We heard the news.
The Big Ten is officially split in two divisions (yet to be named) starting next year. One division features Michigan, Iowa, and Nebraska as the main powers, with Northwestern, Minnesota, and Michigan State bringing up the rest of the division.
In “Division Two,” Penn State will be facing off against Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, and Illinois on a yearly basis, with the Nebraska Cornhuskers becoming a cross-division rivalry for the Lions.
The announcement came late this past week, reviving the two latest Big Ten members’ rivalry that really took force back in the 1980s. The game most noted by Lion fans was mid-season 1982 when the Cornhuskers traveled to Happy Valley ranked No. 2 in the nation, only to be upset by the eighth-ranked Nittany Lions late in the game, solidifying the start of a great season for Joe Paterno and the first National Championship in program history.
More recently in 2002, the rivalry was renewed when the Lions hosted No. 7 Nebraska in front of a sold-out, record-setting crowd of 110,753, who witnessed the 25th-ranked Nittany Lions pummel its opposition 40-7. It was Penn State’s first victory over a top 10 team since 1999.
With the division change, Penn State loses its yearly rivalry games against Michigan State in the battle for the Land Grant Trophy as well as Minnesota for the Governor’s Victory Bell. But the always exciting battle against that team from Columbus will also continue as well.
Aside from a new yearly game with the Huskers, Penn State gets an opportunity to rule their side of the conference along with Ohio State and, for now at least, Wisconsin. It’s an exciting thought when you consider all the possibilities in the years to come.
Upsets against Ohio State now are accentuated on a much larger scale. Conference wins appear so much more attractive with the thought of a championship berth at the end of the season within reach.
A championship berth means one extra game. One extra game means players in consistent game form, an issue of late with Big Ten teams entering bowl season. A championship game also improves the record, and thus the ranking, of the reigning Big Ten champion in the polls.
It took years for Joe Paterno to finally get his wish, but it’s here: The Big Ten now has the chance to become a top power conference once again.
To me, it’s only fitting for Mr. Paterno to be able to experience a season he’s been after for years, and just one more season in 2011 seems to be the perfect ending to a fantastic legacy.