When the Big Ten divisions for 2011 are announced in the next few weeks, there will surely be quite a discussion about how it impacts ongoing rivalries. While the Michigan-Ohio State game has drawn most of the headlines, the head Big Ten offices are juggling traditional rivalries with geographical ones. No matter the result, fans will see some Big Ten schools in a different light.
I believe there’s only one result to the alignment discussion, break the teams up East-West. Place Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State and Penn State in the East division, and Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Northwestern in the West division. This keeps a high percentage of the traditional rivalries in the same division and potential final divisional games would be Indiana-Purdue for the Old Oaken Bucket, Michigan-Penn St. for the Land Grant Trophy, and the infamous Michigan-Ohio State game.
The result of this split will ultimately focus on potential matchups in the championship game. I don’t believe that divisional matchups should be made with this one game in mind, especially if they are only theoretical. This is very similar to why it doesn’t matter whether current powers are in the same division, especially with a team like Nebraska looking to find their identity within their new conference. Michigan and Ohio State need to be placed in the same division, just as Michigan and Michigan State need to be placed together. Big Ten championship games, like any other conference, may not demonstrate the most ideal two teams every year, but the results will remain unpredictable.