Ranking Gophers, Big Ten mascots in fighting ability

The Big Ten football’s season is delayed until who knows when.

While we are collectively waiting for the Minnesota Gophers (and, yeah, the other teams, too) to return to the field, let’s ponder an age-old question.

How would the Big Ten mascots fare in a fight?

Before we go any further, this isn’t about the mascots that are on the sideline at sporting events. It’s not about who would win a fight between Goldy Gopher and Bucky Badger, rather it is based on the violence and fighting ability of an actual gopher or badger and so on.

With all that in mind, behold the ultra-scientific ranking of Big Ten mascots by their fighting abilities, from worst to best (note: we’ve also included how the Gophers, er, a Gophers, would fare against each).

14. Ohio State Buckeyes

According to the Ohio State athletic website, a buckeye is “A small, shiny, dark brown nut with a light tan patch that comes from the official state tree of Ohio, the buckeye tree.”

So essentially, the buckeye is a nut and that’s not going to beat anyone unless they slip on it. The Buckeyes have had enormous successes in Big Ten athletics, but in a hypothetical fight ranking, they are the worst option. You’d have to be nutty to take them.

Buckeyes vs. Gophers: Buckeye nut stands no chance in this bout.

13. Maryland Terrapins

Based on the Diamondback Terrapin that lives up and down the Atlantic coast, Maryland’s state reptile is a unique mascot. That said, the terrapin can be quickly stomped out (possibly literally) in this hypothetical melee.

Terps vs. Gophers: In water this could be a different story, but gophers would be too fast on land.


12. Minnesota Golden Gophers

A political cartoon in 1858 was the catalyst to Minnesota becoming the Gopher State and eventually led to the nickname of the state’s largest university.

Like many of the Big Ten mascots, a golden gopher is not a real animal. It is based off the thirteen-lined ground squirrel native to the state, but either way, while we do like the mascot itself, whether it’s a gopher or a squirrel, it will need a good helping of luck against the rest of the competition. That said, Minnesota’s small rodents do have the speed to avoid other fighters and, hey, maybe they can crawl up someone’s leg.


11. Northwestern Wildcats

For such a prestigious university, Northwestern has an extremely unoriginal mascot (three other Power Five schools share the name). Beyond that, a wildcat is too general of a nickname. Is it a powerful mountain lion or just a regular cat that’s been out of the house too long? Who knows.

Cats vs. Gophers: Can’t see any type of cat losing this one. Maybe a real small one. Tough draw for the gopher.


10. Indiana Hoosiers

There is not a singular definition of the word “Hoosier” and it eventually became known as a resident of the state of Indiana. While it’s an original nickname and the name of a great sports movie, an average person from Indiana faces an uphill battle against any of the mascots below.

Hoosiers vs. Gophers: The Hoosier can kick or stomp the gopher and win, or maybe just throw a basketball at it. But, see our pantleg theory, too.

Minnesota’s small rodents do have the speed to avoid other fighters and, hey, maybe they can crawl up someone’s leg.

9. Nebraska Cornhuskers

Once known as the Bugeaters, the nickname was thankfully changed to Cornhuskers, which was based off Nebraska farmers who grew corn. Farmers are tough in their own right, but it’s hard to imagine a normal farmer taking down a large wild animal or an armed warrior.

Huskers vs. Gophers: All the cornhusker needs to do is kick or stomp the gopher and it’s over. Gopher needs to make a run for that pantleg ASAP.


8. Iowa Hawkeyes

A Hawkeye is not a real animal, so for the sake of this incredibly official list it’ll be based on the red-tailed hawk that is native to Iowa. The hawk is a tricky animal for this exercise because it can fly away but also cannot really attack any armed human or larger animal unless it flies down and pecks them.

Hawkeyes vs. Gophers: Considering red-tailed hawks prey on small rodents, this is a tough one for the gophers.


7. Wisconsin Badgers

The Badger nickname comes from Wisconsin iron ore miners in the 1820s that dug out temporary caves in the mines for shelter, similar to the underground homes of the American badger. Those miners became known as the “badgers” and the name stuck, leading to Wisconsin becoming the Badger State and in the 1880s the university adopted the animal as its nickname.

The burrowing mammals aren’t quite as aggressive as, say, a wolverine but their bites and claws could take down the rest of the Big Ten.

Badgers vs. Gophers: Badgers are omnivores, but they’ll gladly munch up a gopher.


6. Michigan Wolverines

While North American wolverines now only live in western parts of the United States, the Michigan mascots are still fierce foes. They may look like sweet forest creatures, but they can mess up anyone in a tussle.

Wolverines vs. Gophers: Wolverines are predators and a small rodents are perfect meals.


5. Purdue Boilermakers

The origin of the mascot goes back to a newspaper headline from the 1890s and over time the university’s sports teams became known as the Boilermakers. Since a boilermaker is basically an industrial worker, let’s just think of them as rugged, burly men with a hammer. In that case, the Boilermaker is a tough opponent, but not agile or quick enough to defeat those higher on this list.

Boilermakers vs. Gophers: It could take a bit, but the boilermaker eventually lands a hit on the badger with his hammer. Of course, that large hammer might slow down the boilermaker. Pant leg time!


4. Penn State Nittany Lions

For those wondering, the reason why Penn State is the Nittany Lions is because it’s a North American mountain lion named after Mount Nittany, which is near State College, Pa. The animal is not based off the maned African Lion, but either way, it’s still a fierce big cat that one might see at Joe Exotic’s animal park. Unless it’s some kind of warrior, no Big Ten mascot is taking out a Nittany Lion.

Nittany Lions vs. Gophers: It’s a mountain lion against a gopher. Not hard to imagine how this goes.


3. Illinois Fighting Illini

The Fighting Illini moniker is based off the Illinois Confederation of multiple Native American tribes in what is now the state of Illinois. Those tribes were strong warriors and could hang tight even against the top two on our list.

Illini vs. Gophers: The Illini can use tomahawks and bow and arrows to beat the Gophers.


2. Michigan State Spartans

Sparta was easily the toughest city state in ancient Greece and in turn, the Spartans are among the best fighters in the Big Ten. Equipped with armor and a sword, the Spartans can beat the rest of the human mascots and any of the Big Ten animals.

Spartans vs. Gophers: Again, the Spartans have a sword and armor and the gophers do not.


1. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Rutgers generally finds itself at the bottom of the football standings, but the Scarlet Knights make it to the top of this list. Why, you ask? Well, the Knights have a full suit of armor (more advanced than the Spartans’) and a horse to help them in battle. Throughout history any horseman warrior was almost unstoppable in battle and that’s what gives them the edge over the Spartans.

Congratulations, Rutgers, you finally won something! Totally validates joining the Big Ten, we’re sure.

Scarlet Knights vs. Gophers: The Scarlet Knights have a sword and the Gophers do not. You can figure out what happens. Maybe the gopher can scare the horse?

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