We are still at least a couple weeks away from an official announcement, but the shape of a two-division Big Ten is beginning to come into focus.
Based on recent public comments, and against all common sense that doesn’t involve dollars and cents, it’s all but a given that Ohio State and Michigan will be placed in separate divisions. Now, thanks to Barry Alvarez, we can piece together another slice to the divisional puzzle.
Speaking to the Wisconsin State Journal, the Wisconsin athletic director said long-time rivals UW and Iowa will not be in the same division when divisional play begins in 2011 following the addition of Nebraska. The Badgers and Hawkeyes would, though, become one of the protected crossover rivals, ensuring that the two schools will meet every year.
While it’s not written in stone, Alvarez said “we have a pretty good idea of what’s going down” and, the State Journal writes, the AD implied that it shouldn’t be hard to figure out how the 12 schools will be arranged in the two divisions.
Well then, if it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out, let’s give it a shot based on the developments of the past couple of weeks.
It’s a given that, as the most successful programs since the self-established cutoff of 1993, the foursome of OSU, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska will be broken into pairs. Obviously, going off recent trends, the Buckeyes will be in one division and the Wolverines in another. How to pair off the Nittany Lions and Cornhuskers? The former seems like a perfect match for a season-ending, forced-rivalry game with OSU, so the latter will hook-up with Michigan.
According to the State Journal, Iowa and Wisconsin are the next of the three competitive levels the conference is using to determine how the divisions will be shaped. As Alvarez has already stated they will not be in the same division, this is simply a matter of placing the two schools in the OSU/Penn State and Michigan/Nebraska groupings. As UW head coach Bret Bielema has been stumping for a rivalry game with Nebraska, and remembering that geography plays little part in the equation, we’ll throw the coach a bone and give him his rivalry, with the Hawkeyes joining OSU/Penn State.
That leaves us with Northwestern, Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana and Michigan State. The State Journal reports that it’s likely the Gophers will be in the same grouping as Wisconsin, so we’ll go with that. Additionally, it’s a near-given that the Spartans will follow Michigan however this shakes out and, with the likelihood that there will be just one protected crossover game per school and with Michigan using theirs with Ohio State, the two Michigan schools would have to be in the same division to maintain that rivalry.
If all of those above scenarios came to fruition — hint: they won’t — that would leave one slot in one of the two divisions, and four schools still left to place. At this point in the process, it’s more of a stab in the dark than the attempt to group the upper-tier programs.
Here’s how we think the Big Ten could look once the official announcement is made in the next couple of weeks. We are also eschewing the more popular “Bo” and “Woody” divisional names for something far more befitting the current climate.
AVARICE DIVISIONOhio StatePenn StateIowaPurdueIllinoisIndiana
GLUTTONY DIVISIONMichiganNebraskaWisconsinNorthwesternMinnesotaMichigan State