During the past few summers when college conference expansion was all the rage, all I could think about was how the maneuvering and backstabbing going on was similar to George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I tweeted about it a long while back, but forgot about it until recently when I read an article comparing soccer teams to the great houses of Westeros. I figured with it being a quiet off season and HBO’s version of a Game of Thrones currently in its second season, I should revisit the idea and look at the Big 10 and some of college football’s other teams as if they were great houses. I’ve excluded Nebraska because they are too new to the Big 10 and have tried to avoid spoilers for people who have not read all the books. Feel free to add more in the comments. Enjoy!
Michigan: House Stark. Michigan is one of the oldest teams in the country and can trace their lineage back to the First Men (to play football). Like Winterfell, their keep is one of the oldest and largest in all the BCS Kingdoms, and like the Starks there must always be a Michigan Man in the Big House. One of the defining characteristics of House Stark is their dedication to honor, a trait that Michigan shares as well. Many other houses look upon this as folly, for it puts both Stark and Michigan at a disadvantage when dealing with other Houses who have no such restrictions. Both the Starks and Michigan share sigils of ferocious creatures that do not actually live on their lands. They are The School in the North.
Ohio State: House Bolton. If there is any house that can match the Starks in the North, it is House Bolton. While the power of Michigan has waned in the past years, Ohio State’s has risen under the watchful eye of their quiet leader, Jim Tressel. Like Roose Bolton, Tressel looked like a model banner man and Northerner, honorable and loyal, but deep down he only cared about winning. And win he did, dispatching Michigan and becoming the new Warden of the North. House Bolton is seen by many to be brutal and untrustworthy, but there is no denying their power or the intelligence of their leadership. While the rest of the North floundered, they flourished. Both Ohio State and Bolton now are dealing with new heirs who many people think are basically the scum of the earth.
Wisconsin: House Umber. While not the most powerful House, the Umbers have made a name for themselves for being brave warriors and immensely strong. They could never match the power of the Starks or the Bolton’s, but individually they are perhaps the strongest warriors in the BCS Kingdoms. Their sigil is a chained giant, and the men of the house look the part, simply overpowering any foe who stands before them. One of the members of House Umber is nicknamed “Whoresbane” which sums up Brett Bielma nicely.
Penn State: House Manderly. House Manderly was never originally from the North, instead they arrived a 1000 years ago after being chased away from the South. While they were accepted by the Starks and have lived in the North for some time, they are still viewed by many as outsiders, and not considered true Northerners. While this may not seem fair to Penn State, who have proven themselves time and again to be loyal subjects, it is the case regardless. Whiteharbor is the only port of size in the North and is the portal through which the rest of the North gains access to the fertile lands of the South. While Penn State is not the only way the Big 10 gains access to the East Coast, it does play a similar role.
Michigan State: House Karstark. The Karstarks are an offshoot of House Stark, started by a youngest son who would never have inherited anything. They are proud, but not particularly powerful in the grand scheme of things. No matter what they do, they forever live in the shadow of their more powerful, pure blood Stark cousin’s. And if they get out of hand, you can bet that big cousin is standing there ready to lop off their head.
Minnesota: House Mormont. Both Minnesota and House Mormont are exceptionally proud and incredibly poor. They hardly seem worthy of being part of the BCS nobility, seeing as they live in a wooden fort on an island with no resources, but they are. Their sigil is a bear which kind of looks like a gopher.
Iowa: House Reed. House Reed lives in a swamp far away from civilization. Iowa can be found in a cornfield far away from civilization. Every once in a while they do something interesting, but mostly they just sit far away from civilization.
Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern, Indiana: House who cares. Seriously, no one cares about the minor houses in the books and no one cares about these teams.
Other Great Houses:
Notre Dame: House Targeryen. House Targeryen is not aligned with any of the old kingdoms, having arrived from Vallyria with dragons and conquering everyone. For centuries they lorded over the other BCS people as the undisputed kings, but recently have fallen on hard times. Inbreeding has basically left them insane, and a series of horrendous leaders have left them running around in the wilderness with no shoes eating horse hearts. One Targeyen named Viserys even got a pot of melted gold poured over his head. Like Targeryen, Notre Dame is not really seen as a threat to anyone, but there is a great deal of power still in the name. A capable person could turn them into a mighty force.
Texas: House Baratheon. Both are big, powerful, and pretty much assholes. They don’t really work with others, instead just tell them what to do. They were kings for a while, but recently have utterly collapsed, and aren’t really a force to be reckoned with. Baratheon’s sigil is a horned stag, which is similar to Texas’ Longhorn.
Alabama: House Lannister. Everyone hates the Lannisters/Alabama, but they are probably the most powerful force in the world at the moment. They have the money, don’t really play by the rules, and treat everyone like the peasants they are. When they play you, they don’t so much want to beat you but kill you, kill your family, and erase your names from the history books. It seems that every few years some sort of horrific scandal is coming out of Alabama/House Lannister, but people soon forget it after they crush some new foe. As far as leadership goes, both House Lannister and Alabama have the privilege of having a genius and bloodthirsty dwarf in command. While the sigil of House Lannister is a lion and Alabama has an elephant, House Lannister’s colors are gold and crimson, which fits in nicely for the Crimson Tide.
Oregon: House Baelish. House Baelish was a speck of a house on the ocean that had no great history or wealth. But through the genius and possibly ill-gotten wealth of one man, that has all changed. Oregon was nothing before Nike founder Phil Knight began making it rain dollars in the Pacific Northwest instead of, you know, rain. Through a combination of absurd wealth and some backroom deals, both Oregon and Baelish are now knocking at the doors of the elite. Plus, both have adorable birds as sigils.
Florida State: House Tyrell. Both Florida State and House Tyrell think they are royalty, but really both found themselves in very fertile grounds and got lucky. It is hard to fail when you have the richest lands to draw from; large populations on those lands, but surprisingly both Florida State and Tyrell seem to fall apart with some regularity. They have neighbors in Miami and House Florent who fell that they are superior and deserve the top spot, but no one else thinks so.
The Big East: The Iron Islands. You could look at individual teams and compare them to individual houses, but what’s the point. Both the Ironborn and the Big East live on the coast and like to think they are powerful and deserve respect, but most people ignore them until they get beaten. And when that happens, they turn around and smack them in the mouth until they run away. Both the Big East and the Ironborn like to claim great swathes of land, but have no hopes of actually holding on to any of it. It is tough to be surrounded by far more powerful kingdoms who could crush you with a sneeze.