There are storied college football rivalries nationwide, but the Big Ten seems to play for more trophies than anyone else — up to 16 are up for grabs each fall.
And that doesn’t even include the most storied rivalry in the conference. Michigan vs. Ohio State — sometimes known simply as The Game (Harvard and Yale may have an issue with that) — is played by the schools with 19 national championships between them. The winner of this game (that has been Ohio State the past eight years) is often the conference champion (OSU the past four years).
But there’s no hardware involved.
Some of the Big Ten’s storied trophies have involved pigs, jugs, spittoons, internet jokes, bacon and a mythical lumberjack (twice!).
2021 Big Ten football rivalry trophy facts
► Longest overall winning streak: Iowa has won a cumulative 13 straight games in in-conference rivalry trophy games (6 over Minnesota, 6 over Nebraska, 1 over Wisconsin).
► Longest overall losing streak: Illinois’ trophy case is lacking with 17 straight losses (9 to Ohio State, though 1 of those games was vacated; 6 to Northwestern, 2 to Purdue).
► Notable streaks: Ohio State has 9 straight wins over Illinois (with 1 vacated); Wisconsin has 7 straight wins over Nebraska. These rivalries are on 6-game streaks: Iowa over Minnesota, Iowa over Nebraska, Michigan over Northwestern.
► Minnesota plays for five in-conference trophies, against Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin.
Here’s a brief history and update on the Big Ten’s football rivalry trophies.
Purdue cannon: Illinois vs. Purdue
This trophy started with a bit of mischief from some Purdue students, who got outfoxed by Illinois faithful.
Some Purdue students took a cannon to Illinois for the 1905 game, planning to fire it after a Boilermakers win. Purdue won 29-0, but the cannon was missing. An Illinois student found the hidden cannon and moved it.
The cannon remained unused until 1943, when that former Illinois student, Quincy Hall, donated it to symbolize the rivalry.
The cannon was last fired in 2001 after an Illinois win, and schools share maintenance. Now a replica cannon goes to the winner each year. In 2020, that was Purdue in a 31-24 decision.
Series record: Purdue leads 46-45-6 after its 13-9 win on Sept. 25, 2021.
Old Brass Spittoon: Indiana vs. Michigan State
The Old Brass Spittoon carries more historical value in Michigan. It is believed to have come from an early trading post there and is around 200 years old.
MSU’s student council suggested using it for the football rivalry in 1950, and IU’s student senate agreed.
The Hoosiers had the 2020 matchup well in hand by halftime, scoring all their points in a 24-0 victory.
Series record: Michigan State leads 48-17-2.
2021 matchup: Michigan State at Indiana, Oct. 16
$5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy: Minnesota vs. Nebraska
Not all rivalry games are grown out of century-old pranks. This one comes from online ribbing between (the Twitter accounts of) Minnesota mascot Goldy Gopher and @FauxPelini, a gag account name-checking at-the-time Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini.
The wager: $5 to Faux Pelini if Nebraska wins, and a chair broken over Goldy’s back if Minnesota wins. That seemed one-sided, but Goldy was inspired to crowdsource $5 donations and a wooden trophy of a broken chair debuted in 2014.
The universities didn’t like the trophy initially, but in 2017, the rivalry became a joint fundraiser for pediatric cancer research. And a trophy of a broken chair is on the line.
Minnesota beat Nebraska 24-17 in 2020, its second straight win in the series.
Series record: Minnesota leads 34-25-2.
2021 matchup: Nebraska at Minnesota, Oct. 16
George Jewett Trophy: Michigan vs. Northwestern
We have a new trophy in the mix. The Wolverines and Wildcats will play for a trophy named for a Black man who played football for both universities in the late 1890s.
Michigan won the most recent meeting, 20-17 in 2018. The Wolverines have won six straight meetings.
Series record: Michigan leads 58-15-2.
2021 matchup: Northwestern at Michigan, Oct. 23
Heartland Trophy: Iowa vs. Wisconsin
The trophy was inaugurated in 2004, though the final score of every game in the series is inscribed on the trophy, which features a bull mounted on a walnut base. A former Iowa football player, Frank Strub, created the trophy.
The Hawkeyes handled the Badgers 28-7 in 2020, breaking Wisconsin’s four-year series winning streak.
Series record: Wisconsin leads 48-44-2.
2021 matchup: Iowa at Wisconsin, Oct. 30
Paul Bunyan Trophy: Michigan State vs. Michigan
The state’s governor dedicated this trophy in 1953 to commemorate Michigan State’s acceptance into the Big Ten a few years earlier. The 4-foot wooden trophy features the legendary lumberjack standing astride his ax and atop a map of the state.
Notable crazy ending: In 2015, Michigan State never led while the clock was running in regulation, but on the final play of the game, Michigan botched a punt snap and the Spartans returned it for a touchdown and a 27-23 victory.
Series record: Michigan leads 71-37-5, though Michigan State won 27-24 in 2020.
2021 matchup: Michigan at Michigan State, Oct. 30
Floyd of Rosedale: Iowa vs. Minnesota
Floyd is a pig. Well, Floyd was a pig. Now it’s a statue of a pig.
Tensions between the universities had been running hot in the 1930s, so the governors of each state decided a wager on the rivalry game would offer a way to focus that passion. Minnesota won the matchup in 1935, and Iowa’s governor gave Minnesota’s governor a champion pig, Floyd of Rosedale.
Minnesota’s governor had a trophy made based on Floyd, and the 21-inch-long, 98.3-pound statue has gone to the winner of the Hawkeyes-Golden Gophers matchup since.
The Hawkeyes methodically controlled the action in 2020 on the way to a 35-7 victory, their sixth straight over the Gophers.
Series record: Minnesota leads 62-50-2.
2021 matchup: Minnesota at Iowa, Nov. 13
Freedom Trophy: Nebraska vs. Wisconsin
This trophy, introduced in 2014, is made of bronze with a wooden base and features images of each school’s stadium.
Series record: Wisconsin leads 10-4 and has won 7 straight matchups.
2021 matchup: Nebraska at Wisconsin, Nov. 20
Heroes Trophy: Iowa vs. Nebraska
This trophy was created when Nebraska joined the Big Ten, and it was first on the line in 2011. A citizen of each state is chosen each year to represent it at the game, and those people are honored on the field at halftime.
Iowa has won six straight matchups, including 26-20 in 2020.
Series record: Nebraska leads 29-19-3.
2021 matchup: Iowa at Nebraska, Nov. 26
Land of Lincoln Trophy: Illinois vs. Northwestern
The Illini and Wildcats have played this trophy — a replication of Abraham Lincoln’s stove pipe hat — since 2009, but the rivalry between Illinois’ most prominent college football programs dates much further.
The first trophy these teams played for was the Sweet Sioux, a wooden Native American statue that had been popular in cigar stores. Members of the student newspaper staffs at both schools originated the idea in 1945. Transporting that statue became problematic, so the schools switched to the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk two years later.
The schools retired that trophy out of respect to Native Americans after the 2008 game, and in an online vote, the Land of Lincoln Trophy was adopted for 2009.
Northwestern won the most recent meeting, 28-10 in 2020. The Wildcats have won the matchup six straight times.
Series record: Northwestern leads 37-35-2.
2021 matchup: Northwestern at Illinois, Nov. 27
Old Oaken Bucket: Indiana vs. Purdue
What could better represent Indiana in the 1920s than a bucket from a well? That’s what alumni from IU and Purdue decided when creating this traveling trophy. A suitable bucket (actually, it was in great disrepair and needed to be refurbished) was found on a farm between the southern Indiana towns of Kent and Hanover.
A chain with links of “I” for IU and “P” for Purdue are added each year, signifying the game’s winner.
IU won the 2019 matchup, 44-41 in overtime.
Series record: Purdue leads 74-42-6.
2021 matchup: Indiana at Purdue, Nov. 27
Land Grant Trophy: Michigan State vs. Penn State
Each school is a state land-grant university founded in 1855, and they became the prototypes for the federal land-grant university program signed into law by Abraham Lincoln in 1862.
When Penn State resumed meeting Michigan State in 1993, a trophy was created to celebrate the schools’ shared history. It features photos of iconic spots on campus (for MSU, it’s Beaumont Tower; for Penn State, Old Main) and replicas of a Spartan and a Nittany Lion.
Penn State’s 39-24 victory in 2020 gave it two in a row over MSU.
Series record: 17-17-1
2021 matchup: Penn State at Michigan State, Nov. 27
Paul Bunyan’s Axe: Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
The Wisconsin W Club created the ax in 1948 as a replacement trophy for the original trophy.
The teams played for the Slab of Bacon trophy — made from the wood of a walnut tree — in the 1930s and ’40s before the trophy was “lost.” Turns out Wisconsin just kept it and tossed it into storage. It was located in the 1990s.
The teams have met every year since 1890, except for 1906. Wisconsin won the 2020 matchup 20-17, its second straight over the Gophers.
Series record: Wisconsin leads 62-60-8.
2021 matchup: Wisconsin at Minnesota, Nov. 27
Illibuck Trophy: Illinois vs. Ohio State
Illibuck was a live turtle that became the symbol of this rivalry in 1925. However, being transported between Columbus, Ohio, and Champaign, Illinois, didn’t work, and the turtle died. A wooden replica has been the trophy since.
Another tradition surrounding this matchup is the smoking of a peace pipe at halftime of their matchups by members of two junior honorary societies — Bucket and Dipper of Ohio State and Atius-Sachem of Illinois.
Most recent meeting: Ohio State beat Illinois 52-14 in 2018, the Buckeyes’ 9th straight win on the field (though the 2010 win was vacated).
Notable upset: Illinois last beat OSU 28-21 in 2007, when the Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Series record: Ohio State leads 68-30-4.
There is no Illinois-Ohio State matchup in 2021.
Little Brown Jug: Michigan vs. Minnesota
The jug may be the oldest object played for in college football. It was bought by the Michigan team just before the 1903 matchup in Minneapolis but was left behind at the end of a 6-6 tie. The teams didn’t meet again until 1909, by which time the sides decided to make it a traveling trophy.
There are legends about the origin of the rivalry. Here is Michigan’s version. Here is Minnesota’s version.
Michigan’s 49-24 win in 2020 was its third straight in the series.
Series record: Michigan leads 76-25-3.
There is no Michigan-Minnesota matchup in 2021.
Governor’s Victory Bell: Minnesota vs. Penn State
The governors of each state inaugurated the trophy in 1993 to mark the Nittany Lions’ first Big Ten game. The trophy is a brass bell bearing a Big Ten medallion suspended from a wooden frame. The state seals of Minnesota and Pennsylvania are at the top on a plaque.
The Gophers beat Penn State 31-26 in 2019 as part of a 9-0 start to their season while handing the Nittany Lions their first loss of the season.
Series record: Penn State leads 9-6.
There is no Minnesota-Penn State matchup in 2021.Internet Explorer Channel Network