The Big Ten Conference's decision to expand will do a whole lot more for Michigan football than just give its current division a new name. According to a report from Chip Patterson of CBSSports.com, there is a "strong likelihood" that the Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes will no longer be in separate divisions come 2014.
Although this move is not guaranteed by any means, both programs should be ecstatic about the positive effects it would have on one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports.
"We will likely be a little more attentive to geographical alignment," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told Tom Fornelli of CBSSports.com in January. "If Michigan and Ohio State being in the same division turns out to be what's in the best interest of the conference, that would be great."
Brandon's counterpart at Ohio State, Gene Smith, also supports the idea of having the two arch-rivals in the same half of the Big Ten.
"I kind of lean toward having us in the same division," Smith said to ESPN.com's Brian Bennett on Jan. 18.
Under the league's current format, if Michigan and Ohio State won their respective divisions, the two would have to meet for a second straight week at Lucas Oil Stadium with the Big Ten title on the line.
While the idea of a rematch for conference superiority sounds great in theory, it would take away from the meaning of The Game, which has been the final regular-season contest for the Wolverines and Buckeyes all but four times since 1935.
Should Michigan and Ohio State be in the same division?
Former Ohio State linebacker Stan White Sr., who donned the Scarlet and Grey from 1969-71, also believes a second installment of the heated rivalry in the same calendar year would be unnecessary.
"Put (Michigan and Ohio State) in the same division and play it the last game," White told The Columbus Dispatch back in the summer of 2010. "What's the big argument, that they can't (then) play for the (Big Ten) championship? That'll be for the championship to get to the championship."
Historic rivals like the Wolverines and Buckeyes are not supposed to meet more than once in a season.
The Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers only get one crack at each other every year in the Iron Bowl. Same goes for the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans.
No one saw the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns square off for a Big 12 Conference crown back when it had enough members for two divisions either.
The Game is supposed to give the winning team bragging rights for an entire year, not just one week.
Could you imagine what it would be like this season if Michigan and Ohio State both clinch their divisions prior to Nov. 30?
The battle at the Big House would be meaningless compared to the one that would take place on Dec. 7.
Would head coaches Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer tell their teams to make sure not to leave everything on the field, since the most important game of the year will actually take place the following weekend in Indianapolis?
Chances are the pregame speech would not be anything like that, but the point is, the coaching staffs should never have to deal with it.
There should be no reason for the Wolverines or Buckeyes to believe there is any chance of redemption until they clash again in 365 days.
The bitterness and pain from defeat at the hands of a rival is not supposed to be cured one week later. It is what makes the Michigan vs. Ohio State rivalry so intense. It is all or nothing every year.
Hopefully, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and the rest of the league's athletic directors will realize Michigan and Ohio State need to be in the same division once the conference finalizes its realignment plans.
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