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Big Ten Got it Wrong With Divisional Breakdown



Too much is being made out of traditional rivalries and fair balance of competition for the Big Ten divisions. The truth is that geography should have been the primary factor during alignment discussions. It makes good economic sense. Teams like Northwestern and Illinois would have more sellouts from neighboring fans. Michigan might actually be able to fill ‘The Big Hole’ with Buckeyes and Spartans after their program is decimated.


Michigan and Ohio State will be playing in separate divisions. I believe that this was done more out of respect for history and not out of common sense and reality. As long as Jim Tressel is at Ohio State, Michigan will not be competitive in this rivalry. Further cementing this notion is that Mark Dantonio is about to make it 3-1 against the Wolverines further deepening the proverbial hole the ‘Woodchucks’ are in.


Sure, Michigan isn’t going to be a doormat forever. They won’t screw it up again. After Rodriguez is ushered out, I expect Jim Harbaugh to arrive in Ann Arbor.  Harbaugh will restore some toughness and pride if… and I mean if Harbaugh is given the job. He still won’t be able to restore the competitiveness in the U-M / OSU rivalry. He will be lucky to bat .500 against MSU five years into his tenure.


The competitive balance among divisions discussion is almost irritating. The solution was simple when you look at the Big Ten geographically. It should be split East and West. If it were split East and West, football would have a natural competitive balance. If they did split the Big Ten into an East and West division, OSU and U-M could not meet in the championship game. So what? It is a whipping every year. OSU looks like a Grizzly going through a picnic basket when they play the Wolverines. It isn’t going to change anytime soon and it shouldn’t have been a factor that determined the divisions.


If ‘The Governor’ were arranging the football divisions, it would look like this.


East                                                                         West

Penn State                                                                Nebraska

Ohio State                                                                Iowa

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Michigan                                                                  Minnesota

Michigan State                                              Wisconsin

Indiana                                                                     Northwestern

Purdue                                                                     Illinois


This just makes the most sense anyway you slice it. It still keeps MSU and U-M in the same division. That means that we play them every year. It assures us that there will be more opportunities for Wolverine fans to whine about officials at the water cooler. It also means that all of the billboards purchased along I-96 will have meaning every year.


It keeps PSU and OSU as border rivals. This is a premier game. It also keeps Purdue and Indiana playing each other in the same division every year keeping the instate rivalry alive and well. Last, but not least, OSU and U-M would play every year assuring U-M of their annual rear end kicking compliments of Jim Tressel. This also means that the two of them could not meet in the championship game. I believe this was the biggest reason that the divisions were arranged the way that they were. Does it really affect MSU? Not really, I just think that the effort made to split OSU and Michigan is silly.


In the West Division, Iowa and Nebraska would play the ultimate backyard battle of the sweet corn. Minnesota and Wiscy would still play every year in their border rivalry. Illinois and Northwestern would keep their instate rivalry alive and Nebraska and Wisconsin could have the annual “Battle of Red.” It just makes sense.


Currently, the divisions each have three traditional ‘power’ teams. Why are Nebraska, Michigan and Iowa in one division any better than Michigan, OSU and PSU? The same can be said of the opposite division. Why are Wisconsin, PSU and OSU any better than Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska? Would an East division with OSU, U-M and PSU be equally competitive with a West division consisting of Wiscy, Iowa and Nebraska? I think the Big Ten Network oversold the alignment. I think Wisconsin got penalized. I think traveling fans did as well. The alignments are good, but they aren’t great.


Think about it, MSU versus Nebraska for the Big Ten Championship. How about Ohio State against Iowa in Green Bay? Anyone want to see Penn State play Wiscy at Soldier Field? I really like this alignment. The only reason that I can find to stray from this format is to relive Woody and Bo so that OSU and U-M can meet every year to determine the Big Ten Championship. It is irrelevant because Michigan will be lucky to win two games against Ohio State over the course of the next ten years. The way things are going they will have a losing record in their division the way it is anyway.


The Big Ten may have screwed this up by overcomplicating it. The U-M / OSU rivalry should not have determined the Big Ten alignment. After all, it has been irrelevant since Jim Tressel arrived. I wonder how long it will be before we say the same thing about Mark Dantonio and Wolverine Coach ‘Next.’