Posted at 8:00am -- 6/21/2010
Big Ten Expansion Alignment Possibilities
Many have weighed in about the conference realignment, that is, the grouping of the conference teams into two divisions.
Some takes are geographic in nature, such as north/south, east/west, while some seek to balance the power between the two divisions, paying little heed to geography.
We at GBMW, like many of you, are still debating on which potential alignment is best, not only for Michigan but also the conference. It would be unfortunate to have the conference split into two divisions and be dominated by one division, like we have seen in Big Twelve football.
Regardless of the eventual number of teams and the eventual alignment, an important query is does the Big Ten conference, with twelve teams, play another conference game or will the league keep scheduling eight conference games?
Some at GBMW strongly favor the continuance of rivalry games. On the other hand perhaps now is a good time to have both members of each perceived rivalry voice agreement or disagreement as to whether the game should be mandated as an annual date on the schedule. If a team wants out of an annual game, and have the traditional opponent placed in the general rotation, this is the time to switch. Will some teams only have one mandated rivalry game, while others have two? Will all number one designated rivalry games be played the last week of the season, or will the conference start rotating this factor as well?
So, the debate of what is best naturally must start with where to place Michigan and Ohio State. Most here agree that "The Game" needs to be played at the end of the year and should remain an annual event. The Big 12 made a huge mistake when the conference took away one of college football’s best rivalries, Oklahoma and Nebraska, which those among us who are seasoned enough remember being played on Thanksgiving weekend. The stakes were very high in many of those classic games.
Does the conference place Michigan and Ohio State into separate divisions or in the same division, eliminating the possibility of the two rivals playing on back-to-back weekends?
Some predictably want both in the same division to continue the strength of "The Game.” The game may never be diminished but some wind may be taken out of the sail if both teams do not play annually.
Many, certainly Michigan fans, wanted to see a re-match between Ohio State and Michigan after the 2006 game, where Michigan lost 42-39 at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State fans didn't want to see this since they were on the winning side. ESPN certainly did not want to see a rematch as well. The only reason Columbus fans would want a rematch would be to achieve the distinction of beating Michigan twice in the same year.
Jerry Dinardo of the Big Ten Network set up his realignment and we like the three different scenarios, but which one is the best for the conference over the long haul, after all the ups and downs of individual teams run the course? Which grouping could raise the Big Ten Conference to a new level or which grouping could have a negative impact by turning the Big Ten into a lop-sided arrangement?
Jerry Dinardo East/West Divisions
Obviously in our opinion the East division is the better division with three solid programs in Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.
The West division has Nebraska and Wisconsin, neither now as strong as OSU or PSU. Yes, Iowa has lately contended for the league title in the Big Ten Conference, and Wisconsin remains solid.
Here, Michigan and Ohio State are in the same division so no worry about a carry over game. In this scenario Michigan could have the Minnesota game as a carry over game to play for the Little Brown Jug every year since Michigan State and Ohio State are in Michigan’s division.
A common problem with any divisional scenario is some of the big games would be rotated off the schedule, such as Nebraska vs. Michigan or Wisconsin vs. Michigan. Yes, good match-ups were also lost in the 11 team, one division, Big Ten conference.
Assuming there will be two divisions, we would like to see new rivalries started, such as Ohio State and Nebraska playing every year in a crossover game. There are many factors that support this game, most importantly both are historical programs of national stature. This gives OSU a second rivalry, whereas Michigan still has three rivalry games in Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Michigan State.
Jerry Dinardo North/South Divisions
In this grouping the south division appears to be the better division, with Ohio State, Nebraska and Penn State as members.
Now, if Michigan State can continue to raise the football program then maybe this would provide good balance between the two divisions.
The schedule would involve playing everybody in the division plus one annual crossover game, rotating the rest of the opposite division teams on and off the schedule.
This grouping has more games that would need to be carried over as crossover games, such as Michigan/Ohio State, Minnesota/Iowa, Illinois/Indiana, Michigan State/Penn State, Wisconsin/Nebraska, and Northwestern/Purdue.
Or does the league just divide the power teams like everybody did as a kid at recess?
Crossover Games assigned to the above alignment:
Michigan State/Penn State
In this scenario you split Michigan and Ohio State, obviously, and seem to have power teams being balanced out.
Sure, in this division set-up (like the other set-ups) one division may each year appear tougher, but that will happen, especially with programs such as Iowa, Michigan State, and others that can be contenders one year and the next year are back in the middle of the pack. Some teams have to be on a 3-4 year plan to contend for the conference title, while others, such as Ohio State, do this every year.
One of the major factors, beside what to do with Ohio State and Michigan, is the extra expenses that teams will have with travel. Minor sports will face extra travel time and expenses, likely covered in part by the extra income the conference will generate. The effect of alignment is important to basketball as well.
So, of the three division plans which one is best for Michigan, what is best for the Big Ten Conference, and what is best for college football as a whole? Smart people are looking into this decision and the rest of us wait with interest.
Written by GBMW Staff
Go Blue -- Wear Maize!