Dienhart: Here are my top 5 Big Ten rivalries

So, Brian Kelly thinks that Notre Dame-Michigan is a regional rivalry? Kelly’s words are getting a lot of attention, naturally, because they come days before the two rivals meet under the lights Saturday at Michigan Stadium.

For the record, Kelly backpedaled from his comments today and said that Notre Dame-Michigan is a “great and historic rivalry.”

Here’s what Kelly originally said:

“I really haven’t seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries,” Kelly said on a conference call. “I’ve seen it as just one of those great football games that Notre Dame has played.

“For me, I’ve been in Michigan a long time, I’ve always felt the Notre Dame-Michigan game was a big regional game. But in the Notre Dame history books, this game has (been) played, but obviously there have been some years where it hasn’t been played for a number of years.”

[ MORE: #BTNLive asks if Michigan-Notre Dame should play every year ]

Regional rivalry, national rivalry … it doesn’t matter. Besides, aren’t almost all great rivalries of a regional nature? Proximity is what makes rivalries, well, rivalries.

  • Georgia-Florida
  • Texas-Oklahoma
  • Ole Miss-Mississippi State
  • Alabama-Auburn
  • Oregon-Oregon State

Nonetheless, this got me thinking: What are the best Big Ten rivalries? Here is my ranking. Sorry, the Old Brass Spittoon, Illibuck and Cannon games didn’t make the cut.

1. Ohio State-Michigan. There can be no other, right? I mean, the annual meeting is simply titled “The Game.” Yes, that about sums it all up. If you don’t watch this game, then you aren’t a college football fan.

2. Michigan-Michigan State. In some ways, this rivalry may be more intense and hate-filled than the Michigan-Ohio State series because it takes place within state borders. Ex-Michigan running back Mike Hart’s “little brother” crack still resonates.

3. Wisconsin-Minnesota. Yes, this has no national sex appeal, but the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe is an epic rivalry in the northlands. It’s also the longest played FBS rivalry in the nation. Grab your cheese wheel and toque and enjoy this slice of frozen goodness! Here’s a taste of what it’s all about from 2005. Oh, Goldy.

Here’s something Minnesota fans will enjoy.

4. Iowa-Minnesota. The sheer coolness of the Floyd of Rosedale trophy alone makes this one of the Big Ten’s best rivalries. The states share a border–and lots of hatred. Hayden Fry had some fun with Minnesota after a win in 1982, emerging for his postgame presser wearing a red flannel shirt, a white cowboy hat trimmed with a red bandana and overalls after Gophers coach Joe Salem supposedly mocked the attire of Iowans leading into the game. Big mistake. Since that 1982 win, Iowa is 21-10 vs. Minnesota.

5. Indiana-Purdue. This rivalry is proof of the profound impact proximity has on building hatred. It’s white-hot in this state. The battle for the Old Oaken Bucket draws a shrug from national pundits. But, who cares? This is about state pride. And, honestly—is there really anything more precious to a fan than pride? Especially when you have to live and work amongst your rivals? Watch Indiana celebrate a Bucket win in 2007 that sent the program to its first bowl since 1993 and honored late coach Terry Hoeppner.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (12 Comments)
Jeffrey Grover on 9/3/2013 @ 3:31pm EDT Said:

I’m biased, as a Spartan, but I really do believe that the MSU-UM game is usually more intense from a rivalry standpoint. I was a freshman at MSU when Hart made his comments, and being around to watch MSU beat them the next 4 years was particularly satisfying. Most UM fans don’t give MSU any respect and that translates to very satisfying wins for us Spartans. Especially when the game is in Ann Arbor and MSU comes out on top.

I’ve been told that the OSU-UM game is about mutual dislike, but respect. There is no respect of either team between UM and MSU. Fans of both teams hope that the other lose every game in every sport, every season. As an MSU alum, I can say that we all get pretty excited when UM gets caught cheating, fires a coach, or gets exposed as being overrated on national tv. It’s not that MSU fans don’t care about other games, but that’s just how far the dislike goes.

bob jones on 9/3/2013 @ 3:51pm EDT Said:

I’ll go with Nebraska/Oklahoma.

Jon Wicklund on 9/3/2013 @ 4:14pm EDT Said:

I can say as a Michigan fan that the Ohio rivalry is def more important to the majority. Although beating MSU has a big impact on the momentum of the season lately. As far as seeing them lose “every game in every sport, every season.” I know quite a few MSU and UofM fans that want to see the BigTen come back to national relevance in bowl games, and even want the rivals to win.

Slippery Dugan on 9/3/2013 @ 5:27pm EDT Said:

For MSU, I always thought the ND game carried more tradition as a national college football rivalry. The MSU-UM game is more about in-state bickering, but not much national appeal. Many families in the state are divided between MSU/UM, but as far as a national rivalry, not much wind in them sails. UM/OSU is a good one, but the others on this list are pretty lame by national standards.

DMH (@HaloKitty343) on 9/3/2013 @ 5:49pm EDT Said:

You HAD to link the 2005 game, didn’t you? /day ruined.


shookwriter27 on 9/3/2013 @ 6:20pm EDT Said:

Illinois Ohio State has been a great rivalry the last twenty five years. It’s a shame that the coming division set up will keep the two teams from playing every year.

Big Brother on 9/3/2013 @ 10:54pm EDT Said:

Jeffery, we don’t respect you because you try to undermine our tradition and history of success. you act like Michigan has only been a winner of a program by beating high schools and medical schools in the early 1900’s when in truth Michigan’s winningest decade was in the 1970’s under Bo. even when using a cutoff point of 1950, we are 6th or better in overall wins since then.

Michigan, for the most part, got rid of its junk non-division I games from 1932 onward and has usually had tough schedules, like Bo playing powerhouses like Florida State, Miami FL, Notre Dame, Washington and UCLA. even in our early history we were usually scheduling less non-division I schools than programs like USC and Notre Dame.

then there’s trying to diminish our national titles. I can understand you weighing our 1948 and 1997 as worth more than the other 9 since they are major poll titles, but by that rationale, MSU only has 2 recognized national titles in 1952 and 1965. In truth, Michigan could claim 1964, 1973 and 1985 as national titles since we had a championship selector each of those years, but unlike MSU, we only count AP or Coaches poll titles since 1950 because we have a higher standard.

Until MSU acknowledges us as an prestigious and storied program, they won’t be considered any more than an average program

John on 9/4/2013 @ 10:15am EDT Said:

Yeah the Michigan State vs Michigan Game is pretty big.
Its a National game but at the same time more strongly regional.
The Ohio State vs Michigan Game is very National I agree.
Sucks though that the Big Ten aint anywhere near the level that Alabama is.

Baka on 9/4/2013 @ 10:45am EDT Said:

Iowa-Wisconsin. Series is either tied, or close to being tied. It must be a great rivalry because now it has a stupid trophy (that it didn’t need).

Martin on 9/4/2013 @ 12:52pm EDT Said:

John, The B1G isn’t the level Alabama is, but comparing a conference to a single team is kind of apples and oranges. Michigan is getting close to where Alabama is, and with their coaching and recruiting will be as good as or better than Alabama in the very near future. As a Michigan fan, ohio is definitely the bigger rivalry, although as of late, Michigan State has been a great rivalry. I like watching Michigan State win when they’re not playing Michigan but I love watching them get beat up by Michigan when they play the Wolverines. If anyone thinks Michigan fans think more of the Michigan State rivalry, ask them when Michigan State plays ohio who they want to see win. They’ll be rooting for Michigan State every one of them.

big ten fan on 9/4/2013 @ 9:36pm EDT Said:

Purdue has won 72 games to the “loosiers” 37 so you show a “loosier” hilite ? not toom uch prejudice on BTN id there ?

Bamabuck on 9/4/2013 @ 9:43pm EDT Said:

I bet Penn State fans would consider Ohio State/Penn State rivalry should be in the top 5 at least.