Ohio State Football: What Big Ten Division Realignment Means for the Buckeyes
The Big Ten officially announced its new divisional setup beginning in 2014, finally putting Ohio State and Michigan in the same division after being separated in the current format.
The Buckeyes are in the new Big Ten East division along with Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Maryland, Rutgers and Indiana. In addition, reports from CBS Sports say the Big Ten will adopt a nine-game conference schedule, which could start in 2016.
On paper, Ohio State is in the tougher of the two divisions with Michigan on the rise, Michigan State having improved in recent years and Maryland and Rutgers likely on the rise when they can take full advantage of the extra resources the Big Ten can provide.
The tilt in divisional firepower is even more apparent with Wisconsin, Northwestern and Nebraska being the only consistently strong teams in the West Division.
It's not an SEC-level division quite yet, but it's certainly a tough gauntlet for anyone.
It means that at least once every year, Ohio State will probably have to travel to either Michigan Stadium or Happy Valley, if not both every other year.
Although Wisconsin is off the yearly schedule, which is a relief for most Buckeye fans, replacing it with yearly games against Michigan State makes things just as tough.
It will be interesting to see how Maryland and Rutgers adjust to the Big Ten, although Rutgers could be the better of the two in the short term. The two teams should continually improve thanks to the growing footprint and economic benefit the Big Ten can give them.
What all of this means for the Buckeyes is that the road to the Big Ten Championship Game won't be an easy one, especially considering the road trips they will have to make in their division.
The Buckeyes, due to bizarre circumstances, have yet to play in either of the first two Big Ten title games but are favorites to win the conference this year.
But they will have a tougher road to get to Indianapolis in 2014 than they likely will this season.
OSU may be the team to beat in the division most years, but whoever gets out will certainly have earned it every year.
However, the most important thing from an Ohio State perspective is that the OSU-Michigan rivalry is preserved.
The two teams will only be able to play once a year, as opposed to the Legends and Leaders format which can allow the two teams to play in consecutive weeks capped by a meeting in the conference championship game.
By preserving the rivalry, the two teams that have dominated the Big Ten for the last two decades will have a meaningful game to decide who can play for a conference championship.
Part of the significance of The Game was what it meant outside of just bragging rights. More times than not, a conference title for someone was on the line.
For that to be back is a huge win for both the Big Ten and the two schools.
While Ohio State will find getting to the Big Ten title game tougher in its new division, it certainly has the resources to overcome this. It will definitely make for a more compelling regular season, however.
Follow me on Twitter @bielik_tim for the latest college football news and updates.
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