Penn State’s crippling sanctions have partially upset the Big Ten power balance. The conference should use this as an excuse to realign its divisions. The problem goes beyond “Legends” and “Leaders” being silly names. Change is unlikely, but it should happen.
Here is the change we would advocate.
East: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Indiana
West: Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Northwestern, Minnesota
Geography: Divisions make little sense, unless there is at least a rough physical division. Most fans can assign Pac 12 teams in their divisions after one year. How many fans (or media members for that matter…) can assign ACC teams into the “Atlantic” and “Coastal” divisions without consulting Google? Those have been in place since 2005. This alignment uses the Eastern/Central time zone as a simple divider. It gets rid of the bland, consulting firm names. It also has a cultural resonance, broadly dividing “Corn” midwest from “Car Manufacturing” Midwest.
Scheduling: It’s easier. There are no rivalries that need special treatment. No “we’re going to set you up on an awkward first date and give you a trophy” games. You play your division. You play three (and hopefully down the road four) teams from the other division.
Iowa vs. Wisconsin: You know? That 100-year-old rivalry the Big Ten decided to end just for the hell of it with the new division lineup? That’s going to get played every year.
Armageddon: Michigan vs. Ohio State is the Big Ten’s most important regular season game per year. Fans shouted down moving it to October (rightly). It creates a chance every season that the teams will play…and then play again the next week in the title game. This cheapens the game itself. It cheapens the title game. No one wants to watch it. There is a strong chance it would have happened this year with Ohio State eligible. That probability will only become greater as the conference becomes top heavy.
[Photo via Presswire]