In case you missed it, Minnesota won a big game last Saturday. On the list of things that mattered about the result of that game, the Governor's Victory Bell probably ranked around 103rd but because the Golden Gophers were victorious, we got to hoist the forced rivalry trophy in the air in unceremonious fashion as fans stormed the field. And as they say, “Tis better to have a bell than no bell at all.” Or that’s what they would say if anyone cared about the Victory Bell.
Since I am running out of ideas for tier themes or perhaps because the ideas always come about organically, this week’s theme are bells. Surprisingly, despite what we (and I) thought we knew about the conference through 75% of the season, there have still been some dramatic risers (good for you Illinois!), some substantial fallers (Northwestern...), and a decent amount of fluidity. Without further ado, let’s get to the rankings and the tiers that have no remotely easy metaphorical comparison to the members of their tier.
The Liberty Bell Tier
#1 - Ohio State Buckeyes (1st, 1st)
The best known bell in America goes to America’s best college football team. The Buckeyes can smash who ever they want to smash even when their most talented player is being punished for wanting his significant other to watch one of the most important moments of his life in person. I will be curious if the Buckeyes can maintain their monstrous point differential against the likes of Penn State and Michigan in the last two weeks of the season as well as whoever they face in the Big Ten Championship Game. But if I’m being honest, I want to fast forward to the College Football Playoff to see if the Buckeyes measure up with the likes of LSU and Clemson.
The For Whom the Bell Tolls Tier
#2 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (13th, 11th)
#3 - Penn State Nittany Lions (7th, 9th)
#4 - Wisconsin Badgers (11th, 5th)
Much like For Whom the Bell Tolls is considered great but not the greatest of Ernest Hemingway’s works, so these teams are great but not the greatest of the Big Ten. I finally moved Minnesota above the Badgers and bumped them past the Nittany Lions who they defeated last Saturday despite the lack of support from the advanced metrics. For the time being, the Golden Gophers get the nod from me as the second best team in the conference. All three members of this tier are very good teams and will all have great landing spots when the calendar hits bowl season. However, we will have to watch the final three weeks unfold to know whom the Pasadena bells toll for this year...
The Saved by the Bell Tier
#5 - Michigan Wolverines (11th, 17th)
#6 - Iowa Hawkeyes (20th, 16th)
#7 - Indiana Hoosiers (23rd, 40th)
#8 - Illinois Fighting Illini (53rd, 64th)
These four teams are all eclectic in nature and come from a variety of back stories, much like the motley crew who comprised the main characters of the 1990s high school comedy cult classic Saved by the Bell. I had to put some respect by Illinois’ name by including them in this third highest tier but I wasn’t quite ready to move them past the likes of top 25 teams according to both the polls and some advanced metrics. They have been an excellent story this season but they aren’t quite better than the teams above them in this tier. Michigan continues to stand out as an elite good team but nothing more but with games still remaining against Michigan State, Indiana, and Ohio State, there is room to prove they belong even higher in the rankings.
The Jingle Bells Tier
#9 - Michigan State Spartans (35th, 30th)
#10 - Purdue Boilermakers (59th, 68th)
#11 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (57th, 85th)
There’s something really irritating to me about the song Jingle Bells. “Bells on bob-tail ring?” Really? That’s the best you could do? That’s kind of how I feel about these three teams. They all much higher aspirations when the season started, especially Nebraska fans and the brain-washed media who voted Nebraska into the initial AP poll. But much like the song, after further examination, the quality of these teams falls apart.
The Taco Bell Tier
#12 - Maryland Terrapins (80th, 109th)
#13 - Northwestern Wildcats (90th, 87th)
Taco Bell is perfectly serviceable for what it is: Tex-Mex fast food to be consumed when overly intoxicated or no one else is open. The same should be said about watching either one of these teams. Only do so when no other college football is on or you’re a member of the team’s respective fan base and you have over imbibed in adult beverages.
The Southwestern Bell Tier
#14 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (107th, 124th)
Southwestern Bell used to be a business power house many many MANY years ago. Now very few people know it even exists. The same is undoubtedly said about the Rutgers football team.