It’s So Weird That The Huskies Are In The Big Ten Now

This time last year, I wasn’t super confident about the future of the Pac-12. We were heading into the last year of the Pac-12 as we knew it (at that time, we were looking at the L.A. schools leaving after the 2023 season), I didn’t have any super high expectations for the Huskies in general (or the conference as a whole) in football, or even basketball, and we were staring down the barrel of a terrible new media rights deal, and the potential addition of a couple of inferior schools to the conference. The only reasonable argument for good would’ve been the fact that the Huskies and the Ducks would’ve been the unquestioned leaders of the pack. But, that’s not saying a whole lot when compared to the greater college football landscape, if we’re generating pennies on the dollar compared to the other elite programs.

Thankfully, a lifeline presented itself, and to our credit, Washington took the Big Ten up on it. Leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten was definitely bittersweet, but it was ultimately the correct decision, for both our immediate future and our long-term goals.

Then, as the season got going, I was so wrapped up in Washington’s championship game run, I sort of forgot about the bigger picture. The Huskies were one of the best teams in the nation, the conference regained its long-lost form, and we really sent off the football portion of the conference with a bang. Even with every “final” moment – the final Apple Cup as a member of the Pac-12, the final conference championship game, the final home game, etc. – my eyes were squarely on the prize of a national championship, that we came oh so close to acquiring.

It hasn’t really hit me until now. Reading this article, wondering when my dad’s cable provider is going to get the Big Ten Network so he can watch the games … this is going to be a huge change!

The Apple Cup is on Saturday, September 14th! We’re now in a conference with 18 teams! Do I even know all 18 schools? And what do I know about them? Let’s see if I can list them all below:

  1. Michigan Wolverines – hated cross-country foes; I think we’ve beaten them a time or two in the Rose Bowl, but they also got one from us, as well as handling us pretty handily in the national championship game last season.
  2. Ohio State Buckeyes – one of the elites in college football, haven’t been able to beat Michigan the last few years. Always at or near the top in national recruiting, always sending huge skill guys to the NFL.
  3. Penn State Nittany Lions – Joe Paterno, diddling kids, and somehow still nationally relevant ever since the whole scandal (though, not quite on the top tier with Michigan and Ohio State).
  4. Wisconsin Badgers – one year of Russell Wilson, always a great O-line and running game. Usually pretty good, but hasn’t been great probably since Russ left.
  5. Michigan State Spartans – little brother to Michigan, yet somehow also not their main rival. Kind of like our Washington State Cougars.
  6. Nebraska Cornhuskers – Great in the 90’s, not so much the last 20 years. They just hired a head coach who’s supposed to be good, and didn’t they take our athletic director who was at Washington for six minutes?
  7. Northwestern Wildcats – Bunch of nerds. Meet the new, inferior Stanford Cardinal.
  8. Maryland Turpins – Actually Terrapins. What’s a Terrapin? Your guess is as good as mine.
  9. Rutgers – Ahh yes, the Scarlet Knights. Didn’t they used to have Greg Schiano? I wonder where he is now. … Oh, he’s at Rutgers again. Cool career path, bro.
  10. Indiana – Oh, of course, the Hoosiers. Used to be a great basketball program; I don’t think was ever even decent at football, but what do I know? I guess they had Penix before he was PENIX.
  11. Illinois Fighting Illini – Got that mascot nailed! I feel like they’ve been somewhat frisky in the last decade or so, but maybe I’m just thinking of that one time they made a New Years Six bowl.
  12. Iowa Hawkeyes – All defense. I think their offense is just punting on first down.
  13. Minnesota Golden Grahams – Gophers actually. If I recall correctly, I think the Huskies played them in the 1920’s, which is probably the last time they were any good. Also, NOT the school featured in the sitcom Coach; that was the Minnesota State Screaming Eagles, which is a fictional program that’s still more relevant than the Golden Gophers.
  14. Pittsburgh Tigers – I had to look it up; it’s actually the Purdue Boilermakers. That’s how memorable Purdue is. We beat them in the Rose Bowl when we had Tui and they had Brees.
  15. UCLA Bruins – Fuck U-C-L-A!
  16. USC Trojans – Pete Carroll, Reggie Bush, and all sizzle/no steak since then.
  17. Washington Huskies – The greatest school in the world.
  18. Oregon Ducks – Turd emoji.

So … I didn’t do great in my Big Ten knowledge. Now, I’ve gotta go into a season getting ready to play against these teams!

It’s bizarre looking at the schedule and not seeing any bay area schools. No Arizona or mountain time zone opponents. No easy pick-me-up against the Beaves. It feels all at once more daunting, as well as kind of the same when you dig into it. We play trash like Northwestern, Indiana, and Rutgers. But, we also get a rematch with Michigan at home, and a tough game in Iowa in October and Penn State in November. Then, in addition to a non-conference Apple Cup, we also face all three of our travelling Pac-12 partners (the L.A. schools at home, and Oregon on the road). Honestly, with all the turnover with Michigan’s roster and coaching staff, I think the toughest part of our schedule is joining us from the west coast!

It’s nice that we get to play all the Pac-12 schools in year one. That’s a cool way to help us transition. It’s a little odd that we face them all in the final month of the season, but it’ll be something to look forward to. Kinda feels like conference play starts in November this year, except not really.

You know what’s going to be fun? Hating on a whole new group of schools. I already have a strong distaste for the Big Ten anyway, but I know we’re going to get some razzing as one of the new kids in town. Which is going to infuriate me even further when we ultimately lose to one or more of these programs.

Really, though, it’s a soft landing of sorts. We don’t face a tough opponent until week 6 vs. Michigan, and again, how good will they be with all their best players going to the NFL? That kicks off a stretch where there’s almost no easy games the rest of the way (except for Indiana, but even that’s on the road).

I also can’t help but feel a little sad knowing there are so many teams we’ll no longer see again. The state of Arizona can fuck right off, and I still have nightmares flashing back on all the crazy Cal games, and all the times Stanford steamrolled us. But, I genuinely liked competing against Utah, and Colorado was the team we beat to win the Pac-12 Championship Game back in 2016, en route to a playoff loss against Alabama. I also feel bad that the Cougars and Beavers have to make due with their weird 2-team conference; they deserve better. They certainly deserve more than Rutgers or Maryland or fucking Minnesota.

I’m going to take solace in the fact that nothing is permanent, especially in college football. Things have changed so much, so quickly, and it’s only going to continue. We know where this thing is headed; it’s eventually going to be a sort of semi-pro league between high school and the pros, loosely affiliated with colleges and universities, but otherwise probably its own standalone thing. Depending on how many programs get scooped up into whatever the new thing will end up being, we might very well return to some semblance of normal. You have to figure there will be divisions of some sort, based off of geographic locations. Maybe that puts us back in line with our former conference foes. Maybe that brings WSU and OSU back into the fold. Maybe we won’t have to suffer the indignities of being in a cross-country conference, and we’ll never have to play Rutgers ever again!

Wouldn’t that be something?

Until then, we just gotta ride it out. What’s happening in college football is above my pay grade. I’m not going to pretend like I understand everything that’s going on. All I know is it has to do with gobs of money.

My job is to root for the Huskies, root against the Ducks, and let the chips fall where they may.

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