You're watching Iowa and South Carolina play in the Boca Raton Duke's Mayo Presented by All State Bowl. The ESPN broadcast has just returned from a timeout, and Sean McDonough talks over a graphic displaying every conference's bowl record thus far.
"As you can see," he says. "The Big Ten is getting out to a hot start at 2-1 while the SEC is 2-0 followed by the Big 12 at 1-1. The battle for the best conference in college football is a tight one this year."
We all know the race for the best bowl record between conferences is as important as winning a national title, but here's me, a Nebraska fan who's mastered the art of sitting on the couch in December over the past seven years, hoping the Big Ten adds another one to the loss column. Some college football fans may call that despicable. Me, a college football purist, calls it a burning rage for competition. Growing up, I was taught to cheer for our conference brethren when they were playing non-conference games, but I could never latch onto the idea. You're telling me I'm supposed to go from hating Iowa all year to cheering for them just because we're in the same conference?
I Will Never Cheer For Rivals For the Sake of the Conference
In an age where historic conferences are barely recognizable anymore, why are we still holding onto the tradition of cheering for the league as a whole? Back when Nebraska was in the Big 12, I remember hearing all sorts of people rooting for Missouri in a bowl game because winning would be good for the conference. I can't find it in me to put the well-being of the league ahead of my team's history. I want to see Missouri, Iowa or any other rival get crushed no matter who they're playing.
I imagine Ohio State fans were devastated when Michigan lost to Georgia in the College Football Playoff last year because it ruined the Big Ten's chance at a national title. I'm sure Auburn fans hated seeing Clemson beat Alabama in the national championship game in 2019 because it robbed the SEC of another trophy. Don't get me wrong, no one recognizes how crucial it is to compare the hierarchy of conferences more than me. It's a great five-second talking piece. But, I'm willing to sacrifice a sacred college football tradition to see Iowa lose a bowl game. The same applies to non-conference matchups at the beginning of the year.
All that being said, there is one exception. For instance, let's look at Ohio State. I don't like Ohio State, but they aren't in the same category as a team like Iowa or Wisconsin. If they win the national championship, their title is a title for the Big Ten because we have to show unity when a conference member wins the big one. Plus, I'd like to think my team played a part. Would the Buckeyes have been able to go the distance without a Week 6 win over Nebraska? Absolutely not. That's why all the titles from Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU over the past 20 years also belong to Vanderbilt, Arkansas and South Carolina. They should get banners, too.
I won't trust a Texas A&M fan who roots on Texas in the Alamo Bowl when they link up in the SEC again. I don't want to be friends with an Oklahoma State fan who cheers for Texas Tech in the Meinke Car Care Bowl. Get an Oregon fan who goes for Stanford in an early-season non-conference matchup out of my face. Cheering for the conference should never be put ahead of your team's morals.
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