This topic has been done before, specifically by Tom Fornelli at The Champaign Room, but with the vast desert of the offseason in front of us it is time to revisit the concept. One of my guilty pleasures on Saturday morning is turning on some English Premier League soccer. Not only do you get world class soccer, but I absolutely love the idea of promotion and relegation.
For those not familiar, in most European soccer leagues a team can be thrown out of the top division if it has a really bad season, while second tier teams can earn promotion to the top division in turn and enjoy the vast riches. It would work best here in America with baseball.
The Premier League is a bit like the Big Ten in that it has its stalwarts and passionate fans along with teams that rarely make noise, but barely hang on.
With the Big Ten now getting 14 teams and with 17 teams staying up in this year's EPL here is how I think each school matches up:
Ohio State - Manchester United - They have the most success, most money, buy the best players, dominate seemingly every year, and often crap themselves on a national (or European) stage, but still have just enough BCS (Champions League) success to be considered among the world's elite. This one is easy.
Michigan - Manchester City - City has a bitter rivalry with United that splits the city of Manchester in two. Until recently, however, City was far from being on the same level as United. Other than Michigan's 1997 National title the Wolverines always seem to fall short nationally. That was City until finally winning the EPL in stunning final day fashion last year. Even then, they technically tied with United and won on a tiebreaker.
Penn State - Liverpool - Penn State is a historically strong program but has fallen on hard times of late. Yes, they have won a few Big Ten titles, but the Nittany Lions are far from being the national power they once were. That's Liverpool right now. Liverpool has won five Champions League titles, but just one since 1984.
Nebraska - Arsenal - Arsenal and Nebraska are both name brands in their respective leagues, but past greatness continues to elude them. 1995 Nebraska is considered to be one of the greatest college football teams ever. Arsenal completed the unbelievable undefeated run through the Premier League, winning 26 games and drawing 12 without a loss in 2003-04, something never done in Premier League history before or since. Lately Arsenal is a Champions League mainstay, but not a title threat like Nebraska making last year's Big Ten title game.
Illinois - Newcastle United - Newcastle goes several years without competing and barely hanging on in the Premier League before having an out-of-nowhere season and threatening for the Champions League. How else do you explain Illinois making two BCS bowls in 2001 and 2007, but no other bowls? Newcastle finished fifth in last year's Premier league to play in Europe's Europa League, the second tier international competition. This year they are struggling to stay in the EPL.
Iowa - Fulham - Located in London, Fulham is probably the least popular London team with Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham often doing far better. That seems to be Iowa. They are rarely awful, but aside from a handful of recent seasons they are rarely great.
Michigan State - Tottenham Hotspur - Always good, but rarely great, Tottenham has recently been a top 5 team almost every year but can't break through. They have a longstanding rivalry with Arsenal, but can't finish above their fellow London team. Michigan State missing a BCS bowl in 2012 in favor of Michigan was Tottenham missing a lucrative Champions League spot this year because Chelsea finished sixth, but went back to the Champions league as the defending champion, denying Tottenham a place since a maximum of only four clubs can play in the UCL from each country.
Northwestern - Everton - Everyone overlooks Everton but they are always a dangerous club despite being justEverton. Northwestern was a surprising 10-3 this year and was not far off from being 13-0. That's sneaky-good in any conference. Everton doesn't have a ton of big names, but is a solid 6th this year in the EPL.
Indiana - Queens Park Rangers - QPR is a good Championship side but barely avoided relegation last year before getting sent down this year. This is what a good MAC team would do in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin - Chelsea - Chelsea is owned by a somewhat crazy Russian billionaire that until winning the Champions League last season in surprising fashion had always fallen short on the biggest stages. You always know Chelsea is going to be one of the top teams in the league just like Wisconsin is always going to be great in the Big Ten.
Minnesota - Aston Villa - Villa has won the top division in British soccer seven times, but most recently in 1980-81 when they also won the Champions League. That is definitely Minnesota with pretty much no football history since 1967.
Purdue - West Bromwich Albion - I know pretty much nothing about WBA except they are consistently in the Premier League and occasionally pull a few upsets to at least be respectable. That's Purdue since 1997. Rarely great, but at least respectable and a bowl team without threatening much nationally.
Maryland - Reading - Reading lasted one season this year in the EPL before getting sent right back down. They never fit in. Neither does Maryland in the Big Ten.
Rutgers - Cardiff City - After trying for years to get promoted Cardiff City avoided the promotion playoffs and will move up to the EPL for the first time ever in 2013-14 after winning the second tier championship. Since they are now in a real football conference they might, might be occasionally mistaken for a real football team.