For those of us that were kids in the '80s, the Blue Jays were the team to hate if you were a Tiger fan. The two teams competed for the AL East title on a yearly basis and the games between them were intense. There would always be a ton of Jay fans in Tiger Stadium, and a ton of Tiger fans making the trip to Exhibition Stadium and then the Skydome. Who can forget the legendary 1-0 game on the last day of the 1987 season, when Frank Tanana went the distance to clinch the pennant?
In 1998, the two teams were separated, with the Tigers moving to the AL Central. They still meet for a few series every year, but it's not quite the same, is it? There's not much riding on the line. Overall records do matter in the standings, but when you play a team you aren't competing against in those standings, it's not as important as the ones against those you do compete against. Since '98, the White Sox have gone from being just another AL opponent to basically an archrival. Likewise for the Twins. Those are now the rivalry games. But I still miss the Toronto rivalry, and I'd imagine their fans feel likewise - they're playing second fiddle to Yankees-Red Sox in their division.
I know, it's pro sports, but there are some parallels here. Big Ten division standings, I presume, will be determined by overall conference record, so cross-division games aren't 100% meaningless. But when you aren't competing in the standings with half the teams in your league, that really changes the dynamics. In the future, when OSU wins or loses a game to someone else, that won't affect us at all. Likewise, it won't matter to them how we do against anyone else. Meanwhile, if Indiana's in our division, all of their games will be relevant to us, because we'll be competing in the standings. How backward is that?
I'm increasingly regretting the addition of Nebraska. It's not just the OSU rivalry that will be diminished in importance, but all series against teams in the other division. We're basically going to have two six-team mini conferences. The other five teams in our division are going to be the ones we keep an eye on, whereas the six teams in the other division might as well be playing exhibition games, for as much as it matters to us. Adding a single game in an NFL stadium in December won't be enough to tie it all together.