The Big Ten has announced the new divisions for 2011 when Nebraska joins the conference. They put Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska in one division. The other division has Wisconsin, Penn State, Ohio State, Purdue, Indiana, and Illinois.
The Big Ten diminished several rivalries and failed to preserve others. They also diminished arguably the biggest rivalry in the Big Ten between Michigan and Ohio State.
Yes, the two teams will continue to face off against each other as the last game of the season. But by putting Michigan and Ohio State in separate divisions, they take away the meaning of "The Game."
The Game has decided the Big Ten champion 22 times. As recent as 2006, the game even decided who played in the National Championship game. Each team came in to the game with an 11-0 record and had the No. 1 and No. 2 rankings.
Now, the game only means a trip to the Big Ten Championship game. Yes, there still is something on the line, but it does not have the same significance.
What happens if the two teams meet again the next week? This would mean the first game had barely any significance on the season.
Let's suppose Michigan and Ohio State are both atop their divisions. Ohio State beats Michigan the last week of the season. The team is traditionally given the Gold Pants Award for beating Michigan.
Both teams go in to the Big Ten Championship game the next week. This time, Michigan beats Ohio State to go to the Rose Bowl. What happens to the Gold Pants Award? Do you think that team even wants it after losing to them in the same season in essentially a playoff game?
The Big Ten should have put Michigan and Ohio State in the same division if they wanted to preserve the rivalry. That way, the game would still have significance and the same amount of rivalry.
It would change things, though. Instead of the game deciding the Big Ten Champion, it would decide who gets to play for the Big Ten Championship. Something would still be on the line.
With the teams in separate divisions, not as much is at stake. Think about this year. Michigan could be 5-6 and Ohio State 11-0 going in to the game. Michigan wants to make a bowl and pull the upset of the year, while OSU wants to go to the National Championship Game. There is significance even in this year's game.
No one wants to face a rival twice in one season; it takes away from the rivalry. Imagine if the "Red River Shootout" was just another game and Oklahoma and Texas were in separate divisions. What if they met again in the Big 12 Championship Game? The first game just would not mean much.
Sorry, Big Ten, but you got this wrong. Michigan and Ohio State should have been in the same division to preserve the rivalry.