August 26, 2010

Big Ten Divisions: Nine Games Good; Divisional Split Bad

It was expected for a while that the Big Ten would adopt a nine-game conference schedule. Today, we found out that nine games it will be--in 2015. Per, from Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez:
University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez confirmed Wednesday that when a two-division format for football is unveiled by league officials next month, UW and Iowa will be separated... [Alvarez] also said the Big Ten will adopt a nine-game schedule for football, but it won’t go into effect until 2015, allowing member schools to address previously contracted games.
It seems like Jim Delaney & Co. are really going with the whole "competitive balance" thing. Delaney also spoke with the Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein about the whole Michigan-Ohio State conundrum hissy-fit going on, and why it's a good idea to play The Game mid-season:
"If Duke and North Carolina were historically the two strongest programs and only one could play for the right to be in the NCAA tournament, would you want them playing in the season-ending game so one is in and one is out?" he asked. "Or would you want them to play and have it count in the standings and then they possibly could meet (again) for the right to be in the NCAA or the Rose Bowl?"
First off, how late did Delaney stay up thinking of that analogy? Second, don't go making fun of Michigan's recent record. North Carolina and Duke haven't always been elite every single year, but their rivalry game is still great to watch on TV--a few times per year. But back to Alvarez's conversation with Andy Baggot ( The argument has boiled down to the "Big Four": Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska and Penn State. You can imagine why those four teams matter the most:
"Alvarez implied that it shouldn't be hard to figure out how the 12 schools will be arranged in the two divisions. He said there are four distinct tiers of teams, led by the four that have won national championships in the past 25 years: Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State."
You have to admit, it does make some sense. I know the league doesn't want to do this half-assed, by splitting the just elite brand name teams, not going all-out to make the Big Ten as competitively balanced as humanly possible. But what has come next just makes me cringe. ESPN's Adam Rittenberg took a stab at what the divisions will look like next season, considering the Big Four split and separation of Wisconsin-Iowa.
Division 1
Michigan State

Division 2
Ohio State
Penn State
Just smash my head with a baseball bat while you're at it. These divisions suck so terribly, I'm not even sure I want to suggest my own, completely irrelevant divisional breakdown.

But then I think about what I told someone the other day: Even next season, there may in fact be five mandatory intra-divisional games against so "meh" Big Ten teams in terms of interest. But there are three other conference games that need filling. You don't think that Penn State-Michigan or Penn State-Nebraska wouldn't be a mega ratings monster every season, or at least on a few-years-on, few-years-off basis?

It's not much, but it's something to hold onto. At least Penn State doesn't have the kind of history with a rival in this league. In my view, Iowa-Wisconsin fans have more to bitch about right now than Michigan-Ohio State fans.

But no one cares what bloggers think.

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  1. Tom from Long Island8/26/2010 7:51 PM

    Actually this split is not as bad as some of the others floating in cyberspace. There are two teams in division 2 that are not contiguous to OHIO. That is certainly better that Penn State, the Easternmost school, being relegated to the West

  2. I understand the importance of keeping geography in mind but I don't want PSU to be in OSU's division if you are going to split up the "big" four. Even though they are far apart I really want to see Nebraska and PSU in the same division. They really share a bond of A) new kids on the block and B) no rival in the new Big 10.

  3. Division 1 is so much better top to bottom I'm not sure why you're so upset about this alignment from a PSU perspective. Essentially PSU is going to be playing against OSU for the right to play in the championship every year. Sure, wisconsin will make an appearance once every 6-7 years, but the talent levels between these programs is only going to get wider with PSU's program on the rise. The rest of the teams in PSU's division have no shot at winning the division. Arguably, every team in Division 1 could win it. At least historically, every team in that division has had very good teams. I have to say that Indiana, Purdue, and Minnesota are the bottom feeders of the league in terms of football and I just don't see that changing. My first choice was to have PSU with Nebraska, but if that means with the current division alignment being so slanted in terms of overall talent, Ill take this.

  4. What is the problem with-

    B10East-Penn State,Ohio St,Michigan St,Michigan,Indiana,Purdue

    I like the geographic split best. Delaney and company will mess it up somehow.

  5. Chad Gill.
    i dont know why the b10 is trying to say michigan is a top team with splitting them up with other powers.... that doesn't make much sense to me. Top 4 teams are PSU OSU NEB and IOWA. put two of those teams together and the 5 and 6 are Michigan and Wisconsin

  6. What is wrong with the east and west split? The competative balance will work itself out because different teams are good in different years. We need to plan for the future just as much as the present. Face it, Michigan will be good again some day (when the get rid of RichRod). The OSU-UM rivalry is important, but who wants to see it twice in the same season. Take Texas and Oklahoma for example.