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The Big Ten's Rivalries

The excitement about Big Ten lacrosse isn't just that the league has the potential to crush skulls.

Maryland, Rutgers, and Johns Hopkins officially joined the Big Ten -- the former two as full members with the Jays assuming associate membership -- on July 1st, helping to form what should act as a dangerous lacrosse league. The simple existence of the conference as a player on the national scene, though, isn't as interesting as the major underlying feature of the league: Unlike many "new" conferences, the Big Ten is coming with ready-made rivalries already in place, matchups that have the potential to not only instill a sense of purpose in the conference but also draw formerly uncaring eyes toward the league to witness the carnage and rage of the conference's most potent illustrations of hate.

People care about Michigan-Ohio State in ways that make you wonder whether we're all just marking time until Wolverines fans and Buckeyes fans build warring robots that fight in the streets, spilling sprockets and wires instead of blood because the cold disdain of robot battle is somehow more indicative of the ire each fanbase has for each other than simple human brawling. Johns Hopkins-Maryland is arguably college lacrosse's best rivalry, the Jays and Terps having met over 100 times and sharing a joint tradition that features some of the best players the college game has seen while also providing the definitive matchup for a region that has lacrosse located near or within its soul.

This is something that a lot of leagues miss. While THUNDERDOME! has at its core an unwillingness to respect human life, it doesn't necessarily have rivalries that transcend the mere desire to throw a trident into a guy's chest. The lacrosse side of the Big East hasn't exactly seen its hoops rivalries cross over into the lacrosse sphere. The MAAC, America East, NEC, and soon-to-be Southern Conference all seem to be defined by teams chasing favorites with fungible rivalries that seem to pivot as the landscape within each particular conference changes.

The Big Ten, however, has its rivalry platform already in place, a defining feature that will give the conference color in addition to an expectedly high level of competitiveness. Those rivalries help alleviate the loss of traditional games due to a mandatory conference schedule, asserting relevance during the regular season and also -- potentially -- in postseason play. The Big Ten's rivalries are part of the bridge to whatever the league is going to become, a little glimmer of what is going to give the conference its unique character.