Rivalries are awesome things and in the Big Ten they have perhaps more meaning and pageantry than just about anywhere in college football. However, as we look ahead to Week 3 of the college football season it's time for fans of their favorite team to become fans of the Big Ten for one week and that means cheering on your rivals.
"No way, I hate Ohio, and I will never cheer for them."
"No way, I couldn't give a damn about the whole state of Michigan."
That's probably what you are thinking, right?
Yes, I know, Michigan vs. Ohio State is about as bitter as it gets, but we are also talking about you fine folks in that rivalry, too.
So, why is it in the best interest of hated rivals to come together for one weekend? Well, when your fellow conference members play four teams from the Pac-12 and take on Notre Dame and a Big 12 team to boot, it's perhaps in your long-term best interest to root for the entire conference.
Yes, I'm saying Michigan fans need to be cheering on Ohio State this weekend (they rooted for you last year). Minnesota fans need to cheer on Iowa and Wisconsin. Northwestern fans need to cheer on Illinois and Nebraska and Wisconsin fans need to cheer on each other.
Sure, it goes against every fiber in your body, but hear me out, please.
Ask yourself this question—Where is the conference my favorite team plays in at these days?
The cold, hard fact is that the Big Ten is about as low on the totem poll of the college football world as they've ever been. What does a Michigan win over Ohio State really mean if no one respects what the Big Ten is on a national scale or if Ohio State isn't a Top 10 football team this year?
For that matter, what does a Northwestern win over Michigan or Wisconsin do for you if no one thinks it means anything thanks to loses to teams in the non-conference schedule?
The point being, the Big Ten needs a boost of confidence and respect on the national stage and this weekend is exactly the prescription to fix those issues.
If you don't believe me that the Big Ten is about as low as it has ever been, just look at the polls for all the proof you need.
The Big Ten has just one team in the Top 10 (No. 4 Ohio State) and just four teams in the latest AP Top 25 Poll in total. To put that in perspective, the SEC has that many teams inside the Top 10 alone.
At the end of last season the Big Ten had the same amount of teams (four), but only one team, Ohio State, inside the Top 15. Nebraska and Michigan occupied the final two spots in the final poll themselves. Not exactly a show of extreme strength for the conference.
So, as the Big Ten takes on the Pac-12, a conference near the top of the pecking order, four times this weekend, it's time for those in Big Ten country to fly the flag of the conference, regardless of whom you like or don't like.
Basically, its the old "I can pick on my brother, but if you do I will beat you up," argument. We're allowed to hate each other all we want inside Big Ten country, but we'll defend our own from outsiders.
At least, that should be the mentality this weekend.
So, Michigan man... Put your hatred on the sideline on Saturday night and cheer on Ohio State as they go to Cal. The same goes for the rest of you out there—don your rivals colors, or at least silently cheer on the other half of the conference, as they play meaningful football this weekend.
Your future win over them will look just that much more impressive with a win this weekend on their resume, and if you think what happens this weekend doesn't matter to your team, just watch what happens if these teams lose.
Remember, the Big Ten is all of 5-20 in true road games against the Pac-12 since 2000, with one of those five wins coming just two weeks ago thanks to Northwestern. Wins out West are hard to come by, and therefore each win a conference team gets the more respect it and the conference gets in turn.
So, as the Big Ten attempts to show its teams can win anywhere against anyone once again, perhaps the best interest of your favorite team is having the conference as strong as possible, not as weak as possible heading into Big Ten play?
Could you imagine what a win for Illinois over No. 19 Washington on a neutral field would do for the perception of the Big Ten? Pretty sure that would send shockwaves throughout the college football world and suddenly the Big Ten isn't the ugly step-child of the power conferences anymore.
See, everyone wins when the conference cheers each other on in non-conference play—especially on a weekend like this one.
*Andy Coppens is the lead Big Ten writer for Bleacher Report. Join the B1G conversation by following Andy on Twitter.
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