On Thursdays on The Big Ten Blog, we will feature questions from the B/R inbox, Twitter and email. Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send them to Big Ten lead blogger Adam Jacobi via the B/R inbox, on Twitter @Adam_Jacobi or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
@adam_jacobi If you were remaking the B1G Divisions based on what we "know" about PSU for this decade, what, if any changes, would you make?— Craig D. Barker (@cdbarker) August 2, 2012
This is a very interesting question, and I'm glad you asked. Obviously the balance of the conference is much different than what Jim Delany and the conference had intended when the divisions were put together less than two years ago. Penn State will be in tatters for years and years, and while that theoretically puts Illinois or Purdue (but let's be honest, not Indiana) in position to step into that gap, what we really have are two mismatched divisions for the foreseeable future.
So now that Penn State isn't a power, it's time to rethink the very basis of the divisions: "competitive balance." It's not there anymore, and since it's not, we might as well start right back at the first consideration of any divisional alignment: geography.
And hoo boy, does a geographical split ever look better now than it did 12 months ago.
So with Lake Michigan and the Illinois-Indiana border serving as the obvious border between the divisions, let's take a look at the new divisions and the competitive balance therein.
|West Division||East Division|
Now, these programs are ranked on a slapdash projection of historical prestige and projected performance over the next 5-10 years or so. And it's pretty equal up and down the list. Yeah, Michigan State's in better shape than Iowa right now, but this spree of big seasons isn't a whole lot different than Iowa's 2002-2004 stretch, and that wasn't very long ago.
Each division has its "big two"—Wisconsin and Nebraska in the West, Michigan and Ohio State in the East. There are two teams that have shown recently that they can hang with the big boys on a pretty consistent basis—the aforementioned Iowa and Michigan State. Then we have semi-regular bowl-goers/tough road wins: Northwestern in the West, Purdue in the East.
Illinois and Penn State are the "geez, they're a few players away from being a totally different team" in each division, and Minnesota and Indiana are both the teams you never want to see turn things around—because it means someone else is headed to the basement in their place.
As with the Legends (the primarily Western division), the West is a little stronger in its bottom half, while the East has a more clearly delineated power structure. But those distinctions are weaker than before, and now the alignments make more sense on the most basic level.
What necessary intra-divisional game is taken away in this new alignment that the old one had? Minnesota and Michigan have the Little Brown Jug to play for, and Wisconsin and Penn State want to start playing for a trophy, but if those games are real priorities, then setting up one protected game is obviously not too difficult for the Big Ten.
In fact, let's parcel out those protected games right now. Wisconsin-PSU and Minnesota-Michigan are in the books. Nebraska gets Ohio State, because of course we want to see that game every year, why the hell not? The two Illinois schools can have the two Indiana schools as part of a border war kind of thing (Illinois-Indiana is your slapfight, and Northwestern-Purdue is your nerd brawl), and that just leaves Iowa and Michigan State—the two teams we linked as essentially equal next-tier members earlier.
That's pretty damn good, isn't it?
@adam_jacobi if the big ten were entirely made of cheese, who would be mozzarella?— Phillip Johnson (@DoWorkLaRoy) August 2, 2012
A cheese question! I'm quite glad you asked. Unfortunately, I'm not college football's resident expert on mozzarella; that would be CBSSports.com Big Ten blogger and proudest Italian Tom Fornelli. He answered the question thus:
"Easy. Ohio State. Not really a lot of flavor, but widely popular."
Of course he's right, because as an Italian, he knows everything about cheese and football. But that got me thinking—of course it did—about what some other Big Ten teams would be as cheeses.
Wisconsin: Extra sharp cheddar
Strong, distinctly Midwestern, goes great with beer.
Crusty, overrated and soft as hell on the interior.
Nebraska: Colby jack
Recognizable appearance and flavor, big hit with crackers.
Penn State: Edam
We chose edam for Penn State because the two best Dutch cheeses are edam and gouda, and Penn State is-a not so goud-a right now! HAHAHA, DO YOU GET IT?
Okay, we need to move on.
@adam_jacobi What would happen if you punched Danny Hope in the mustache?— HomelessMark (@MarktheNomad) August 2, 2012
I'm glad you asked.
The answer is no man has ever lived to find out.
One more question, eh? We've gotten through the mailbag without any latent racism thus far, any chance we can keep that streak alive? Yes, you sir. You have a Montee Ball question?
@adam_jacobi Maybe he owed them drug money?— Superman (@sosacub4life) August 1, 2012
...am not glad you asked.