Best of Brews: The Big Ten

Chris Chambers

2012 brought a lot of good writing to Maize n Brew. We're going to do a four part series rounding up some of it. Today, we look at some of the things written about other teams in the Big Ten.

MnB B1G Preview: Reinvention in the Valley - HoldtheRope looks at the struggle that Penn State faced as nearly everything in the program faced a seismic change in the wake of the Sandusky scandal.

In perhaps one of the most psychologically compelling scenes in all of Shakespeare, King Lear wanders a rain-soaked heath, flustered and confused and maybe a little bit insane as he attempts to cope with the his daughters' impudence and his own increasing irrelevance. The past seven or eight months have sort of mirrored this Purgatorial wandering period for the Penn State program and its fans, a period in which Penn State has bared its darkest, innermost, and often most primal emotions. Is Bill O'Brien Penn State's Tom o' Bedlam*, the one who, despite an unimpressive appearance on the surface, ends up bringing King Lear the program out of the storm and into safety?

MnB B1G Preview: Purdue -- Is the Cradle Empty? - I traced the roots of the Cradle of Quarterbacks and tried to figure out if that once strong identity had faded from Purdue.

But this is beginning to look more and more like an identity crisis. Purdue, once the cradle of quarterbacks, is now facing a future where the quarterback is just another cog in an overall machine. Gone are the days of Brees engineering the offense like a man possessed before a switchboard, the panel whirring and buzzing and humming, the man nimbly manipulating the machine, fingers flying, ensuring maximum productivity and minimum waste. The quarterbacks now are simply another piece of equipment on the long assembly line. Prone to breakdown, slowdown, and error. Ultimately as faceless as the men who block for them, catch their passes, and receive their handoffs.

MnB B1G Preview: The Past Is The Past and This Is Now - HtR again, this time on Ohio State after the end of The Streak.

The point is, I think, that it's time to look to the future. This is in and of itself indicative of the state of affairs; that is, that there even is a future to look forward to. No longer are we looking to the past--the Novembers of 2001, 2002, and 2004-2010--while writing pathetic emo posts exclaiming WHYYY while watching Wolverine Historian videos of Michigan-Ohio State games from the '90s at 3 in the morning, definitely not while sobbing (or worse, the 80s and 70s...yeah Harbaugh, you guarantee that win!). Personally, as convenient for me to do as this may seem to Buckeye fans, I'm laying down a blank slate. My entire experience with the rivalry sort of lends itself to this mindset at this particular point in time: at 23, I've essentially experienced two long and obscenely dominant runs, one from each program. Michigan took the 1990s, whereas the Buckeyes of course took the last decade. Add a still relatively new Michigan head coach in Brady Hoke and a first-year Urban Meyer to the mix and it seems like a pretty good time to reset the game and no it's definitely not at all like those times when you're playing NCAA and you somehow find yourself losing to Purdue in dynasty mode and then you realize that you have to go do some things and no you didn't just exit the game (or completely turn off the console in a fit of panic after finding yourself down three scores to Iowa at home and oh God it's just like 2002 all over again) just to avoid the loss and a blemished virtual season, no you have principles but hey the laundry ain't gonna do itself .

MnB B1G Preview: Penn State, your future is now - My own Penn State column, focused on moving on from tragedy.

The future for Penn State football is now. After years and years be being defined by what it was, who was in charge, and the platitudes of doing it the right way, Penn State is forced to redefine itself. The new coaches are representative of this. There is new blood in the football offices and on the sidelines. Cleaning house was necessary. The failure of those in charge when it came to dealing with Jerry Sandusky is many things, but to the fans and alumni that love the university, and the players that show up every day to work their tails off, the most important thing today is that this failure is a chance for Penn State to move forward as a community, to learn from the past, and to better itself as an institution. Rooting for the Nittany Lions in 2012 and beyond shouldn't make anyone feel dirty. Those responsible for the heinous acts and the misguided cover up are now gone to rot in prison or sit unemployed as pariahs in their chosen profession. What remains are the innocent bystanders, the people who believed in the platitudes that Penn State was supposed to idealize, who care about right and wrong, and ultimately were just as disgusted with the sick acts as the rest of us*.

MnB B1G Preview: Northwestern and the road back from obscurity - Another from the MnB B1G preview, this time looking at the Northwestern program's place in the Big Ten hierarchy.

Northwestern may be stuck in a purgatory of sorts, unable to break back through to the conference title that is getting lost further and further in the rear view mirror, but that kind of sharp disappointment comes not from dreaming, but from having lived. Indiana's or Minnesota's disappointment is ephemeral. It is a quick vision that snaps back to reality where you laugh at the improbability of the whole thing. Northwestern earned its disappointment by fighting tooth and nail out from under the rest of the conference's heel. That Northwestern fans aren't satisfied with the last few seasons is a testament to just how good Northwestern was. Once you've been to the top of the mountain the air back in the foothills doesn't smell as sweet.

MnB B1G Preview: Persapolis - HtR -- a bit of an expert himself on Northwestern -- gives his own take on the program by the lake.

In spite of Northwestern's past success, its competitiveness in recent years, and the fact that it is in better shape than at least four programs in the conference despite having by far the strictest academic standards in the league...it all feels a little bit empty. Pat Fitzgerald is somehow--time flies--entering his 7th season as Northwestern's head football coach, and while he is obviously the perfect man for the job and in absolutely no danger of being fired--or even having the notion entertained--any time soon, one would have to wonder what exactly can be considered a reasonable goal and what cannot be. The thing is, once you clearly define these boundaries, there's no going back unless someone comes in with a sledgehammer and brings said boundaries crashing down. In 1995, Pat Fitzgerald was one of many purple and black-clad sledgehammer wielders; who wields the hammer now?

MnB B1G Preview: The Point - Jerry Kill and putting football in perspective.

What is the point of all of this? Well, it's obvious: some folks often seem to forget that coaches are human beings. Yes, even the bad ones (whether ethically or tactically) are imperfect human beings, no matter how much you or I think that Nick Saban is a cybernetic organism. As I've gotten older, I've become exponentially more reluctant to criticize coaches, let alone say things like "FIRE COACH X." That's not to say that I think college football coaches are beyond criticism, just that I think most of it is beside the point. If you have made it this far and decide that you would like to take anything away from this: think of your head coaches (whether you are a Michigan fan or not) as people, not as unerring heroes, ideals, or means to an end (i.e. wins, prestige, pride). I still don't know much about Jerry Kill, but I know infinitely more than I did when he was hired, and this knowledge has made my experience as a Big Ten fan just a little bit richer than it was before.

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