of the south’s oldest rivalry?  Georgia and Auburn have both been to the SEC title game on multiple occasions.  But they’ve never faced off against each other.

What about two of the SEC’s three most-recent national titlists?  LSU and Florida meet every regular season, but despite their dominance in recent years, they’ve never held a rematch in Atlanta.

The idea of moving the Ohio State-Michigan game is a bad one.  The idea of moving that game in order to prevent the two schools from meeting twice (once in the regular season finale and then in a Big Ten Championship Game) is worse.  Moving the game shows no grasp of history and tradition.  Moving it to avoid a possible rematch shows no knowledge of what’s already played out in the very league that the Big Ten is hoping to copy.

Look to the SEC, Big Ten.  Call Mike Slive, Jim Delany.  Don’t toss away a yearly spectacle in an attempt to protect yourself against a rematch that will most likely rarely (if ever) come.

You can be sure the SEC would never do something so shortsighted.

 


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