The New Big Ten Frontier
So finally after much deliberation – word finally came down from the conference powers that be which will forever reshape the Big Ten Conference as we know it – at least for football anyway. Change was necessary given the addition of Nebraska and the upcoming conference championship coming in 2011 – and for the most part fans everywhere have to be pretty pleased with how things shook out. Clearly the upheaval of both fandoms which rained down upon university officials regarding the Ohio State rivalry with TSUN did not fall upon deaf ears as The Game will remain the last of the regular season. The Big Ten wins with being able to split the Buckeyes and Wolverines into separate divisions so the big pay day of twice in one year should both teams win their divisions is still a possibility (Delany does a dance and goes cha-ching every time he thinks about it).
Although it was not really my first choice of alignment (I was in favor of an east/west split with OSU and TSUN in same division) – this one it is pretty damn good overall. I mean you really end up having kind of a north&west division and a south&east one – it splits up the power programs pretty well and even makes decent sense geographically. In the “X” division you will have Iowa, Nebraska, Sparty, Minnesota, Northwestern and TSUN and in the “Y” you have Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Purdue, Penn State and the Buckeyes – pretty balanced as far as strength and tradition. Throw in the fact that there are guaranteed cross division matchups – The Game, Penn State-Nebraska, Wisconsin-Minnesota, Purdue-Iowa and Indiana-Michigan State – and it is easy to see an exciting conference in the works.
If you want to tear it apart it does seem like Iowa and Wisconsin may have gotten shorted a little with the Hawkeyes missing out the Badgers each season on and Wisconsin not getting to play all the teams close to them like Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska every year – but as a Buckeye fan at least we get to keep one of the greatest rivalry traditions intact. At least for the near future as Delany would not commit to anything else. So who knows how long it will be until the fans must erupt in protest again when the brain trust makes more additions to the conference (which is going to happen eventually believe it). Oh well – as bruising as the complexion of the conference schedule gets over the next two seasons it will make for some real solid football games all year long.
And really the only scenarios that I can think of where The Game would lose some luster would be in the case that both teams would be winning their divisions regardless of a win in The Game and would potentially rest key players for the rivalry game knowing that they wanted to be 100% for the conference championship game. Or in the same vein when one team would already be guaranteed a birth in the game and the other team is terrible (kind of like now) and the good team would similarly rest key players to preserve them the CCG. Not sure either of those scenarios would play out in reality – especially considering the amount of focus Tressel puts on the tradition of the rivalry – but who knows until it really happens.
The flip side is there could be some serious grudge matches and spoiler type games with the new alignment. Consider if either team “had to win” to get to the CCG, even better if one had already clinched and the other had to win to get in. Then both teams would have to bring it both games – which as much as I am opposed to the reason behind why it was done ($$$$$) – would make for some big time drama between to storied programs back to back weeks.
The sobering dose of reality that hit me in the face last night was when I checked out the conference schedule for the next two years:
10/1 – Michigan State
10/8 – @ Nebraska
10/15 – @ Illinois
10/22 – BYE
10/29 – Wisconsin
11/5 – Indiana
11/12 – @ Purdue
11/19 – Penn State
11/26 – @ Michigan
– Throw in a trip to Coral Gables to take on the U.
9/29 – @ Michigan State
10/6 – Nebraska – the first home Big Ten game for the Huskers. Ever.
10/13 – @ Indiana
10/20 – Purdue
10/27 – @ Penn State
11/3 – Illinois
11/10 – BYE
11/17 – @ Wisconsin
11/24 – Michigan
What I see the most is that there are fewer “down” weeks that the Buckeyes have, so that means bringing it every week in conference play. So we get to keep The Game where it is, and in the end I believe the conference will be made stronger. So with what they have done so far I have to say I am looking forward to the new Big Ten.
Now that it is over we can focus on the upcoming beat down of Marshall today.