Big Ten Realignment Will Put Ohio State and Michigan in Same Division
It was long suspected that when Maryland and Rutgers joined the Big Ten, the conference would rename and realign the "Leaders" and Legends" divisions it created when Nebraska joined the league in 2011.
According to a report from ESPN, that suspicion will become a reality in 2014.
Sources have told ESPN that the Big Ten will split into two divisions—based mainly on geography—when Maryland and Rutgers join the league next year.
The Big Ten East Division will include Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers.
The Big Ten West Division will include Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin.
For Ohio State and Michigan fans, the biggest takeaway here is that their teams will be slotted in the same division moving forward, unlike the current alignment. The Buckeyes and the Wolverines were placed in separate divisions when Nebraska joined the league because a possible Ohio State-Michigan conference championship game excited league officials.
Now, with the growing geographical footprint of the conference, keeping Ohio State and Michigan in opposite divisions would put a strain on some of the Big Ten's outlying teams like Maryland, Nebraska and Rutgers.
At first glance, the geographical split appears to tilt the balance of power more toward the East division. Ohio State and Michigan will have to battle with the likes of Michigan State, Penn State and Rutgers for division titles while Nebraska and Wisconsin appear to be the only annual contenders in the West.
The Big Ten's presidents and chancellors will approve this change—as well as the implementation of a nine-game conference schedule starting in 2016—at some point this week, according to the ESPN report.
This means the upcoming season could be a historic one for Ohio State and Michigan. Many expect the Buckeyes and the Wolverines to be the conference's strongest teams, and if they each win their divisions, they could wind up facing each other in the Big Ten title game.
With these new divisions taking hold in 2014, this year will provide the only opportunity for Ohio State and Michigan to play each other in the title game.
David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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