Michigan-Ohio State: Opposite Big Ten Divisions Will Be Good for Rivalry
Last year, with the arrival of Nebraska into the conference, the Big Ten was split into two divisions. Michigan was put into the Legends Division, and Ohio State was put into the Leaders Division. Initially, there was some concern that this could interfere and have an effect on their storied rivalry. Fears were put to rest when it was announced that Michigan and Ohio State would continue to round out regular-season play against each other annually.
I was relieved to learn this, but another thought occurred to me recently. Suppose Michigan goes undefeated in the Legends Division, and Ohio State goes undefeated in the Leaders Division. Regardless of who wins "The Game," they will play each other again in the Big Ten Championship Game.
This is unprecedented in the history of the series.
The closest these two teams have come to playing each other twice in the same season was in 2006, when Ohio State entered the annual showdown ranked No. 1, and Michigan at No. 2. In the aftermath of the Wolverines' close 42-39 loss, there was speculation of a possible BCS championship rematch.
Essentially, after winning their divisions outright, The Game may be rendered meaningless outside of bragging rights (and save potential BCS championship implications). The only thing that would matter would be the conference championship game. Michigan could lose to Ohio State in their first meeting, and still be guaranteed another shot at the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship Game just a couple weeks later.
There will probably be a great deal more bad blood should one of the teams win in the regular season yet lose the championship game. Despite a successful season, they would be relegated to a lesser bowl game, and watch their hated rival go on to the prestigious Rose Bowl (or BCS championship).
Would a Big Ten CG meeting between Michigan-Ohio State take the luster out of the regular-season meeting?
With both teams once again led by outstanding coaches, it is entirely likely that they will resume dominance of the Big Ten as they did in the '90s and 2000s. I'd say Wolverines and Buckeyes will probably meet in the regular season and Big Ten Championship Game in the same season by 2015 at the latest.
Hopefully this setup does not take any of the hype and anticipation away from their annual regular-season showdown. As a Michigan fan, I look forward to seeing this happen. It will be very interesting to see how the fans and schools react to taking on with their most hated rival twice within just a couple of weeks' time.
Some interesting questions are raised by the Big Ten divisional setup. I am, however confident that any meeting (regardless of the implications) between the Wolverines and Buckeyes will be anxiously anticipated by both teams and their rabid fans. Perhaps two meetings in a season will serve to strengthen the passion and hatred that fuels one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports.
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