The question I'm posing here is not whether playing Ohio State a week later in the Conference Championship lessens the rivalry. I think it does, but this has been discussed ad nauseum already.
My question is this - could Michigan and OSU play each other in the final week of the season, and both be guaranteed of a spot in the conference championship before the rivalry game is even played?
In this scenario (and it applies to any other set of cross-divisional rivalry games played in the last week of the season), Michigan and Ohio State enter the last week of the regular season undefeated in divisional play. Everyone else already has two losses in their division.
It seems to me in this scenario, that no matter the outcome of The Game, Michigan and Ohio State would both be assured of a spot in the conference championship game.
(This is different from a scenario where Michigan had to beat Ohio State to force a rematch, but an Ohio State win would keep Michigan out of the title game.)
Both teams would obviously want to win. But there would be questions about how much strategy, etc. each team would want to reveal before the Conference Championship game. Obviously, because of the BCS polls (and hatred for the other side), there would be incentive to win both games.
But wouldn't that be a huge let down, to play/watch the game, knowing that no matter what the outcome, we would be playing again next week?
Just another reason that where rivalry games are played in the last week, both teams should be in the same division. (title edited and last sentence added)