What is the alignment if Michigan-OSU are not together?

Submitted by Rasmus on August 23rd, 2010 at 6:43 PM

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.


Blue in sec country

August 23rd, 2010 at 7:01 PM ^

That isn't even close to a competitive balance. What you've created is the big 12 divisions. The South who beats up on each other making it more difficult to stay in the NC picture and then you've got the North who plays 1 game each year and coasts to the championship game. I would think they would balance them more than you've come up with. If not I for one will be very disappointed.

VaBeach Wolverine

August 23rd, 2010 at 7:06 PM ^

I really dont see this alignment happening because your West is way too strong.The Indiana/Illinois schools will have to be split in the East considering these are traditionally the weakest schools. 


August 23rd, 2010 at 7:11 PM ^

One problem with this is the reality that the winner of OSU-PSU will almost always play for the conference championship.

Bingo.  And there's our new marquee conference game.  It will be played at the end of the season, with title implications for one or both teams virtually every year.  (Sound familiar?)  For PSU, it's everything they've ever wanted.  For OSU, it won't be exactly the same as playing the UM right now (less history involved, obviously), but it's a pretty close substiute.  Ten years from now, OSU fans will be focused primarily on beating PSU.   Kids that grow up in Ohio will come to look at PSU as the natural alternative to OSU. 

And for us?  Our end-of-the-year rivalry becomes either MSU or Nebraska.  This is absolutely a losing proposition for us.   Brandon is a fool to want to go along with this. 


August 23rd, 2010 at 7:31 PM ^

I have to wonder if maybe you have stumbled on the real, hidden reason behind this: Could it be that the Big Ten brass have come to the conclusion that Michigan's glory days are over, and that the Wolverines will not return to the top echelon of the conference?  If they did, they might want to build up an OSU-PSU rivalry.

It sounds crazy, but it would explain a few things...


August 23rd, 2010 at 7:56 PM ^

I think that's entirely possible.  The reality is that we are more dependent on out-of-state recruits than either OSU or PSU are.  Nebraska is even moreso.  And while we've lost to OSU six in a row (ugh - that hurts just to type it), PSU beat them in '05 and '08.   If the conference truly wanted competitive balance, it'd split up the two schools with the biggest natural recruiting advantage - but it probably has recognized, from watching the examples of the SEC and ACC, that you don't split up rivalries.  If the Big Ten has (privately) decided that its two biggest commodities are OSU and PSU, then their actions would make a lot more sense.   

For OSU, in the long run, this might not really affect their competitiveness much.  For us, this is could pose major problems down the road.  We're in danger of losing arguably the highest-profile rivalry in the country (a great recruiting drawing card), with a team from a talent-rich state, and we'll have to make do with either playing our mediocre in-state rival or a team from a talent-poor state (Nebraska).  We could lose our status as the de facto alternative to OSU for Ohio kids.  Brandon should be going absolutely ballistic over this instead of rolling over.   


August 24th, 2010 at 3:06 AM ^

The last week of the season is Rivalry Week.  That's where you want to showcase your biggest rivalry.  And you want your biggest rivalry to be intradivisional, not cross-divisional, so that the game not only determines bragging rights but also affects the division standings.   

If the Big Ten is convinced that PSU-OSU would make a better rivalry than UM-OSU, then they'll want them to play then. 


August 24th, 2010 at 12:53 PM ^

This isn't based on the last three years of Michigan football. You seem to forget that four years ago The Game was a 1 vs 2 game, that was very close.

Big time recruits are sitting out there now, watching, and waiting to see if we turn the corner enough that they can commit to a stable situation with a national stage and the potential to win.

This whole decision is about money, and competitive balance. The last Big Ten team to win the National Championship is Ohio State. The one before that is Michigan. Then there is Nebraska and Penn State. These four have to be split up, and yes the distance between Penn State and Nebraska is an issue. Then throw in the added hype and revenue of that second Game that we all wish we had in 2006.

Me personally: I am all for OSU and Michigan playing for one division on the last day, and PSU and Nebraska playing for the other. Then the winners of both playing for the championship most years.

That said, if I were anyone else staring at being in a division with both Ohio State and Michigan, I am screaming my head off about the unfairness, and selling "it won't really impact Tha Game" and the "added revenue" as hard as I can.

Pardon my salty language, but fuck this "Michigan's glory days are over" bull shit. This is about money, competitive fairness to the other guys, and distance for PSU.


August 23rd, 2010 at 7:32 PM ^

3-4 historically strong teams - OSU, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa - while schools like PSU will only have to play 1-2 - OSU, and a possible protected rivalry with Iowa or MSU.

The only way to achieve "Competitive Balance" would be to move Wisconsin or Iowa to the "East", which creates its own set of problems.


August 23rd, 2010 at 7:43 PM ^

You've got 5 of the 7 (traditionally) strongest teams in one division and only TWO (OSU and PSU) in another division with 4 tomato cans!  This would be the WORST!


August 23rd, 2010 at 8:12 PM ^


I don't think this scenario will play out.  I truly can't imagine The Big Ten being stupid enough to lump NW, Indiana and Illinois all together.  


August 23rd, 2010 at 9:13 PM ^

I think Northwestern-Illinois get split as well, which is no major loss.

I think they're going for:

UMich-Nebraska, MSU-NW, Indiana-Purdue

OSU-PSU, Iowa-Illinois, Minny-Wiscy

The dashed pairs are the last weekend rivalry games.

I still hate it, but it does succeed in their stated goals. Minus preserving the greatest rivalry in sport.


August 23rd, 2010 at 9:25 PM ^

sorry, but I think that's way off. They're not going to throw Nebraska into a pool of 5 other eastern teams, without Iowa, Wiscy or Minny. Iowa-Illinois!?!?

I do agree with you that Ill-NW might get split, that you hate the split you think they are going for, and that Mich-OSU is the greatest rivalry in sport. Hopefully they don't destroy it be separating them!!!


August 23rd, 2010 at 9:14 PM ^

problem that I keep coming across when forming divisions (whether OSU and UM are together or separate) is the seeming necessity to keep Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota together, which forces you to keep Wisconsin, as well.

Nebraska and Minn already have the most history, Nebraska v Iowa is a no-brainer (The Corn Bowl), and Wisconsin MUST play Minnesota, and really wants to form a big time, end of the year rivalry game with Nebraska (Bielema, Alvarez spoke about it also).

So, I got to thinking... if we are dividing the "big 4" in half, the decision must be made as to "who goes" to the other side between Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Iowa. It probably has to be Iowa, they lack any geographical rivalry with those 3 worth saving year to year. So, a protected cross-over with Nebraska would be a must. Also, if Mich and OSU happened to split and PSU was with Mich, then Iowa would continue their recent rivalry with the Lions.

If the big 4 do not get divided, splitting geographically with OSU, PSU, and Mich together, you get the other 3 of the "big 6" in the other division with Minnesota.  Also, you get to keep UI-NW and IU-PU together.


August 23rd, 2010 at 9:22 PM ^

I have seen this split suggested by several others now, and I have to say that it is absolutely absurd.

Jim Delany said that the number one factor in divisional splits would be competitive balance. 

I don't see who anyone could look at this and say it is balanced. It would be a blantantly obvious money-driven decision, and I have a hard time believing that Delany could sell it to anyone as something else. 

What I don't understand is this, they can split up the biggest rivalry in the history of the conference/sports, but they can't split up Wisconsin/Iowa/Nebraska? Can someone explain this to me?

I am not too worried about this at the moment because I honestly can't believe it could actually happen. I'm in wait and see mode.


August 23rd, 2010 at 10:06 PM ^

I had convinced myself that what I outlined is what they are going to do. Now I have my doubts. Thanks, I think!

For me, there is just no good way to do it if you split up Michigan and OSU. It always degenerates into absurdity once you start trying to manufacture competitive balance.


August 23rd, 2010 at 10:09 PM ^

The considerations:

1. Competitive balance

2. Traditional rivalries

3. Geography

 It seems most speculations about this have geography and rivalries in mind at the start, equally with competitive balance.  I think #1 will be weighted  much more heavily than #2 and #3.

 If we group the teams in three tiers considering competitive balance:

 Tier 1:

Michigan, OSU, PSU, Nebraska

 Tier 2:

Iowa, Wisconsin, MSU, Purdue

 Tier 3:

Illinois, Northwestern, Indiana, Minnesota

 So, splitting these up, and now considering traditional rivalries and then geography:


1. Michigan/OSU are headed to separate divisions and will play a cross rivalry game; OSU/PSU and Michigan/Nebraska are two huge rivalries in the making.

2. There will be at least three cross-division games, eventually four.

North Division:

Michigan, Nebraska, MSU, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern

South Division:

OSU, PSU, Iowa, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana

Now, rivalries needing a cross-division game:

Illinois-Northwestern (Sweet Sioux Tomahawk/Land of Lincoln Trophy)

Indiana-Michigan State (Old Brass Spittoon)

Iowa-Minnesota (Floyd of Rosedale)

Iowa-Wisconsin (Heartland Trophy)

Michigan-Ohio State

Michigan State-Penn State (Land Grant Trophy)

Minnesota-Penn State (Governor's Victory Bell)

Kilgore Trout

August 23rd, 2010 at 11:53 PM ^

If I had to bet, I think you've got it.  They were talking about this alignment on 1130 this afternoon.  It really makes the most sense if you're going to split UM and OSU up.  People are stuck on the whole Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota together thing, but if they're willing to split up UM and OSU, those three can compromise too.  Basically, Iowa is not going to get to play Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa every year.  It just doesn't work.  

So "rivalry week" at the end of the season would end up being...

Michigan - Nebraska, Minnesota - Wisconsin, MSU - Northwestern, Indiana - Purdue, OSU - PSU, and Iowa - Illinois.  

If all goes back to "normal" you could theoretically have de facto semi-finals in the UM/Neb and OSU/PSU games.  

Blue in Seattle

August 24th, 2010 at 1:16 AM ^

while obsessing about this last night I analyzed the last 17 years and averaged out the final standings for all Big Ten teams.  For Nebraska I used their all time winning percentage, which puts them third (they have a better all time average than PSU)

I had a chart and everything, but now you've ruined that.

Seriously though, this is how I see it as well, with the exception that either there is two weeks between the last regular game and the championship (which means no week off in the middle) or they schedule in a Hawaii like game just before the championship.

I think that people greatly underestimate the amount of hate between Ohio and Michigan, and that it started before they played football.  Which is a long long time ago, since the first game between these two teams was played on October 16th, 1897.

PSU-OSU is NOT going to eclipse THE GAME,

I suggest everyone go to Amazon and grab a copy of "The 100-Yard War", and then you'll realize that not only do we Hate Ohio State, but as the Leaders and Best, we were the first bastards, and I quote from "The 100 Yard War"

"No one at Regents Field on October 16th, 1897 could have possibly known that the first meeting between these two football teams would inaugurate a series of unforgettable games, one of the greatest rivalries in sports, and a century of drama that would play out over the next hundred years and beyond. But what the fans who packed into the 4-year-old athletic field down on South State Street did know was this: Michigan kicked Ohio State's ass."

and how badly did we kick their 19th century asses?

"[at halftime] The game was already in the bag at 34-0 [TD's were 4 points, then]...when OSU came out in the second half, they were in for an even bigger surprise: disrespect.

Michigan not only took out their starting players, but they proceeded to punt the ball on first down on just about every possession.  The next day the newspaper justified Michigan's actions by saying they needed to give their defense some practice...OSU managed nothing more than a 5-yard gain in the rest of the game..the final score was the same as the halftime tally: 34-0"

And you guys probably thought Woody started the hate with, "Coach, with the score 48-14 why did you go for 2 points?"

"Because I couldn't go for 3"

yeah, you guys are probably right, the tradition that lasted for over 100 years is all over because we're not in the same division.

oh yeah, and get off my lawn!




August 24th, 2010 at 3:11 AM ^

PSU-OSU is NOT going to eclipse THE GAME

If those two teams are in the same division, and they play on the last week of the season, it absolutely will - and much faster that you'd ever think. 

A big part of the tradition of UM-OSU involves the two teams deciding each others' fate on that last Saturday of the season.  If we're in separate divisions, that goes out the window.  A loss in a cross-division game doesn't matter if you clean up within your division.  OTOH, a loss to a divisional rival can be devastating.  Consequently, those become your most important games.  Cross-divisional games are almost nonconference games.  They simply don't mean as much.  We'll be playing OSU for pride.  PSU will play them for the division title.   


August 24th, 2010 at 8:08 AM ^

OU-Nebraksa turned into mush and nothingness (not because they didn't play every year but because it, ultimately, didn't mean much since they were in different divisions) and the OU-UT game grew to, arguably, the biggest rivalry in CFB (yeah, I know, if we'd just win a few it wouldn't be but over the past 5+ years that game has meant more, sadly, to the national landscape than OSU-UM has and, as they say, the mob is fickle so 5+ years is about all they can handle).  Right now we're the equiavlent of UT-A&M, if you move that game to seperate divisions it won't mean much of anything because you can't ruin each others seasons and, ultimately, hate is one of  the things that makes a rivalry strong.


August 24th, 2010 at 2:17 PM ^

It's the time off that killed NU/OU, not the divisional setup. Think about it: with a two season "off" rotation, that's three calendar years between games. It's hard to keep a good frothy hate going over that kind of time span. You would be correct to point out that the divisional setup caused the time off, but being in separate divisions was really a very secondary point.

What also didn't help was that each year since the inception of the Big 12, with the exception of 2000 and 2001, one of NU or OU was terrible - that had a bit of a dampening effect, too.

Edward Khil

August 23rd, 2010 at 10:13 PM ^

Geographical contiguousness is a distant third consideration, from everything Delany and the ADs have been saying.  Competitive balance is going to shift back and forth through the years.  But start with splitting the Big Four, and splitting Wisconsin and Iowa.  MSU is with Michigan; Gophers on the other side (making the Jug game that much more sweet when it happens).  Finally, you put Purdue and Indiana on one side, and Illinois and Northwestern on the other (a nod to geography).  If you don't worry much about contiguousness, there are a lot of ways to plan for competitive balance.


August 23rd, 2010 at 10:30 PM ^


If all of the league's primary rivalries are set up as protected cross-division games, the divisions can look pretty even.


Michigan - OSU

MSU - Penn State

Nebraska - Iowa

Wisconsin - Minnesota

Illinois - Northwestern

Indiana - Purdue


This keeps all but one existing permanent rivalry (Nebraska - Iowa replaces Wisconsin - Iowa) and provides plenty of competitive balance.  

Snidely Doo Rash

August 24th, 2010 at 10:48 PM ^

I came to the same conclusion and posted after so I wanted to chime in and point you.   Neb being the NKOTB has no say so k no w how.  They need to get spanked and spangled hard the year/decade they enter the conference.  Iowa and Wisconsin can see this in a plus in different ways--Iowa gets a marquis matchup and Wisco gets the Hopkins stare and waits for the coaches command to devour the cuptakes.  Minnesota with its new stadium should have something to say about this thanks to Belimna.  And I recall, this game is for the axe which is my favorite one that's not a MI tilt.  Go Gophers unless it's us. 

As you were, play ball. 

Edward Khil

August 23rd, 2010 at 10:34 PM ^

But UM and OSU with a protected cross-divisional rivalry on the last weekend of the regular season is the way to go.  A rematch a week later will only happen every 6-8 years at most, and would be sweet when it happens.  But spoiling the others' season by knocking them out of the BTC game would happen much more often.  NOT moving The Game is a no-brainer, or so one would think.

The other season-ending cross-divisional rivalries would be Nebraska-PSU, Iowa-Wisconsin, and after that, who cares?

When Notre Dame joins the Big "Ten," it'll be so much easier, because they'll naturally be slotted in as Michigan's first B10 opponent of the year.


August 24th, 2010 at 3:15 AM ^

Why cross-divisional?  If it's knocking the other team out of the BTC that you're after, you should want the two to be in the same division, so that only one can advance.  If we're in two separate divisions and we play the last week, a lot of times the Game won't affect the standings at all, since all the intradivisional games would have already been played.  Division games are where it's at.  That's where rivalries belong. 


August 23rd, 2010 at 10:35 PM ^

OSU/Mich split, then I have:

OSU, PSU, Iowa, Illinois, Indy, Purdue

Mich, Neb, Wisky, MSU, Minn, NW

If OSU/Mich stay together:

Mich, OSU, Iowa, MSU, Indy, Purdue

Neb, PSU, Wisky, Minn, Illinois, NW (essentially, you could mix and match the 4 Indiana and Illinois schools, 2 here and 2 there...)

one thing that has been missed by a few people when thinking of Tier 1, Tier 2, etc is that Iowa and Wisconsin stand alone as underneath the big 4 and above everyone else, so splitting them would be necessary for the best "competitive balance"


August 23rd, 2010 at 11:18 PM ^

Here's how I've imagined it. Form 4 pods of 3 (just for strength purposes)

Michigan OSU PSU Nebraska
Minnesota Illinois Iowa Wisconsin
MSU NW Indiana Purdue

These are for the most part based on the ranking of the schools, but some of them were moved around a bit to try to accommodate rivalries. Now, group any two pods together and you should have relatively equal divisions. Each team can then play one cross divisional rivalry from the same row.

Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, MSU, Purdue
OSU, PSU, Iowa, Illinois, NW, Indiana


Then when they go to 9 games, you play the last cross-divisional game in the same row


I personally like putting the Michigan and OSU pods together, but any of the 3 combinations will work.