Scrolling through my Twitter feed a few months ago, I came across NBC Sports’ lead Premier League commentator and noted Chicago sports fan Arlo White asking a very interest question:
Things you think about when you’re wide awake at 04:30:— Arlo White (@arlowhite) September 13, 2019
If the #NFL had a financial model like the Premier League, who would be the ‘Big 6’?
1. Chicago Bears (obvs)
Such a question inspired me to find parallels between Premier League clubs and Big Ten football team. Of course, the perfect time to release this piece is Boxing Day (the day after Christmas), as the Prem has nine games today and takes center stage on both sides of the pond. Rest assured, I will be consuming as much Premier League football as humanly possibly instead of the sad alternative of the Quick Lane Bowl.
Without further ado, here’s what I came up with:
Ohio State = Manchester City
At this moment in time, Manchester City is actually having a bit of a down year, as they are third and well-off the top of the league. However, both Manchester City and Ohio State are the most talented, deepest teams in their respective leagues.
City, led by world-class manager Pep Guardiola and anchored by stars such as Raheem Sterling, Sergio Agüero, Bernardo Silva, and Ederson, have just won two straight Premier League titles. Guardiola has an endless supply of funds to reload his team every season, bringing in Rodri, a stud Spanish central midfielder, into an already impressive team.
Much like former Buckeye coach Urban Meyer, Guardiola has found success at multiple big time programs (Barcelona and Bayern Munich) and was armed with current Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, perhaps paralleling Ryan Day. Big Ten champions Ohio State have talent across the board and was the most dominant team in the conference this season and will look to end it with a championship. With insane resources and global name-recognition, both teams will contend for many seasons to come.
Michigan = Manchester United
Both Michigan and Manchester United have had better days.
The Wolverines are the winningest program in college football history, yet have recently struggled to contend both in the Big Ten and on a national level the past 20 years. Manchester United has not won a Premier League title in 6 seasons (a lifetime in the Prem) after winning 13 titles in 21 years under legendary manager Alex Ferguson.
Both the Wolverines and the Red Devils have turned to former players (Jim Harbaugh and Ole Gunnar Solksjær) to bring back the glory days. While both seemingly got off to promising starts, both are on the hot seat at this point in time as Harbaugh is yet to beat his rival Ohio State while losing big games at Wisconsin and Penn State.
While Michigan missed out of the College Football Playoff this season, Manchester United missed out on the Champions League last season and look to be Europe League-bound at this point in time as well. Moreover, both teams have been overshadowed by their big rivals (Ohio State and Manchester City/Liverpool). Can the glory days ever come back for either of these squads?
Penn State = Tottenham
Both Tottenham and Penn State don the navy and white and have passionate fan bases. Former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino and James Franklin are highly regarded in their profession and have dragged their respective teams out of mediocre patches during the first part of the century. Pochettino was replaced by Jose Mourinho, one of the most polarizing figures in world football, a few weeks ago.
Both squads always seem close to breaking through to greater success, Tottenham finishing Top 4 four seasons in a row and Penn State earning bids to the Rose, Fiesta, and Cotton Bowls in the last three seasons. However, major silverware has eluded both squads.
Wisconsin = Liverpool
One could argue that, at this exact moment in time, the champions of both Europe and the world, Liverpool is the Ohio State of the Premier League. The Scousers are 10 points clear of second place Leicester City and 11 of title rival Man City.
However, the character of this team is pretty similar to that of the Badgers of Wisconsin. Both squads have flashy stars, think Mo Salah or Jonathan Taylor, but a certain grit, heart, and hustle in the engine room. Liverpool’s midfield might not have the same flashiness as Man City’s, just as Wisconsin might not have the same future NFL stars as Ohio State, but both teams have a hard-nosed tenacity.
I could totally envision James Milner as a smash mouth left tackle and Virgil Van Dijk as the next J.J. Watt if he were to transition to college football. Imagine having to block that guy.
Michigan State = Chelsea
Both Chelsea and Michigan State have a ton of money and the resources to sustain success on the football pitch/field. Both have reached new heights in the 21st century after relatively quiet spells toward the end of the 20th, but both are in a state of flux.
Chelsea was slapped with a transfer ban and have a new manager in Frank Lampard, who has had to balance player a plethora of youngsters such as Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori, Tammy Abraham, and Christian Pulisic. Sparty went 3-9 in 2016, 7-6 in 2018, and are currently 6-6, far from the norm of a regular Big Ten and even College Football playoff contender.
Iowa = Everton
Everton is a consistently a mid-table team seemingly unable to overcome the bigger teams in the Premier League. Iowa has yet to break through over the likes of Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State in the College Football Playoff era. Both have gone a long stretch without winning anything big: Everton hasn’t won the league since 1987 or lifted a trophy since the 1995 FA Cup. Iowa hasn't won a share of the Big Ten title since 2004 and came tantalizingly close to winning the B1G Championship Game and making the CFP.
Northwestern = Bournemouth
To those who think Northwestern is the Leicester City of the Big Ten, hear me out.
Both the ‘Cats and the Cherries represent the smallest contingent in their division. Bournemouth is a suburban coastal city with a population under 200,000, and Dean Court, Bournemouth’s stadium, is the smallest in the Premier League by a large margin with a mere 11,000 seats, much like Northwestern’s Ryan Field.
Much like Northwestern legend Pat Fitzgerald’s long tenure in Evanston, former Cherries defender Eddie Howe appeared more than 350 times for the club before leading them from the second division all the way to the Premier League as manager, holding their own against some of the bigger clubs in the Prem, much like Northwestern often punches up against bigger Big Ten schools.
Nebraska = Arsenal
I’m a little biased here as a Spurs fan, admittedly. Nebraska football was last relevant in the 1990s with Tom Osborne’s national championships while Arsenal was last relevant in the mid-2000s with the Arsene Wegner’s Invincibles.
Both have loud, large fanbases (Go watch Arsenal Fan TV for a good time) constantly dissatisfied with the progress of their respective teams. Both have recently brought in hotshot former players as coaches to turn it all around. Scott Frost has hilariously failed to bring Nebraska back to contending despite the hype, and Mikel Arteta is just getting started.
Purdue = West Ham
The Irons and the Boilermakers are pretty similar. Both squads are consistently at the middle of the pack if not flirting with the bottom. West Ham controversially moved out of Upton Park to the London Stadium in 2016, as many critics have accused the club of selling out. Purdue recently sold the naming rights of Ross-Ade Stadium to Bob Rohrman. Also, Purdue fans storm when they win (such as against Ohio State in 2018). West Ham fans also stormed the field one time.
Minnesota = Wolves
Wolves emerged last season to Europa League qualification with the aid of a core of Portuguese stars and Mexican striker Raul Jimenez. Minnesota made huge strides this past season, starting the season 9-0 under head coach P.J. Fleck and quarterback Tanner Morgan. Wolves is making a push on European qualification again this season and can perhaps break up the “Big Six,” much as Minnesota will hope to overtake the likes of Wisconsin and Iowa for the Big Ten West title in the coming year.
Maryland = Aston Villa
Both are also relative newcomers to the Prem/B1G, and their main rivals (Birmingham City/West Virginia) are in different leagues. Currently, Aston Villa is treading in the relegation zone while Maryland had a disappointing 3-9 season.
I could also probably go on and on about how Villa captain Jack Grealish is a terrible soccer player with an even worse haircut. I also have disliked the Terps for a long time as a result from my formative years spent as a Virginia Cavaliers football fan, so I guess I created a similarity there.
Indiana = Sheffield United
#9WINDIANA and Europe-bound Sheffield in the same season? That’d be pretty cool.
Illinois = Newcastle United
After a few seasons at or near the bottom of the Big Ten, the Illini pulled off a phenomenal upset this season over Wisconsin and, despite a loss to Northwestern, earned bowl eligibility. Newcastle, a club begging to be relegated, sit 9th and merely 3 points off Europa League qualification in the Premier League despite a penny-pinching owner in Mike Ashley. Both also have self-deprecating, self-aware fanbases who admittedly deserve better.
Since then, we’ve broken a 20-game B1G losing streak, rebuilt all the way to a bowl game, fired a coach, torpedoed ourselves, hired Lovie, bottomed out and rebuilt all the way back to a bowl game.— The Champaign Room (@Champaign_Room) December 23, 2019
This is a football school now. https://t.co/YQDcVzO8qq
Rutgers = Sunderland
The joke here is that Sunderland isn’t even in the Premier League anymore. The Black Cats suffered two straight relegations, famously documented in Netflix’s Sunderland ‘Til I Die (which I highly recommend watching, especially if you enjoy accents from the North-West of England).
Rutgers has also undergone a pretty terrible stretch in its time in the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights haven’t won a Big Ten game since 2017, much like Sunderland hasn’t won a Premier League match since 2017. Also, the UK’s version of Jersey Shore, Geordie Shore, takes place right by Sunderland, so I guess there's something there.
Anyway, thanks for reading this. Are there any other obvious parallels that I missed? Please let me know in the comments. Happy Boxing Day (whatever that actually is), everybody!