We need football.
It's been nearly eight months since we watched Joe Burrow and LSU crush Clemson into a very fine powder in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Nearly eight months that have felt like years as the nation tries to get over the hump of a global pandemic.
The 2020 season is a little over a month away from kicking off, and words can't express how desperately we need that to happen on schedule.
Evidence of that is about to unfold before your eyes, because we've reached the desperate part of the offseason where we're... ranking masocts.
Here's how the Big Ten's mascots line up in my eyes.
No. 14 Michigan: The Wolverine
So coming in dead last is Michigan, which is so pompous that they don't believe they need a live mascot because it's "unnecessary and undignified and would not properly reflect the spirit and values of Michigan athletics."
Michigan can't be associated with such nonsense like mascots or online classes or relevancy on the national college football stage. All these things are just so unnecessary and undignified and absolutely do not properly reflect the spirit and values of Michigan athletics.
No. 13 Indiana: Nothing
Much like the football program, Indiana offers us and the Big Ten nothing here.
Their reasoning isn't as eye-roll inducing as Michigan's, which is why they're a spot ahead of the Wolverines. Indiana used to trot this nightmare fuel out at sporting events, but they haven't had a live mascot in over 40 years, and for that, we thank them.
No. 12 Illinois: Loading
Back in 2007, Illinois' Chief Illiniwek was retired by the school after a mandate came down from the NCAA against Illinois and 18 other schools with "hostile or abusive" mascots. There hasn't been a school-sanctioned mascot since, but a recent proposal could put a... uh... belted kingfisher at the forefront of the conversation.
Whatever that is, it's better than the nothing Michigan and Indiana offer.
No. 11 Penn State: Nittany Lion
I want to review the design process for the folks who created the Nittany Lion. I also want to ask... just... why?
Why did you make your mascot look like every homeless cat that raids fast food dumpsters in the dark of night? It literally looks like a neglected, disheveled cat that ran away from home and hasn't seen its family in months. It also has four teeth. Where did the rest of its teeth go?
No. 10 Rutgers: Scarlet Knight
I don't know what to say about the Scarlet Knight other than he's the old boyfriend who got ditched by the love of his life, who ran into the arms of Michigan State's Sparty, which is basically better than Scarlet Knight in every aspect.
No. 9 Northwestern: Willie the Wildcat
Northwestern's mascot literally looks like something Pat Fitzgerald stole from the stage of a Chuck E Cheese because these damn kids are too over-stimulated these days. When Fitzgerald was a kid in Illinois he passed the time by tackling unexpecting scarecrows in various cornfields, as any American child should.
Willie the Wildcat isn't even unique to Northwestern. Kansas State's mascot is also named Wille the Wildcat. Way to be original, nerds.
No. 8 Iowa: Herky the Hawk
I should probably penalize Iowa more based solely for the name "Herky" alone, but eight is the right spot.
But Herky is dumb and bad because it's, well, a hawk that wears a helmet. Haws don't need helmets because they can just fly away from the contact. Do people associated with Iowa even watch football? Or birds?
No. 7 Maryland: Testudo
It's a pretty bold move to make one of the key symbols for your athletic department a friggin' turtle, but you do you, Maryland.
While it wouldn't be my first or even 100th choice for a mascot, it's visually non-offensive and is weirdly accurate of the team's inability to keep pace with the Big Ten blue bloods. We're all for awareness around here.
No. 6 Purdue: Purdue Pete
It's pretty great that a school known for its engineering program has a construction worker for a mascot.
Purdue Pete, with his hard hat and sledge hammer, is a perfectly acceptable mascot. He'd be the final result of something a machine would produce if you fed it generic information about mascots.
No. 5 Wisconsin: Bucky the Badger
Bucky is an iconic badger that's recognized nationally, but I'm a fan for different reasons.
Bucky itself resembles a Badger, realistic representations help here. But Bucky is pantsless, and has been pantsless for a very long time. That's the kind of fall Saturday energy I need throughout the college football season.
No 4 Nebraska: Herbie Husker
Realignment wasn't the kindest to the Big Ten // stares murderously at Rutgers and Maryland // but Nebraska's inclusion has been more than fine.
The Cornhuskers contended for championships when it first joined, but Bo Pelini was never able to get his teams over the hump. That doesn't take any shine away from Herbie, the only Big Ten mascot to wear jeans to work. It's as if he found a loophole to extend casual Friday an additional 24 hours, and we're extremely here for that kind of workplace attitude.
No. 3 Minnesota: Goldy Gopher
I'm not sure why I love Goldy so much. Maybe it's that toothy smile, or the puffy cheeks. Or perhaps because it looks so innocent and non-threatening that, as an opponent, it just comforts me on some level.
Or maybe my brain somehow connects Goldy with one of the most underrated new traditions in all of college football:
Either way, Goldy rules.
No. 2 Michigan State: Sparty
For all the ups and downs Ohio State fans have had with Michigan's other program, you have to give credit where credit's due. Sparty is good.
Who wouldn't want an absolutely jacked spartan warrior representing your team? He's great with the fans. He's great with the cheerleaders. He's great with the band. What more could you want?
Yes, I absolutely stan for Sparty.
No. 1 Ohio State: Brutus Buckeye
You know him. You love him. He's Brutus Buckeye.
Let's set aside the fact that Brutus is both the perfect depiction of the state the school represents and the team name. He's totally original. He's not a warrior or bird or cat like countless other mascots, he's just a nut. He's the perfect combination of athletic and quirky, the guy who doesn't try to be popular because he just is popular.
Maybe it's because of Brutus that Michigan doesn't have a mascot. You can't take an L if you don't show up to the fight, amiright?