Rivalries are one of the crown jewels of college football. The pageantry and anticipation of such games have no equal in sports. The professional game has its share of contests between bitter foes, but collegiate rivalries pit towns, alumni and even families against one another. In Ohio and Alabama, house/divided signs sprinkle the landscape.
One of the sport’s great rivalry games is Oklahoma-Nebraska. The Sooners and Cornhuskers have provided college football with some of its signature games and individual performances. The 1971 game is known as the “Game of the Century” with Johnny Rodgers’ 72-yard punt return regarded as one of college football’s most indelible moments.
But the entire rivalry came crashing down with the formation of the Big 12 Conference in 1996. The teams were put in opposite divisions and only played every few years, taking a bite out of the animosity between the schools and significantly diluting the passion of the rivalry.
When the Big Ten divvied up its divisional alignment after the Cornhuskers became the conference’s 12th member, rivalry games were not a casualty. Jim Delany saw what happened in the Big 12 and vowed the same mistake would not occur to Ohio State-Michigan, Wisconsin-Minnesota and Indiana-Purdue.
The Buckeyes and Wolverines were placed in opposite divisions, but the game stayed on the schedule in sharpie for the final Saturday in November. But the inclusion of Rutgers and Maryland has realigned the divisions. Caught in the crosshairs is the Illibuck.