Guess what? The Big Ten is nearly 6 months away from adding Maryland and Rutgers as the newest members of the conference. You know what else? They have a chance to right a wrong and do something the ACC refuses to do – stop with the stupid division names and make the conference make more sense for it's fans, writers, coaches, players, and announcers.
So, how do they please all of those constituents? Well, realistically it probably won't happen since attempting to please everyone is what got the Big Ten in trouble when they attempted to split up the divisions in the first place. The idea was to keep "competitive balance" as the key component. Oh, and to make sure we saw Michigan vs. Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game every year, right?
If you think that wasn't the plan than explain to me how those two rivals ended up in opposite divisions? Sorry, you'll never convince me that wasn't the idea from the get go. Too bad Wisconsin, the NCAA, and Nebraska had other ideas, huh?
Well, get used to that one never happening again because here's where we come down on the situation and what we here at TheB1GTime hope to see happen. It's a common sense approach that takes into consideration three things in this exact order – geography, rivalries, competitive balance.
It's the exact opposite of how the Big Ten was set up the last time and it clearly didn't work out well for the conference as the Legends division (Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Northwestern) saw them clearly become the better of the two divisions. Hell, they sent 5 teams to bowl games this past season while the Leaders division had it's three really good teams separate themselves (Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin) from the also-ran's (Purdue, Illinois, Indiana).
So, what exactly is our proposal – an East and West split of the conference.
Why? Well, it makes the most sense for the league as they attempt to make an eastern push and keep it's traditional home happy as well. The only way you make the eastern push work is if you make the eastern most schools matter off the bat in the league and that means putting them all in the same division and having them playing each other year in and year out. After all, this was a move to keep Penn State happy, right?
So, with that in mind here are our division alignments:
East: Maryland, Rutgers, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana
West: Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska
Splitting up the divisions like that serves a few key purposes for us. One it finally puts Michigan and Ohio State in the same division and makes their regular season mean even more.
Over the past two seasons "The Game" has meant very little in the grand scheme of things to both schools' seasons. True, part of that was the fact that Ohio State wasn't going to be eligible for the Big Ten title game no matter what this year, but who's fault is that? I don't know about you, but we'd rather see these two meet up for a possible spot in the Big Ten championship game than face each other twice in back-to-back weeks, how about you?
The second purpose this serves? It serves to allow a true eastern base and a western base and could very well allow for the two divisions to really breed some rivalry and hate for each other. In the end this puts some more value and heat on the Big Ten Championship game, something that's been truly missing for the first two games – outside of MSU and UW fans not liking each other very much.
As for the rivalries? Yes, it's true that we're splitting up an old-school rivalry inside a division with Indiana and Purdue being in other divisions, but we will get into fixing that issue in a bit. We'll take splitting up the Old Oaken Bucket rivalry for making "The Game" a divisional game any day of the week. Plus, we'll be adding in the Iowa-Wisconsin game and putting the Illinois-Northwestern game into the same division as the trade off. From the fans perspective we're not sure there is a better way to handle the rivalry issue out there.
So, how do we rectify the loss of the Old Oaken Bucket schools in the same division. Well, first we propose the Big Ten moves to a nine game conference schedule. It eliminates a useless non-conference game against some scrub FCS program that comes in, takes it's annual beating (unless your Minnesota or Michigan), and cashes it's check shortly after the game. It also allows for a protected cross-divisional game and to then have two rotating games against the other division.
For Indiana and Purdue that means keeping their rivalry intact every year. Here's our idea of keeping rivalries important and making cross-divisional games mean something at the same time.
Protected cross-divisional games: Indiana-Purdue, Illinois-Ohio State, Wisconsin-Penn State, Minnesota-Michigan, Northwestern-Maryland, Rutgers-Iowa, Nebraska-Michigan State
Maybe you could put Wisconsin vs. MSU, but for us the more logical game that will mean more to the teams in the long run is Wisconsin vs. Penn State. Michigan State has been a good team with a budding rivalry with the UW for the past 4 years or so, but they've also had more ups and downs as a program more recently. It would give the Badgers and Nittany Lions a big time game across the divisions every year (and yes we're award that PSU would still have two years probation going on). It also allows for Nebraska to have a pretty damn good game with a team they've already started to build a history against in MSU.
Finally, competitive balance takes place with the fact that five teams in each division made (or would've made in OSU & PSU's cases) bowl games following the 2012 season. It's hard to get more balanced than that.
Of course, these are just our crazy ideas… Lord knows if the marketing folks at the Big Ten offices get their hands on this process first we're all screwed.