Ten teams down, four left standing in the annual Big Ten blog March tournament. This year we’re letting the people decide the best campus to visit on a Saturday in the fall.
Like the NCAA Tournament, we’re down to four competitors -- Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Instead of making you wait a whole week to decide a winner, we’re going to settle things today. Inspired by last weekend’s Wrestlemania, we’re finishing this year’s bracket with a Royal Rumble style vote. Choose between one of the four remaining options today to decide this year’s tournament winner and the best game day scene in the conference.
Before we get started, a quick review of how we arrived at the final four schools. Here are the results from last week’s Elite Eight round.
The plucky Golden Gophers put up a good fight, but were no match for the Horseshoe. Minnesota won the loyalty of a few states in its region and the iconoclasts in Vermont -- perhaps bonding thanks to their long, cold winters. The rest of the world (69 percent of total voters) would prefer a trip to Columbus, where the football is the main attraction but there is plenty more to enjoy during a weekend trip.
Penn State continued a chalky second round in the tournament. The Nittany Lions secured 75 percent of the votes in this run-off against the overmatched Spartans. There might not be as much going on in central Pennsylvania on 350-plus days per year, but on a football weekend it scores a resounding victory over East Lansing. Now can Penn State pull an upset and take down the Buckeyes in our battle royale?
The closest battle of this year’s tournament so far goes to the Badgers with 60 percent of the vote. Iowa and the folks at Kinnick Stadium put up a good fight. They won the vote in their home state and three neighboring states -- Kansas, Missouri and Illinois. Most of the rest of the country preferred “Jump Around” to the famous pink visitor’s locker room. Bucky Badger is on to the final round.
The most popular match-up in our second round goes to Nebraska. Big Red showed up in droves to win decisively against the Big House. Nearly 13,000 voters weighed in, but Michigan and Delaware were the only two states where more fans picked the Wolverines. Apparently the Tunnel Walk gets the blood boiling a little bit faster than touching the banner. The Cornhuskers will be underdogs in our final round.
That leaves us with four competitors to decide our champion. Get your votes in by midnight on Tuesday to help decide a winner. And in case you need a quick refresher, our descriptions of each campus on game day are listed below.
Ohio State: The reigning Big Ten and national champion Buckeyes play in one of most iconic and recognizable settings in all of sports. Ohio Stadium, expanded by 2,500 seats last year to an official capacity of 104,944, ranking as the fourth-largest on campus facility in the nation. The Michigan game last season drew a record crowd of 108,610. More than 36 million fans have attended Ohio State games at the Horseshoe, which is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. Situated on the banks of the Olentangy River, the stadium is known for its unique design and close proximity of fans to the field. The Rolling Stones played at the venue in 1997 and might come back this year. What else do you need to know? From the Ramp Entrance to the Buckeye Battle Cry, this place is uniquely O-H-I-O. Oh, and nowhere else can boast this awesome tradition.
Penn State: Beaver Stadium truly turns into its own city during game days. RVs and other tailgaters take up what seem like miles of terrain as Nittany Lions fans flock from all over to see their favorite team. More than 100,000 fans regularly pack the place and make things very uncomfortable for opposing teams. Night games and white-outs are especially impressive scenes. Penn State has one of the largest and most engaged student sections you'll find anywhere, and chants of "We Are!" will ring in your ears coming into and out of the stadium. A picturesque setting and a charming college town also enhance the environment. The only real drawback is getting into and out of State College in a timely fashion. Then again, why are you in such a hurry to leave?
Wisconsin: Where to begin? The bratwursts are big, the crowds are loud, and the atmosphere is electric. The marching band performs a pregame concert at Union South -- listen for "On Wisconsin" -- an hour before every game. Regent Street/Breese Terrace are packed with fans and bars blaring House of Pain before and after the game, and the entire downtown takes on a football flavor. Inside Camp Randall, the excitement really picks up. The most famous tradition is "Jump Around," when the song sends the entire stadium rocking between the third and fourth quarters. But there’s also the wave, singing along to "Build Me Up Buttercup," and remaining seated after the game listen to the marching band perform once more. And after all that? It’s time to take that energy back downtown to continue the party.
Nebraska: The game-day experience starts Friday evening at Misty’s, where local and opposing fans gather to hear the Nebraska marching band, eat prime rib and put down a few beverages. That hospitality continues straight through to the final buzzer, when Cornhuskers fans are known to stand and applaud the visiting team, win or lose. Before then, pregame festivities reach a climax during the Husker Power chant as the team prepares for its traditional Tunnel Walk, which is as hair-raising an experience as any Big Ten team has when taking the field. Don’t forget to pack your red balloons. Fans release them in the stadium after Nebraska’s first score.