Dividing the Big Ten (12): Likely Divisions for 2011

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Dividing the Big Ten (12):  Likely Divisions for 2011

It's been a few weeks, and I think people are getting used to the idea of Nebraska going to the Big Ten in 2011.

While Texas is basically holding together Beebe's House of Cards in the Big 12 (by taking all the money as well), the Big Ten and Pac-10's expansions sent shock waves throughout college football.  The addition of Utah to the Pac-10 has the Mountain West scrambling for BCS status just a few weeks after the addition of Boise State made it look like a shoe-in for the BCS in 2012 or even as late as 2011.

Enough about the Pac-10 though—this article is about my new conference, the Big Ten. With the addition of Nebraska, the Big Ten has finally completed its expansion, nearly two decades after adding Penn State in 1990.  

Twenty years later, after finally giving up on stubborn Notre Dame, the Big Ten went for the next best fit for the conference: Nebraska.  With the addition of Nebraska, the Big Ten now qualifies for its much-anticipated conference championship game, which means more money, more publicity, higher ratings, and possibly more national championships.

However, there are issues that need to be dealt with before the championship game will happen, the biggest of which is conference division.  In my personal opinion, the Big Ten will do its best to keep its natural rivalries in place while also dividing up the teams geographically.  

The question is, in which direction do they dissect? North to South or East to West?  

Because of the Big Ten's desire to keep its old rivalries in place, I see no other way to split up divisions than East to West.  What follows are my divisions for the 2011 football season.  Feel free to comment, make changes, agree, or disagree, as I am not operating out of any "special" knowledge.

 

East

Ohio State

Michigan

Michigan State

Indiana

Purdue

Penn State

This division seems to fit the best, as it keeps natural in-state rivals together, such as Indiana and Purdue and Michigan and Michigan State, and it keeps one of the most storied college football rivalries together in Ohio State versus Michigan.  

I do believe each Big Ten school would be okay with this alignment, except for maybe Indiana, who would see it as a very top heavy division.  And it would be.

 

West

Nebraska

Iowa

Minnesota

Wisconsin

Illinois

Northwestern

Again the look of the Western Division seems logical.  You initiate potential rivalries with Nebraska and Iowa or Wisconsin.  You keep Illinois and Northwestern together, and thus force Iowa and Nebraska to only travel to the "far east" three times a year.

So what's the problem with this alignment?  

Certainly not logistics, but competition.  The East Division would be far superior to the West, especially if Coach Rod gets Michigan up to snuff within the next year.  The West would rely on Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Iowa to carry the banner, with Wisconsin being the most successful team in the Big Ten comparatively.   

All natural rivalries could be kept in place, and some new ones could form as well.

So how about a North-South alignment?  

 

North  

Illinois 

Michigan 

Michigan State 

Minnesota 

Northwestern 

Wisconsin 

 

South

Indiana

Iowa

Nebraska

Ohio State

Penn State

Purdue

This alignment seems unlikely, but it could work if the SEC method of conference division is implemented, allowing each team one permanent crossover game a year.  

More than likely the crossover games would look like this:

 

Ohio State-Michigan

Nebraska-Wisconsin

Minnesota-Iowa

Illinois-Indiana

Northwestern-Purdue

Michigan State-Penn State

 

Using the SEC's alignment model college football would not lose the important rivalries between Ohio State and Michigan, and could still see a new one form between Wisconsin and Nebraska.  

The problem with this one is logistics.  The travel between schools would be more difficult, especially for Nebraska, and once again the power seems to shift to one division with Penn State, Ohio State, Iowa, and Nebraska all in the South.

The final way to align the conference would be to throw out geography all together and focus on athletic tradition.  While this formation actually seems the least likely it would evenly distribute the powers throughout the conference, making it most likely the fairest system.

The real problem would be coming up with a name for the two divisions—instead of East-West or North-South, it would have to become something more ambiguous.  

For now, I will call them Divisions A and B.

 

Division A  

Penn State

Nebraska

Iowa

Minnesota

Michigan State

Illinois

 

Division B

Ohio State

Michigan

Wisconsin

Purdue

Indiana

Northwestern

I have seen some splitting up Ohio State and Michigan, but to me that doesn't make much sense.  Might as well keep Penn State on the side with newcomer Nebraska and Michigan with Ohio State.

Through all of these division, it all depends on what you want to see as a football fan.  If it is the preservation of rivalries, then the East-West alignment seems to work out the best. If it is the distribution of football powers then the Division A and B alignment looks to suit you the best.

It will be interesting to see as a college football and Nebraska fan which one the Big Ten adopts within the next year.  I personally think it will take the easy way out and go for the East-West alignment, while my heart would rather it apply the final alignment I mentioned.

Whatever it is, you can bet it will keep the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry together, as well as the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry.  It will give Michigan and Ohio State a chance to play each other twice in a season if they split them up into different divisions.

Let the anticipation begin and the 2010 season end.  Bring it on, 2011!

 

 

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