College Football kicks off tonight. If you are anything like me, your excitement rivals that of Billy's on nudie magazine day. Hee-uge news came yesterday with the much speculated divisions in the Big Twen finally being revealed. Obviously, the big news of the division split is MSU's cross-divisional protected game against the Hoosiers. This is a rivalry game, because, NCAA 2011 tells me it is. They play for the Old Brass Spitoon which is old, brass and a spitoon. So, I guess we want that, or something.
The reaction of Spartan fans to this is mixed. Some feel that it's disrespectful to take away our year-end "rivalry" game with Penn State and substitute the Believe Train in their place, while others are ecstatic that a traditional conference doormat has taken PSU's spot. My opinion, as someone who has been to multiple games betwixt MSU and IU/PSU, is there is no real rivalry at all between these teams. MSU has one big Big Twen football rival, UM. Besides UM, there really is no special "animosity" that exists between MSU and the rest of the Big Twen. This is not to say we do not care about the rest of the Big Twen, but forcing the Penn State rivalry never worked for many reasons. First, no prior history. Second, not a geographical rival. Third, not really competitive and much of the games had very little national importance. It's no secret MSU has largely struggled since, well, the 60's, and ending our season against Paterno and one of the most historic teams in NCAA history was a mismatch.
I think zero MSU fans expect to be circling the date of the "Battle for the Old Brass Spitoon" on their calendars. This seems like a problem for MSU. Rivalry is good for everyone. It gets the fanbases and potential recruits riled up while also selling some tickets. But, the notion that MSU will only have "one" Big Twen rival from this point going forward will I think prove to be false. Before the divisions, MSU was guaranteed to play UM and PSU. Now, we are guaranteed to play UM, NEB, Iowa, IU, Minnesota and Northwestern every year, for-ev-ahh. This is how rivalries organically begin. By playing that same team, repeatedly, without phony hatred.
Through this alignment, I can definitely see something developing between MSU/Iowa. The last three games have been classics (double OT loss, 4th down stop on Greene in final 2 minutes, and the last second TD loss under the lights at Spartan Stadium last year). Also, the MSU/Northwestern game might take off. I was down in Evanston for the last MSU/NU game, and it became fairly evident that I was pretty much the last graduate of Michigan State not living in the Chicago area. Having Northwestern, a Chicago date on the schedule every other year, for-ev-ahhh, will likely be an important date for MSU fans. Also, sadly enough, the Wildcats and Spartans have been two evenly matched teams in recent history.
Overall, I think MSU came out pretty great in realignment armeggedon. Our most important game, UM, was protected and our road to a Big Twen Championship is slightly easier, sort of. 7 AM on Saturday morning can not get here soon enough.