Give Us Someone To Root Against: An Open Letter To The Big Ten

Thursday was a big day for the Big Ten Conference. What is arguably the most competitive conference in college football announced its future plans for remodeling once USC and UCLA join the conference in 2024.

Penn State football fans can rejoice for one reason: the Big Ten has eliminated divisions. The Big Ten East division that often kept Penn State from conference glory is no more. No longer will Penn State have to scrap it out with Ohio State and Michigan so that one of the three can reach the Big Ten title game. Now, the Nittany Lions will likely have to beat just one of their two rivals to have a shot at a Big Ten title.

But are Ohio State and Michigan rivals? Apparently, you don’t think so, the Big Ten Conference.

In fact, the Big Ten Conference, you have argued that Penn State has no rivals. From Ohio State to Northwestern, the Nittany Lions were the only team in the conference without any protected rivalry games. Instead, fans will have to hope that the program stays in the good graces of the Big Ten and sees a strong conference rival annually.

To your credit, the Big Ten Conference, you preserved the Land-Grant Trophy game between Penn State and Michigan State through 2025. Maybe you do have some respect for the gorgeous masterpiece that is the Land-Grant Trophy.

You also scheduled Penn State for two matchups with USC through 2025. It’s pandering to the crowd that reminisces about the 2017 Rose Bowl. Penn State-USC has the potential to be a great rivalry. It won’t reach the levels that the Trojans have with UCLA and Notre Dame but there’s something there.

However, the Big Ten Conference, why don’t you want to give Penn State football any rivals?

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with an easier schedule. The Nittany Lions will host Minnesota, Rutgers, Illinois, and UCLA at home in 2025. Talk about a layup.

But why can’t Penn State fans have some fun, the Big Ten Conference? Why must we be relegated to a UCLA White Out game in 2025, or worse, another Minnesota White Out?

Sure, Penn State isn’t necessarily the “big brother” of the conference. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have rivals. We gave you the “Mo Bamba game” against Michigan, the Big Ten Conference. We’ve given you dozens of historical moments against Ohio State. Why are neither our rivals?

This football team has fought hard to give you respect, the Big Ten Conference. It’s given you two claimed national titles and the winningest coach in college football history. Are you telling us that more people want to see Maryland-Rutgers than Penn State-Michigan? There would be more eyes on Illinois-Northwestern than Penn State-Michigan State?

Just because Penn State fans don’t like Michigan doesn’t mean the fanbase doesn’t want to play it. The Wolverines are like your freshman-year roommate: they’re awful, but at least you get to complain about them. Why are you taking that away from Happy Valley, the Big Ten Conference?

What this is all talking about is the idea of respect, the Big Ten Conference. Penn State deserves some. Claiming that the Nittany Lions have no rivalries while Indiana and Illinois have two is almost heresy. It’s a lack of honor, a misplacement of regard, and a shortcoming of courtesy.

I can’t change your mind, the Big Ten Conference. Only you can do that. But the truth is that Penn State has gotten the short end of the stick for some time now. The Nittany Lions deserve something.

I hope that you can give it to them, the Big Ten Conference. I really do.

Give us someone to root against.

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and Onward State's managing editor. He covers Penn State football, among other Penn State sports. He also listens to Mac Miller more than you. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. For dumb stuff, follow him on Twitter (iamjoelister). For serious stuff, email him ([email protected]).

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