There is no better week to talk with the SB Nation writer who writes about rivalries at The Rivalry Esq than college football rivalry week. Graham Filler writes year round about the Big Ten. It's thought-provoking, fantastic writing about one of the purest things in college sports and that's serious rivalries. So without further ado, let's get to know Graham Filler.
Tyler Bleszinski: You run a site that's somewhat unique to the SB Nation network. Tell me about the genesis of it.
Graham Filler: I was entirely unfamiliar with the blogosphere after Law Buckeye and I started TRE. So I was googling all over the place looking for decent blogs to link up with. I sent an email to Sunday Morning Quarterback, having no idea this was one of the best sports blogs on the Internet, asking him to check out our blog. Somehow that email filtered through to Peter Bean, who contacted me and proposed we write about the Big Ten. It's experimental, he said, but he figured we could pull it off because Law Buck and I have a lot of general knowledge of Midwestern football.
Bleszinski: Is it tough to run a site and keep people interested when there isn't that common bond over one particular team?
Filler: We view TRE as a supplemental website. We imagine people waking up, grabbing a cup of coffee, going to their home website for say Michigan news, and then moseying over to TRE for intriguing editorials on pertinent CFB subjects.
Bleszinski: Now this is running Sunday morning, so I believe all the games will be over, but tell me about your predictions for the weekend's action.
Filler: Illinois is holding the Big Ten banner this weekend against Cincinnati, always a sign of certain doom. But believe me, I'll be screaming at Ron Zook the whole time to upset the Top 5 ranked Bearcats. Oh and I want to see Boise State keep winning, because any undefeated team is just another reason for me to hate the BCS.
Bleszinski: What team in the Big Ten do you follow the most closely and why?
Filler: I follow Michigan and Michigan State extremely closely. I live around East Lansing, so inevitably I end up at most of those games. But when you grow up in Michigan, you have to pick one or the other when you're young. I picked the Michigan team and fanbase because they didn't riot or burn couches on a regular basis. But I'm starting to grow somewhat cynical towards the UM fan base thanks to last weeks events.
Bleszinski: Is there a team (or several) in the Big 10 you can't stand?
Filler: I tend to skew Ohio State, for obvious reasons, but I'm pretty unhappy with the 2009 Penn State team right now. Through no one's fault, they played a boring, easy schedule, and fell on their faces in the two monster matchups against OSU and Iowa. And all this with a veteran QB and one of the best LB corps in the last 10 years.
Bleszinski: What do you think of the quality of the Big Ten this year?
Filler: I'm not very interested in conference comparisons, even though I know strength of schedule affects the BCS. This was an improved Big Ten conference compared to last year - 9 of our quarterbacks had QB ratings of 126 or higher, compared to only 4 in 2008. It's really easy for bored and lazy MSM writers to just call the Big Ten slow and mediocre, but we won't be seeing any change in that until the Big Ten succeeds on a national level.
Bleszinski: What's the best part about being a blogger in the SB Nation network?
Filler: Two things stand out to me. I love getting to know other writers, readers, and editors. Bud from Tomahawk Nation, Hawkeye State from BHGP, Dave from Maize and Brew, the entire crew from The Only Colors...They've all been incredibly helpful. I also love the opportunity to spit opinion when I feel something is being missed, but in a non-cliched or LOLZurteamsuckz kind of way. SBN gives me the tools to do that.
Bleszinski: How you would you describe how you would like the Rivalry Esq community to be?
Filler: I want it to be a melting pot of people from all over the Midwest, looking for logical discussion of football schemes and player analysis. I want our readers to feel comfortable to read and comment on a subject (Big Ten football, General CFB) that they love. Would I like to be Athletics Nation, where threads run for 1000 comments and people talk about their kids? Sure. But I don't think that's how we've evolved.
Bleszinski: Tell me something unexpected about yourself that your readers might not know or expect?
Filler: I've actually grown into less of a Michigan fan since I began blogging. In fact, I follow the schemes (Smart Football-esqe) and the entire Big Ten much more closely now, instead of being Maize and Blue focused.
Bleszinski: Thanks so much for your time. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.
Filler: Same to you! I appreciate the opportunity to write on SBN.