the just released schedules were a flat-out statement that the B10 doesn't believe SOS will matter in playoff selection
While I get the East/West split, I am baffled to explain why Temple is in the West. Louisville is clearly the better option.
If you're interested in reading Dr. Saturday's latest thoughts on what we've been talking about non-stop for days now then go here.
The summary is basically what I've been thinking- putting OSU and UM in separate divisions will weaken The Game and gain the B10 almost nothing.
I'd be interested in other people's thoughts on this, especially well-explained contrarian points of view.
Try to do this yourselves. When I do it, I can only find one configuration that works for me at all:
- "East" -- PSU, OSU, Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern
- "West" -- Michigan, MSU, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska
I really think this is what the powers that be have in mind. Think about it -- if you separate OSU from Michigan then you pretty much have to keep Wisconsin in the division. Nebraska has to stay with Iowa, so it's done. The divisions are in fact geographically contiguous. All major rivalries are preserved within the divisions except one, or maybe two if you count MSU-PSU.
One problem with this is the reality that the winner of OSU-PSU will almost always play for the conference championship. How often will one of the others break that stranglehold? Twice a decade? Less? You're taking the two programs from the largest and richest football recruiting states in the Big Ten, both without in-state conference rivals, and isolating them in a division by themselves. Yeah, that will work!
What are they thinking?
I'm going to guess that they are thinking that this will create a competitive championship game every year. They are right -- the champions of the West are likely to be a very good team. But they will almost always have more losses than the East champion, due to more parity within their division.
While it's fun, the point of the game is not to knock OSU out of the national championship every once in a while. That is so 1969. The point is to beat them and not just go to the Rose Bowl, but go onto the national championship ourselves. These divisions work against that ultimate goal. Indeed, any Big Ten divisional alignment that separates Michigan and Ohio State has this same fatal flaw.
I guess Dave Brandon would argue that the primary goal of conference play is to win the Big Ten championship, no matter how the Wolverines get there. That's true. But to play for the BCS championship, most years Michigan will have to win three games against OSU/PSU. Strength of schedule might allow us one conference loss along the way if the SEC champion isn't in the same predicament. That's likely to be the new reality, folks. Get used to it.
For the purposes of this thought experiment, ignore the location in the calendar of the games, just simply the idea.
Let us say, for the sake of argument, that Michigan and Ohio State are placed in opposite divisions. Let us also presume that Nebraska is placed in Michigan's division and Penn State is placed in Ohio State's. Let us also presume that with a nine-game conference schedule, two cross-division games are protected.
So Michigan and Ohio State is a given for a protected cross-division game. Should the Big Ten then also protect Michigan-Penn State and Nebraska-Ohio State, which would then insure that every season:
Ohio State-Penn State
Penn State Nebraska
are all played and that you would give significant value to the regular season?
I can see cons in this, from a Michigan standpoint and from a Big Ten standpoint, but does this at least make it more reasonable to say "We're preserving "rivalries" among great teams. Would anyone among you be opposed to knowing, yes, Michigan has to play Nebraska, Ohio State, and Penn State every year, but all four the "marquee teams" would have the same killer "circle of death" (or Octogon of horror, whatever floats your boat.)
Note: In the divisions version I created that brought this about, Michigan State ends up in Michigan's division with protected cross-over games against Iowa and Minnesota, which makes very little sense, but honestly, does Michigan State care about playing any one else in the Big Ten besides Michigan?
[Edit: Note that I was writing this when Brian posted a front-page reference to the same idea on Slow States. All I can say is either great minds think alike or this is freaking obvious.]
What happened to the biggest rivalry of the old BIg 8 conference, Nebraska-Oklahoma, when it was split across divisions when the Big XII was formed? I'll answer that for you -- it was eclipsed by Texas-Oklahoma, a divisional rivalry. The collapse of that game is a major reason why Nebraska is leaving that conference to join the Big Ten.
What would happen to the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry if it were split across divisions? Could it be eclipsed by Penn State-Ohio State, a divisional rivalry? This isn't as far-fetched as you might think. An occasional championship matchup will not make up for turning the regular-season game into a trophy game instead of a must-win game with the divisional title almost always on the line. In the long run, the loss of this dynamic could damage the Michigan program and ultimately the Big Ten brand.
This doesn't need to happen.
It is possible to create both geographic equity (i.e., what Penn State wants) and competitive intensity (i.e., what Michigan and Ohio State should want) in a divisional alignment that preserves or protects all major rivalries. The only real question here is how to split up the quadrangle of hate (Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, formerly a triangle) -- no matter how you do it, you're going to lose part of that. Without further ado:
- Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, Northwestern
- Michigan State, Penn State, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois
Protected regular-season games: Michigan-Michigan State, Ohio State-Penn State, Iowa-Nebraska, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Indiana-Purdue, Illinois-Northwestern.
- Michigan, Ohio State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Purdue, Northwestern
- Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois
Protected regular-season games: Michigan-Michigan State, Ohio State-Penn State, Iowa-Minnesota, Nebraska-Wisconsin, Indiana-Purdue, Illinois-Northwestern.
I'm not sure which of these two are better in terms of the quadrangle, but you get the idea. This protects most border-war and all in-state rivalries while spreading out the divisions, thereby not screwing anyone in that regard (i.e., like Penn State would be if you put them in an otherwise western division).
Finally, lest you argue this is the ACC redux, let's take a look at their current alignment:
- Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami
- Boston College, Maryland, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida State
I don't know if there are protected rivalry games across the divisions, but regardless, this is not a consistent system. Like the quadrangle of hate, the main problem for the ACC is how to handle the four North Carolina schools and, actually, I think the current scheme has got that right. The main problem with it is they don't split up Virginia-Virginia Tech, resulting in Maryland being split from Virginia.
If the ACC were to follow my methodology with regard to the Big Ten, it would look like this:
- Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech, Florida State
- Boston College, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Clemson, Miami
Protected regular-season games: Maryland-Boston College, Virginia-Virginia Tech, North Carolina-North Carolina State, Duke-Wake Forest, Georgia Tech-Clemson, Florida State-Miami.
There, fixed two conferences in one go!
CBS Sports has an interesting article that concludes that Michigan and Ohio State are far more valuable to the conference if they split, creating the Hayes and Schembechler Divisions. I must say this idea has grown on me, and I have gone from "absolutely not", to seeing the merit. I've listed some pro's and con's below, with the understanding that Michigan and Ohio State must play during the regular season every year regardless of Divisions.
- I really think that having Michigan and Ohio State in the same division throws the power into one division too strongly and the only way to compensate is to have State level of competition as the other 4 teams, and that isn't good for any conference.
- The idea of having Michigan, State, Iowa and Nebraska in the same division is exciting, and creates a good competitive division while securing the inner division rivalries that you want to keep/create (UM/MSU & IA/NE). How great will it be to put little brother in their place year after year?
- It sets us up for the potential of two Michigan / Ohio State games many years. Say that again, 2 of "The Game." I don't know about you but on The Game Day, I'm up by 5am scouring online for any last minute morsels of info, waiting for ESPN Game Day to start. Once the game starts I'm sick to my stomach unable to keep anything down, yelling at the screen, pleading with the screen, cursing that the players don't care as much as I do with every missed tackle. In short, I'm loving every minute of it, and to be able to do that twice, well it just couldn't be better.
- Ohio State can catch up twice as quick. Assuming we return to 2006 glory, but find ourselves the 2nd best team in the conference, OSU would have a clear opportunity. The only thing I can brag about to Ohio State Fan who finds me in a crowded diner in AZ somehow weekly, is that in the end the Overall Record stands with Michigan leading, 57–43–6. As bad as it has been the last few years, overall we have still pounded those cellar dwellers, and I feel we will again shortly.
- We are going to have to move The Game Part I to earlier in the season. This is not uncommon for rivals to meet earlier in the season, and will give both parties the ability to bounce back from Part I in the standings. The good news is that if things go to plan we will still plan on meeting on the last game of the season and play for all the marbles.
While there are clearly some disadvantages I have come to the realization that they don't outweigh the positives and if you factor in just the monetarial benefits for the conference I think it again makes an overwhelming argument. Now all we have to work on is to get them to name the conferences after the true great ones.