Divisional Realignment and Proposed Schedule

Submitted by Seth on June 15th, 2010 at 10:46 AM

Well, now, that was fun, right?

For the duration of the next 10 minutes that the Big Ten is a 12-team conference, I thought I (as with everyone else on the board) would jump in with another divisional proposal.

Why should you take this divisional alignment more seriously than other divisional alignments?

Why, because:

  • Mine has statistics that show exactly how difficult each team's schedule will be for the next 10 years.
  • Mine has that exact schedule for the next 10 years.
  • Mine makes sure every real rivalry is played every year, except Illinois-Ohio State.
  • State groups (except Illinois/NW) and rival groups (Wis/Iowa/Minn) are preserved.
  • Mine makes sure you never go more than two seasons without seeing any conference opponent, and never see any opponent less than six times in 10 years.
  • Preserves "Rivalry Week" Week 13 games: Purdue-Indiana, Michigan-Ohio State, Iowa-Minnesota, Penn State-Michigan State (six years out of 10), and Illinois-Northwestern, and leaves Nebraska free that week to keep the Colorado rivalry going.
  • Kicks off the Big Ten season with minor rivalries like Nebraska-Iowa, Indiana-Michigan State, and Penn State-Minnesota.
  • Preserves opportunities to play Notre Dame early in the season for Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue (although in years they don't play Penn State, Michigan State will probably bump Michigan's game to Week 4).
  • You won't know this reading it, but unlike most divisional alignments, mine was written with an English accent.
  • This cool graphic:

A Ninth Conference Game

Adding a ninth game as a protected cross-divisional rivalry was the key in my mind to making a 12-team (if that's where it ends) conference work as a conference, rather than a loose partnership between two divisions. It freed me up to put rivals in separate divisions yet preserve their annual game, and to make the divisions split evenly (relatively) in talent.

The upside of a ninth conference game is it keeps the schools closely tied, and gives BTN better programming early in the season (better to show Michigan/Nebraska than one or a split of Michigan/MACrifice and Nebraska/NE-Omaha).

The downside is it necessarily decreases the number of wins in the conference overall -- 12 games against non-conf. foes will likely be like 10-2 or 9-3 for the Big Ten, whereas another conference game will total exactly 6-6 -- thus hurting the conference's overall BCS rating.

The Pac11Ten currently plays nine conference games. They are a separate case entirely, but it's well to point out that, despite what it may say in the record books, USC went to a lot of BCS championship games playing nine conference opponents. The extra losses probably cost them some bowl eligibility at the bottom, which fans won't mourn an erstwhile 6-6 team that finishes 5-7 but the conference certainly will.

How It Was Made

I broke my conferences up exactly how Delany described, starting by listing competitive balance on a tier level, then protecting rivalries, then geography. Before shouting, wait to see the protected rivalries in the ninth game.

First, I split the entire conference up into six Competitive Balance tiers. These tiers will serve as a value for calculating the expected difficulty of playing any of these teams over a 10-year span. They were assigned tier levels by recent and historical success, and duh -- if you want to dispute duh you are welcome to do so. The tiers as follows:

Tier 1: Michigan, Ohio State
Tier 2: Nebraska, Penn State
Tier 3: Wisconsin, Iowa
Tier 4: Purdue, Mich St.
Tier 5: Minnesota, Illinois
Tier 6: Northwestern, Indiana

So splitting those up we get:

1 2
Michigan (1) Ohio State (1)
Nebraska (2) Penn State (2)
Wisconsin (3) Iowa (3)
Mich St. (4) Purdue (4)
Minnesota (5) Illinois (5)
Indiana (6) Northwestern (6)

What I hate about his is Iowa is separated from Wisconsin, Nebraska and Minnesota. So lets do some trading, but keep things fair: trade Nebraska (T2) and Indiana (T6) to the Woody division for Illinois (T5) and Iowa (T3):

Bo Woody
Michigan (1) Ohio State (1)
Wisconsin (3) Nebraska (2)
Iowa (3) Penn State (2)
Mich St. (4) Purdue (4)
Minnesota (5) Northwestern (6)
Illinois (5) Indiana (6)

I then decided on protected cross-divisional rivalries for each team, to be played the final week of the season (or rescheduled to an off-week if desired):

Michigan-Ohio St
Iowa-Nebraska
MSU-Indiana
Minn-PSU
Ill-NW

We end up with three of the top four programs in one division, but they get the return benefit of playing the conference's two weakest programs. Ultimately, though the rivals play each other every year, they do not come from the same schedules, and therefore the games are little harder to predict.

While different (the Woody, split between three haves and three have-nots will likely be a three-horse race every year, the Bo, with one power team and plenty of strong teams, will be more unpredictable)

This means there are five divisional opponents plus one static rival that each team plays every year, for a static schedule as follows:

Bo Division:

  Michigan Wisconsin Iowa Mich St. Minnesota Illinois
Div 1 Wisconsin Iowa Mich St. Minnesota Illinois Michigan
Div 2 Iowa Mich St. Minnesota Illinois Michigan Wisconsin
Div 3 Mich St. Minnesota Illinois Michigan Wisconsin Iowa
Div 4 Minnesota Illinois Michigan Wisconsin Iowa Mich St.
Div 5 Illinois Michigan Wisconsin Iowa Mich St. Minnesota
Rival Ohio State Purdue Nebraska Indiana Penn State Northwestern

 

Woody Division:

  Ohio State Nebraska Penn State Purdue Northwestern Indiana
Div 1 Nebraska Penn State Purdue Northwestern Indiana Ohio State
Div 2 Penn State Purdue Northwestern Indiana Ohio State Nebraska
Div 3 Purdue Northwestern Indiana Ohio State Nebraska Penn State
Div 4 Northwestern Indiana Ohio State Nebraska Penn State Purdue
Div 5 Indiana Ohio State Nebraska Penn State Purdue Northwestern
Rival Michigan Iowa Minnesota Wisconsin Illinois Mich St.

This gives each school a six-game annual conference schedule from between 3.00 to 4.00, meaning the max difference between regular schedules is that between playing nine Iowas instead of nine Purdues every year.

Considering the effect that the ups and downs of each program has, I would say this is a pretty acceptable level. Michigan's schedule is just as hard as Ohio State's; Penn State's locked-in schedule is the easiest:

Team Opp. AVG diff
Minnesota 3.00
Indiana 3.17
Iowa 3.33
Purdue 3.33
Northwestern 3.33
Michigan 3.50
Ohio State 3.50
Wisconsin 3.67
Illinois 3.67
Nebraska 3.67
Mich St. 3.83
Penn State 4.00

Remember, this isn't the final word on schedule strength, just the difficulty of the schedule that will be locked in every year. It doesn't say how hard each year will be, just that Penn State, for example, should not complain that their division contains Nebraska and OSU because those may be the only tough games they play all year. Minnesota can complain, but since when did people from Minnesota ever complain?

 

Adding Cross-Divisional Games

The way to finish this is to make sure the rest of the conference schedule will not undo all of this parity by, for example, giving Michigan Nebraska, Penn State and Purdue the same year that Iowa gets to skip Ohio State and Penn State. In this, we make sure the teams are spaced evenly in the rotation (something the Big Ten originally did when it added Penn State but it backfired when Northwestern got hard and Iowa tanked in the late '90s). Then it follows the same 10-year cycle that the Big Ten currently uses.

In this system, every conference rival is assigned an opponent number. So for Michigan, opponents are as follows:

X1: Northwestern
X2: Nebraska
X3: Indiana
X4: Penn State
X5: Purdue
Divisional 1: Illinois
Divisional 2: Iowa
Divisional 3: Wisconsin
Divisional 4: Mich St.
Divisional 5: Minnesota
X-Rivalry: Ohio State

This is basically your annual schedule, with two of the X games being absent, and the cross-divisional rivalry being played either in Week 4 or Week 13.

The X games are the opposite divisional games that switch off, so that in 2011 and 2012, we don't play our X4 and X5, in 2013-14 we don't play X1 and X2, in 2015-16 we skip X3 and X4, in 2017-18 it's X5 and X1, and in 2019-20 it's X2 and X3.

This way you will face every opponent at least six times in a decade, and never go more than two seasons without seeing a conference rival. For divisional rivals, it also establishes set weeks each season that you will face a certain team, which I think gives the schedule a bit more traditionalist feel if, e.g., Michigan and Michigan State always meet the first weekend of November, or the Little Brown Jug game is always played the week before Thanksgiving.

The way I have the schedules worked out, the full conference schedules end up varying year by year, but ultimately the variance is within one level: The hardest a schedule ever gets is 3.00 (for Northwestern in 2015-16, and Iowa and Minnesota in 2017-18), and the easiest it ever gets is 4.00 (for Nebraska in 2018-19, Wisconsin in 2017-18, and Penn State in 2011-12).

All told, the difficulty of each members' 10-year conference schedule is more affected by how good that team is more than anything else (Michigan, Penn State, Nebraska, and Ohio State are bunched at the easy end because they can't have to play themselves).

Rank School Avg. Difficulty 2011-12 2013-14 2015-16 2017-18 2019-20
1 Indiana 3.24 3.11 3.11 3.56 3.11 3.33
2 Minnesota 3.27 3.22 3.56 3.22 3.00 3.33
3 Northwestern 3.29 3.22 3.56 3.00 3.56 3.11
4 Purdue 3.42 3.56 3.22 3.33 3.56 3.44
5 Illinois 3.44 3.56 3.22 3.44 3.78 3.22
6 Iowa 3.49 3.56 3.44 3.78 3.00 3.67
7 Mich St. 3.56 3.33 3.56 3.44 3.78 3.67
8 Wisconsin 3.58 3.44 3.56 3.44 4.00 3.44
9 Nebraska 3.64 3.44 3.78 3.56 3.44 4.00
10-tie Ohio State 3.67 3.67 3.67 3.78 3.67 3.56
10-tie Michigan 3.67 3.89 3.67 3.67 3.44 3.67
12 Penn St. 3.73 4.00 3.67 3.78 3.67 3.56

Most years, the schedules are fairly equivalent. Furthermore, the teams who tend to get outlyingly hard or easy schedules are those who have been historically worse at football. To those who care about schedule strength (Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State) the most, they have the least to complain about or be complained about. For those who get screwed the most (Indiana) they have the most to gain from having the bigger conference opponents visit more often.

To see how this plays out, follow the charts (higher is easier):

Bo Division:

 

Woody Division:

 

When We Play

In ordering the schedule, I put the three cross-divisional games first, followed by the divisional lineup, and then finally the Rivalry Week game. Other things preserved are Iowa and Wisconsin playing the 2nd to last week of the Big Ten season, IU/ILL at the end of the year, and several rivalry trophies.

I built the schedule originally into a 12-week program, then expanded by one week at the beginning of the season (the conference season is played in approximately the same time period today). Some of the cross-divisional static rivalries were moved to Week 4 to accomodate other rivalry games that week. This ended up pretty cool, since it allowed the Big Ten season to kick off with some trophies (Indiana-MSU) and foster new early-season rivalries (Iowa-Nebraska) that won't have to replace or interfere with more classic end-of-year matchups like Indiana-Purdue, Iowa-Minnesota, or Nebraska-Colorado.

Also, a few notes on Notre Dame scheduling: the 9th conference game means ND will have to accomodate teams when they are available, but there's really little that will change about the Irish's Michigan/MSU/Purdue lineup, except for when they play Purdue. Michigan fits nicely as Week 2 each year as is tradition. Michigan State can be Week 5 (I don't think they'll mind having Indiana as an annual tuneup first) on the six years they play Penn State; otherwise they will need to be Week 3 (their normal spot). For those four seasons that MSU doesn't play Penn State, there are several options: Purdue can play Notre Dame Week 8 (in the middle of the Big Ten schedule) or Week 1, or else convince Michigan to move their game to Week 4.

As such, I give to you your next decade of Big Ten scheduling:*

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* Except 3 seconds after this is posted there will be four more Big Ten teams, and the conference will have an entirely different name, and Delany will have superpowers. But it was fun while it lasted.

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2011-12 Bo Division:

Week Michigan Illinois Iowa MSU Minnesota Wisconsin
4 x x Nebraska Indiana Penn St. Purdue
5 Northwestern Nebraska Indiana x Purdue Ohio State
6 Nebraska Indiana Penn St. Purdue Ohio State Northwestern
7 Indiana Penn St. Purdue Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska
8 Illinois Michigan x Wisconsin x MSU
9 Iowa Wisconsin Michigan Minnesota MSU Illinois
10 Wisconsin Minnesota MSU Iowa Illinois Michigan
11 MSU Iowa Illinois Michigan Wisconsin Minnesota
12 Minnesota MSU Wisconsin Illinois Michigan Iowa
13 Ohio State Northwestern Minnesota Penn St. Iowa x

2011-12 Woody Division:

Week Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska Indiana Penn St. Purdue
4 x x Iowa MSU Minnesota Wisconsin
5 Wisconsin Michigan Illinois Iowa x Minnesota
6 Minnesota Wisconsin Michigan Illinois Iowa MSU
7 MSU Minnesota Wisconsin Michigan Illinois Iowa
8 Northwestern Ohio State Penn St. x Nebraska x
9 Nebraska Indiana Ohio State Northwestern Purdue Penn St.
10 Indiana Penn St. Purdue Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska
11 Penn St. Purdue Indiana Nebraska Ohio State Northwestern
12 Purdue Nebraska Northwestern Penn St. Indiana Ohio State
13 Michigan Illinois x Purdue MSU Indiana

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2013-14 Bo Division:

Week Michigan Illinois Iowa MSU Minnesota Wisconsin
4 x x Nebraska Indiana Penn St. Purdue
5 Indiana Penn St. Purdue Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska
6 Penn St. Purdue Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska Indiana
7 Purdue Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska Indiana Penn St.
8 Illinois Michigan x Wisconsin x MSU
9 Iowa Wisconsin Michigan Minnesota MSU Illinois
10 Wisconsin Minnesota MSU Iowa Illinois Michigan
11 MSU Iowa Illinois Michigan Wisconsin Minnesota
12 Minnesota MSU Wisconsin Illinois Michigan Iowa
13 Ohio State Northwestern Minnesota x Iowa x

2013-14 Woody Division:

Week Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska Indiana Penn St. Purdue
4 x x Iowa MSU Minnesota Wisconsin
5 MSU Minnesota Wisconsin Michigan Illinois Iowa
6 Iowa MSU Minnesota Wisconsin Michigan Illinois
7 Illinois Iowa MSU Minnesota Wisconsin Michigan
8 Northwestern Ohio State Penn St. x Nebraska x
9 Nebraska Indiana Ohio State Northwestern Purdue Penn St.
10 Indiana Penn St. Purdue Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska
11 Penn St. Purdue Indiana Nebraska Ohio State Northwestern
12 Purdue Nebraska Northwestern Penn St. Indiana Ohio State
13 Michigan Illinois x Purdue x Indiana

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2015-16 Bo Division:

Week Michigan Illinois Iowa MSU Minnesota Wisconsin
4 x x Nebraska Indiana Penn St. Purdue
5 Northwestern Nebraska Indiana x Purdue Ohio State
6 Nebraska Indiana Penn St. Purdue Ohio State Northwestern
7 Purdue Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska Indiana Penn St.
8 Illinois Michigan x Wisconsin x MSU
9 Iowa Wisconsin Michigan Minnesota MSU Illinois
10 Wisconsin Minnesota MSU Iowa Illinois Michigan
11 MSU Iowa Illinois Michigan Wisconsin Minnesota
12 Minnesota MSU Wisconsin Illinois Michigan Iowa
13 Ohio State Northwestern Minnesota Penn St. Iowa x

2015-16 Woody Division:

Week Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska Indiana Penn St. Purdue
4 x x Iowa MSU Minnesota Wisconsin
5 Wisconsin Michigan Illinois Iowa x Minnesota
6 Minnesota Wisconsin Michigan Illinois Iowa MSU
7 Illinois Iowa MSU Minnesota Wisconsin Michigan
8 Northwestern Ohio State Penn St. x Nebraska x
9 Nebraska Indiana Ohio State Northwestern Purdue Penn St.
10 Indiana Penn St. Purdue Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska
11 Penn St. Purdue Indiana Nebraska Ohio State Northwestern
12 Purdue Nebraska Northwestern Penn St. Indiana Ohio State
13 Michigan Illinois x Purdue MSU Indiana

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2017-18 Bo Division:

Week Michigan Illinois Iowa MSU Minnesota Wisconsin
4 x x Nebraska Indiana Penn St. Purdue
5 Nebraska Indiana Penn St. Purdue Ohio State Northwestern
6 Indiana Penn St. Purdue Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska
7 Penn St. Purdue Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska Indiana
8 Illinois Michigan x Wisconsin x MSU
9 Iowa Wisconsin Michigan Minnesota MSU Illinois
10 Wisconsin Minnesota MSU Iowa Illinois Michigan
11 MSU Iowa Illinois Michigan Wisconsin Minnesota
12 Minnesota MSU Wisconsin Illinois Michigan Iowa
13 Ohio State Northwestern Minnesota x Iowa x

2017-18 Woody Division:

Week Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska Indiana Penn St. Purdue
4 x x Iowa MSU Minnesota Wisconsin
5 Minnesota Wisconsin Michigan Illinois Iowa MSU
6 MSU Minnesota Wisconsin Michigan Illinois Iowa
7 Iowa MSU Minnesota Wisconsin Michigan Illinois
8 Northwestern Ohio State Penn St. x Nebraska x
9 Nebraska Indiana Ohio State Northwestern Purdue Penn St.
10 Indiana Penn St. Purdue Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska
11 Penn St. Purdue Indiana Nebraska Ohio State Northwestern
12 Purdue Nebraska Northwestern Penn St. Indiana Ohio State
13 Michigan Illinois x Purdue x Indiana

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2019-20 Bo Division:

Week Michigan Illinois Iowa MSU Minnesota Wisconsin
4 x x Nebraska Indiana Penn St. Purdue
5 Northwestern Nebraska Indiana x Purdue Ohio State
6 Penn St. Purdue Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska Indiana
7 Purdue Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska Indiana Penn St.
8 Illinois Michigan x Wisconsin x MSU
9 Iowa Wisconsin Michigan Minnesota MSU Illinois
10 Wisconsin Minnesota MSU Iowa Illinois Michigan
11 MSU Iowa Illinois Michigan Wisconsin Minnesota
12 Minnesota MSU Wisconsin Illinois Michigan Iowa
13 Ohio State Northwestern Minnesota Penn St. Iowa x

2019-20 Woody Division:

Week Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska Indiana Penn St. Purdue
4 x x Iowa MSU Minnesota Wisconsin
5 Wisconsin Michigan Illinois Iowa x Minnesota
6 Iowa MSU Minnesota Wisconsin Michigan Illinois
7 Illinois Iowa MSU Minnesota Wisconsin Michigan
8 Northwestern Ohio State Penn St. x Nebraska x
9 Nebraska Indiana Ohio State Northwestern Purdue Penn St.
10 Indiana Penn St. Purdue Ohio State Northwestern Nebraska
11 Penn St. Purdue Indiana Nebraska Ohio State Northwestern
12 Purdue Nebraska Northwestern Penn St. Indiana Ohio State
13 Michigan Illinois x Purdue MSU Indiana

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At the end of the season, they can play a game at a neutral site (Ford Field or similar) between the two divisional champs to decide the conference champion.

fin.

Comments

maizenbluenc

June 15th, 2010 at 11:46 AM ^

I am still not wild about playing OSU twice in a season, but short of Penn State on an island way east of the west, I'm not seeing how we do it otherwise.

Have you looked at the some of the other datapoints out there? Corn Nation points to a few of them, and Black Shoe Diaries set up some data for debate (which has the following alarming graphic - the yellow line in decline be us).

Yikes!

But beyond yikes, it shows you in fact have placed the current "top three" by black shoe's measures in the Woody division.

Seth

June 15th, 2010 at 1:26 PM ^

I saw that, and it's a neat study.

In my ranking, I tried to discern potential, based on the program strength extratpolated into the future. Nebraska's fortunes, I'm predicting, will take a Penn State-ish dive after a few years of competing against the Big Ten. This conference gets underrated nationally, but its strength is obvious when you see what we managed to do to a national power when it joined.

I'm also predicting that Penn State won't keep Paterno around forever, and that their small-class model will break down for them when they hit a big piece of attrition. I have a lot less confidence in them in 2010 and 2011.

Meanwhile, for all of its struggles the last few seasons, Michigan as a brand and a program has not lost its national potency. Furthermore, I found that splitting the divisions so that each has two big-time programs actually created less parity. The reason is because the protected rivalries are totally uneven. Using my splits, the rivalries are able to balance out the schedules by making sure every otgher team plays at least three of Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska and Penn State every season.

The media reaction is to focus on the top of the conference, which makes some sense because that's who you are expecting to populate the conference championship game. But that's also exactly how other sport institutions have previously screwed up their divisional/conference/etc. splits. If you make the tops even, but then one side has much tougher opponents than the other, you end up with two super programs with an easy four, and then a mix of mediums on the other side (see the Big XII's last alignment).

If Ohio State goes 1-1 against Nebraska and Penn State and sweeps the rest of its schedule (including Michigan), that should be plenty. If Nebraska's only loss was to Ohio State, that's still a BCS bid. On the other side, Michigan still always has at least Ohio State and one of Nebraska/Penn State on its schedule, because of the rivalry game. Then it has to contend with both Iowa and Wisconsin every year, while OSU, PSU and Neb get one of each other, then Purdue. At quick glance, it doesn't look good, but when you play it out, it's pretty damn even.

JeepinBen

June 15th, 2010 at 11:51 AM ^

Seriously, Front Page this and email it to Delany and Rittenberg.

And send the Big Ten a resume.... this is the best idea I've heard in a while.

I +1'd you for the Robin Hood Men In Tights reference, and the post kept getting better and better

TrppWlbrnID

June 15th, 2010 at 11:55 AM ^

because this is all about money, for Michigan (and the other super stadium B10 teams) to give up a home game takes, very conservatively and simplified, at least $5,000,000 in ticket prices alone out of thier pocket ($50x100,000).  The actual dollars are probably much much larger when you add in concessions, advertising, parking, etc.  i don't know how much they have to pay to the opponents or if that changes for B10 conference opponents.

i think the above is incredibly sensible, but i can't see a lot of teams, incl UM, letting go of an almost automatic win for a tough conference game.  how many coaches jobs rest on the difference between 5 and 6 wins with a bowl?

joeyb

June 15th, 2010 at 12:06 PM ^

I think 9 games is the most sensible way to handle this. However, the more teams you play annually, the less you see the other teams in a 10 year span. In FA's proposal, you only play 3 teams every year, but you are guaranteed that you never go more than 1 year without playing a team and you would play every team at least 6 times in 9 years.

They are essentially the same suggestion, but FA doesn't allow us to play Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Indiana every year so we can play the other teams more often. I think that would be the better way to go.

Captain

June 15th, 2010 at 12:12 PM ^

Once this diary is inevitably posted on ESPN, CNN, MSN, and Nickelodeon, your status as the most widely-read (unpaid?) poster on this board will be solidified.

Njia

June 15th, 2010 at 12:15 PM ^

I was on the fence when you wrote this:

Unlike most divisional alignments, mine was written with an English accent.

But this sold me:

EverybodyMurders

June 15th, 2010 at 12:48 PM ^

I'm just not too fond of UM and OSU in separate divisions. As a Michigan fan I just don't like the idea of hypothetically playing OSU the last game of the season, then they both win their division and play 2 weeks later in a championship game. I guess I just wish it was the old days where that one game determined everything

Seth

June 15th, 2010 at 1:07 PM ^

I would have been fine with it in 2006; I'll be fine with it now.

Besides, Michigan meeting Ohio State twice in a row would mean Michigan topped our division, and if it's after a loss then that would mean Michigan came in so far atop our division that we were still Bo Division Champs afterward.

Not the worst problem to have.

If there's a championship game, then there will be teams that meet again.

Another option is to not have a championship game, to play out this schedule and then have a Plus-One or Plus-Two optional matchup to determine ties between teams that didn't play each other, only to be used when one game would settle the score either way.

But I think the Big Ten wants its championship game, which either means having the best two programs in the conference in the same division, or splitting them up.

Of course, a championship game wouldn't necessarily solve everything. Again, use 2006, but say Michigan won that game, in Ohio Stadium. Then say we had a conference championship game where Michigan and Ohio State played each other again, and OSU won it. Now we're really in a pickle, since there's a strong case to be made that these are the best two teams in the country, yet they've already played twice in a row. In that case, when I think about it, hell yes I want a rubber match in the National Championship game, and I think we have a more compelling case now for it since they're back to Square One.

That's all thinking way out ahead, though. In a century, the #1-#2 thing only happened once. What's far more likely, with Penn State and Nebraska in OSU's division and Iowa and Wisconsin and every dark horse lurking in Michigan's, is that the winner of The Game will represent his division, while the loser falls back in the pack.

Besides, a championship game will most likely mean that somebody sees a team twice a season, might as well be the conference's best rivalry.

UMaD

June 15th, 2010 at 2:00 PM ^

I don't like rematches in general, but with 12 teams and a tile game its going to happen.  But we're talking about a special situation here and a special rivalry that should be protected from being compromised.

The potential nightmare situation that must be avoided in any scenario is UM-OSU being irrelevant.  Imagine a UM-OSU game where both have clinched  a spot in the conference title game in advance of the UM-OSU game. Unlikely or infrequent as it may be, this situation can not happen. It is a nightmare.  Imagine in 2006 if we knew, in advance, that win or lose, a rematch of UM-OSU would happen in the bowl game.  Why risk an injury to your QB?  Why show your full playbook?  Why do anything that risks losing a more meaningful game during one where you have little or nothing to lose? [The "this game will always matter" argument is weak. You don't blow a shot at the conference title or a potential national championship just for 2 weeks of bragging rights unless you're an idiot.]

This can't happen.  OSU and UM have to be in the same division (for football) to preserve significance of THE GAME.

Blue in Seattle

June 15th, 2010 at 2:12 PM ^

Consider the build up to the Superbowl of the Patriots vs the Giants.

no one had a problem saying the Giants were the champions, and the fact that the Patriots beat them on the last game of the regular season just added to the championship game.

the championship game is for all the marbles, it won't matter how you got there.

and if both teams can get there after one bloodied the other, then that rematch is a game I'm going to get pumped up about.

And although Michigan loses ticket sales from the loss of a cream-puff non home and home non conference game, there is the extra money and visibility of the championship game that is being added.

plus as someone mentioned, the additional conference game is additional awareness on BTN and in general strengthens the conference.

and to finally mention, also being able to say to the SEC, well we only play three cream puffs a year.

oops, sorry ND, I should have said, two cream puffs and a moldy tradition game against the team with the 2nd most, oops nope,  3rd most all time wins.

  Hey who's number 2 in all time wins???

oh yeah, Lone Star Texas is...

Atlanta_Blue

June 15th, 2010 at 4:48 PM ^

I think the excitement of two Michigan-OSU matchups in one season would be a windfall of attention and ratings for the BigTen, not to mention great fun for the fans.  And let's face it - it's not going to happen all that often.  Even putting aside our recent misfortune, running through the BigTen unscathed was tough in the past and just got tougher with NU in the fold. 

oakapple

June 15th, 2010 at 1:49 PM ^

Your plan is the best I’ve seen with nine conference games, but I doubt it’ll happen, and it certainly won’t happen in 2011.

As many people have noted, the traditionally mediocre-to-poor teams count on scheduling patsies to beef up their won/lost records. They would be trading an easy game for a tough one. Also, many Big Ten teams already have their 2011 non-conference slates booked. If the league ever goes to nine games, it would need to be announced several years in advance.

Purdue is a perfect illustration of both issues. The Boilermakers’ 2011 non-conference slate is Notre Dame, Southeast Missouri State, Rice, and Kent State. The Notre Dame game obviously won’t be dropped, so Purdue would give up one of the other three games, trading a high-likelihood win for at best a 50/50 shot.

Of course, it also means giving up home games. Michigan played its entire non-conference slate at home last year, and does so again in 2011. With an extra conference game, somebody is going on the road who could have been playing at home.

Seth

June 15th, 2010 at 2:29 PM ^

You make some great points. I could have written an entire post about the 9th game itself, but wanted to get to the meat.

If Purdue can't get out of playing Southeast Missouri State, the Southeast Missouri State has delusions of grandeur.

Winning is a consideration. What's a bigger consideration for the Big Ten? Money.

The economics of playing [Non-Cardinal Direction] [Name of City or State] [State/University/Institute of Technology] as I understand them are about $3 to $5 million (depending on stadium) for the host school, and $350,000 to $1 million (depending on school) for the buyout. So conservatively, $3 million per game, times 10 games, equals $30 million.

Now, let's say we're turning what would be 10 home games (because not everyone plays an FCS team) into five home and five away games.

The other two conf. games are a wash, since the conference gets the same for a home-and-home with Oregon St. as it would for another Big Ten game. Let's say that the five conference games, being much better attended, get $4 to $6 million each. The conference is thus dropping $30 million but picking up $25 million because of the greater worth of the conference game.

The rest of that $5 million: TV. Nobody's going to broadcast Purdue vs. Southeastern Missouri State, nor Wisconsin vs. the Western Rhode Island School for Mimes,* at least, not unless they're playing opposite Real Housewives of Omaha. But Purdue-Wisconsin is a potential national broadcast, and certainly fits a BTN afternoon timeslot. Ad dollars on a BTN broadcast of that game are at least $1 million better than the revenue generated by those teams simultaneously clubbing baby seals.

The Big Ten shares revenue, and the schools themselves are primary beneficiaries of increased advertising dollars for conference games. This makes a 9th conference game at least feasible as something the league would want. The teams at the bottom of the conference, for whom 5-7 or 6-6 means a great deal, will care about the winning aspect. But done as part of a conference realignment as a stated necessity for the league's cohesiveness, given the political aspect of giving fans better games, and with the financial aspect on our side, I could see this happening.

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* Okay, to be fair, if Wisconsin played a Mime school I would definitely watch!!!

Yostal

June 15th, 2010 at 1:42 PM ^

That is just some fantastic work in here.  I was skeptical when I saw the graphic divisions, but you sold it with the math!  I also like that you have Michigan the easy schedule they were promised for 2011.

M-Wolverine

June 15th, 2010 at 2:01 PM ^

One I'm not sure how the Pac-10 got around...other than the fact that USC was winning no matter what, so no one else could really complain, but-

Odd number of games mean uneven home and away games.  With 9, it's 5-4, or 4-5 (uh, duh). So, if you think the past seasons where who you play or don't...if you have OSU and PSU on the road or home...all that matter, man, people are going to bitch and moan about their chances when they have one less home game than another contender.

Pac-10 may have done it (got around it because it was at least a true round-robin?), but you need an even number of Big Ten games.  8 or 10.

Seth

June 15th, 2010 at 2:45 PM ^

It worked for the Big Ten for awhile. Before 1971 (when they added a Big Ten game to start off the season) there were 7 conference games.

There's room on a 12-game schedule for three non-conference games. If you schedule Notre Dame to be home when your conf schedule is 4-5, and pick two MACrifices for your other two non-conference games, that's 7 home games per year, one less than the Detroit Lions get.

I'm not saying the TV revenue of Nebraska/Michigan will make as much money as filling Michigan Stadium to 75 percent capacity against the Abraham Darby Specialist School for the Performing Arts, but it might, and it certainly outstrips whatever Minnesota brings in to play the Maharishi University of Management.

M-Wolverine

June 15th, 2010 at 5:58 PM ^

I never doubted that. I'm just saying the concern I bring up isn't money/home dates, but home games played vs. road games played, and being uneven for teams, and the competitive advantage/disadvantage that brings up. I imagine someone would have complained in 1971 if anyone but OSU and Michigan mattered; but they played each other.

M-Wolverine

June 15th, 2010 at 8:10 PM ^

Until you beat OSU but don't win the division because you have 2 losses because OSU got to play PSU at home that year with 5 home games, and we lost to PSU on the road with an extra road game. But all systems are going to have their problems. As I sai elsewhere, every solution will have someone complaining.

Seth

June 15th, 2010 at 11:09 PM ^

Yeah. I'm glad we're picking out the complaints now at least.

I'm imagining myself in that position, and yeah, I'd think that, but I also would probably refrain from throwing that out as an excuse outside of MGofellows at risk of getting sour graped.

Actually, it will probably be Penn State, not Ohio State we're complaining about. Look at their 2011-12 schedule. Now look at Nebraska's. When PSU is facing Michigan in the Big Ten Championship because the Huskers opened up their Big Ten membership with that hellacious run, they'll be coming at us with the combines.

Kilgore Trout

June 15th, 2010 at 2:01 PM ^

I love your process and logic for the schedule.  Nine games is the way to go in my opinion.  Someone above pointed out that teams would be losing money by dropping a home game every other year, but I think there's a reasonable chance that a good proportion of that money gets made back by vastly improving the quality and watchability of the games on the BTN.

 

I do have an issue with your tiers and divisions.  I think you have to put Northwestern in tier 5 and Minnesota in tier 6 if we're being realistic about a generation's worth of performance.  

 

If you're willing to put three of the top four historical performers in the same division, you may as well go with the logical east west split.

East: PSU, OSU, UM, MSU, Purdue, Indiana (avg tier: 3)

West: Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern (avg tier: 4)

 

Permanent Rivalries...

OSU - Illinois

UM - Minnesota

Kind of falls apart there.  Go for competitive balance I guess.  PSU - Nebraska would be nice, but I'm not sure it's fair that PSU has to play UM, OSU, and PSU every year.  I think this actually hits every rivalry in the conference.

 

BUT, if we want the top four to get split up, I think you have to keep UM and OSU together. The ninth game lets us get creative.

1:  UM, OSU, Purdue, Indiana, Northwestern, Illinois (avg tier: 3.67)

2: Nebraska, Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, MSU (avg tier: 3.33)

Permanent Rivalries:

UM - MSU

OSU - PSU

Wisconsin - Northwestern

Nebraska - Indiana 

Iowa - Illinois

Purdue - Minnesota

 

I admit the last three are weak, but that's a good thing, right?  We've covered all the rivalries to the point that we had to make a few up.  I think the only thing that gets missed is UM / Minnesota.  

 

I like your idea of having week 13 be the rivalry week, but in my system, you wouldn't use the permanent rivalries, you'd use the best ones, even if they were intradivision.  So week 13 would be...

UM - OSU

MSU - PSU

Purdue - Indiana

Illinois - Northwestern

Minnesota - Wisconsin

Iowa - Nebraska

 

So, basically, I love your logic and scheduling system, I like my divisions and rivalries better.

Seth

June 15th, 2010 at 3:09 PM ^

I like your thinking.

I started out trying to make something like what you had. In my spreadsheet, it was automatically filling in the schedule strengths and the variance shot way up. It actually gave Michigan an unfairly easy schedule, which I figured if a Michigan partisan is making this, probably would hurt my credibility.

If you look down at the actual schedules, I do have all of the big "Rivalry Week" rivalries played that week. I even got Iowa-Minnesota, and Iowa-Wisconsin the week before, which is the classic setup for that triumvirate. The key was that once the base schedule is made, it is very easy to manipulate rivalry games to a different part of the schedule. That's why Iowa-Nebraska is at the start of the year.

MSU-PSU is a contrived rivalry that I do not think is nearly as natural as Ohio State-Penn State. Minnesota isn't much better, but that allowed me to get MSU and Indiana to resume their trophy rivalry. Ask MSU if they want Indiana or Penn State: they'll say Indiana (after a quick reminiscence of T.J. Duckett). Ask Penn State, they won't care. Ask Minnesota, they'll invite you in for hot cocoa and be like "oh, so long as we play Wisconsin and Iowa sometime we can be wherever you need us to be donchya know."

Cause they're nice people. Occasional Jug thieves, but nice people.

Honestly, I'm more concerned about losing Illibuck than the Land Grant.

As for Northwestern, this is about program strength and institutional backing. Northwestern has had much more success on the field than their recruiting and budget and stadium should allow. This is surely to their credit, just as it is against Michigan's that we have underperformed our program level. Simply put, Michigan can get to more national recruits than Penn State or Nebraska. Illinois and Michigan State and Purdue can get to more than Northwestern. Since the divisional splits are long-term, I wanted to make sure that it was a resource-based split, not a recent performance-based one.

Hey, if you based it just off of the last two seasons, Michigan is a bottom-of-the-pack team. Except there's no bottom-of-the-pack team that is in every major high school in Florida, with pipelines in Cali and Texas and Louisiana. Minnesota, meanwhile, has a brand spankin' new outdoor stadium, and is one of the few markets that is actually growing in the Big Ten footprint, not to mention there's a bigger donor base they can work from, so resource-wise they far outstrip Northwestern. If Pat Fitzgerald continues the Wildcats' success, G-d bless him, 'cause he's doing it with a short stick.

I thought I answered this:

If you're willing to put three of the top four historical performers in the same division, you may as well go with the logical east west split.

As you pointed out, the divisions are then not even.

jlvanals

June 15th, 2010 at 8:28 PM ^

Hate to burst bubbles, but this proposal is not useful if we're focusing on division alignments that have a non-zero chance of ever existing.

I will bet anyone dollars to donuts this is the lineup:

East: UM, OSU, MSU, IU, Purdue, Penn State     West: Nebraska, UW, NW, Minn., Iowa, IL.  Why?

Ohio State only dominant team in the Big Ten

 We  need to stop deluding ourselves: we are not an elite program nationally or in the Big Ten anymore.  We last competed for a championship of any kind in 2006 (lost to OSU) and last won one in 2004, although granted we won the championship in 2003 as well and fell bass akwards into a clusterfuck of a co-championship in 2000.  To be frank, Iowa has almost as many big ten championships in the last 10 years (2) as we do and a pretty similar big ten conference record (49-31 Iowa to 53-27 Michigan).  If we're considering a 20 year profile, obviously we're a level above the Hawkeyes, but I really don't think that is very useful when engaging in a competitive balance analysis for 2011. 

Further, saying Penn State is a second tier team on par only with Nebraska is a little misleading.  Penn State was abysmal in the Big Ten from 2000-2004 (16-24) and certainly would not have been considered a conference powerhouse for  that half of the decade.  They were also 45-35 over the last 10 years and their 86-50 all time record in the big ten (.586 winning pct.) is not exactly impressive.  Wisconsin is 80-53 (very similar to Penn State) over the same period (since PSU joined the Big Ten, i.e. 1993), although Wisc. does lag  slightly behind again (43-37) in the past decade and Iowa is obviously slightly better than both of them. 

I therefore don't see how Wisconsin is a tier 3 school when PSU is tier 2 unless you guys really think 3 wins over 16 years, and 2 in the past 10, is statistically significant.  Further, in the past 10 years, even Iowa has been marginally better than PSU.  I would argue that Wisconsin, Nebraska, Penn State, Iowa and Michigan are all relatively on the same tier, if we are really considering the last 10 years.  I am willing to admit that Nebraska might be a tier above the others since it competed for a national championship in that time frame and won 3 national championships (counting both split and unanimous) in the last 20 years. 

More Accurate Tiers:

 The point here is simple: the only team in the big ten over a ten or twenty year period consistent enough to be considered "tier 1" is Ohio State, who has won or shared 8 of the last 20 big ten championships and has flat out dominated the big 10 since 2005.  The tiers should look something like this:  tier 1: Ohio State (top 5 program nationally); tier 2: Nebraska, Michigan (played for national championships in recent memory, has actually won conference in past decade, perrenial powers without many losing seasons in the decade), Tier 3: Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin (multiple 10 win seasons, competes for conference title at least every 2-3 years); tier 4: Purdue (teams who have at least won the big ten in recent memory and seem to consistently go bowling); tier 5 Northwestern,  Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota (bowling around 40% of the time, alternating good seasons with full implosion, sub .500 big ten record in the decade... hard to put Illini in here because of the big ten championship, but they've just been so awful in the other 80% of their recent seasons); tier 6 Indiana (no redeeming qualities for football besides antwaan randle el).  These aren't symetrical, but they do more accurately represent the teams' performance over the course of the last 10 years and the state of the modern Big Ten: no elite teams, but more depth than your average BCS conference and only one truly uncompetitive team year in and year out. 

Conclusion:

Even under my rubric, Misopogon's proposal is more balanced, but the point I'm trying to make is that the differences between Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and Penn State are not really evident in their conference records.  We are not an elite program any longer and, honestly, the Big Ten should be about as worried about putting Ohio State, Iowa and Penn State in the same division as it would be putting Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State together.  In any case, balancing Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State out with Purdue (40-40), Michigan State (32-48),  Indiana (20-60) isn't ridiculous and is almost exactly the same as the bottom 3 in my proposed West division Northwestern (38-42) Minnesota (30-50) and Illinois (27-53), although Illinois has gone to two BCS bowls in the last decade, so I would argue they are at least stronger than Indiana.  While the East is tougher, this is only because there is no one who is on par with Ohio State and balancing OSU is next to impossible without a batshit divisional setup which still will not produce any significant difference because of OSU's dominant position and the relative similarity between at least UM, Iowa, Wisconsin and Penn State. 

Seth

June 15th, 2010 at 11:05 PM ^

Dude, any board that has read Infinite Jest is not gonna tl;dr you.

Rather, we fisk.

Fisking:

Hate to burst bubbles, but this proposal is not useful if we're focusing on division alignments that have a non-zero chance of ever existing.

If it's the best proposal, is fair, preserves every rivalry anyone cares about while creating others, preserves the Big Ten schedule relatively intact for every team, and will make the Big Ten money, it's not impossible that the Big Ten will adopt it.

Ohio State only dominant team in the Big Ten

We  need to stop deluding ourselves: we are not an elite program nationally or in the Big Ten anymore.  We last competed for a championship of any kind in 2006 (lost to OSU) and last won one in 2004, although granted we won the championship in 2003 as well and fell bass akwards into a clusterfuck of a co-championship in 2000.

You're making the classic SEC mistake: taking last week's success as the definitive statement on each program's value, while denigrating even recent history. 2006 wasn't so long ago; in fact we have recruits from that season on this year's roster. More importantly, Michigan has the national profile and the financing that year-in, year-out keeps the top programs in reach of the top.

To be frank, Iowa has almost as many big ten championships in the last 10 years (2) as we do and a pretty similar big ten conference record (49-31 Iowa to 53-27 Michigan).  If we're considering a 20 year profile, obviously we're a level above the Hawkeyes, but I really don't think that is very useful when engaging in a competitive balance analysis for 2011.

NOT 2011, but 2011 through 2020! That's the fucking point. I'm sorry: pucking foint. The pucking foint is that we want this to be balanced long-term, so balanced in fact that if/when we add more teams or whatever, everyone freaks out because the current system is working so damn well. You say you're going off the last decade, but the last decade is only the icing on the cake that makes a major program. Nebraska and Penn State can't compare with Michigan in national recruiting, in being in every kid's early list before the letters start coming. Whether it's Rich Rod or the next guy, the brand drives Michigan, keeps the expectations high, keeps the best coaches and best players coming here.

Deluded would be treating Michigan as a lower tier program when we build the conferences because we've had a few down years recently. It would be like the Big XII thinking A&M was the only dominant team in the South, or thinking Kansas State et al. would remain uber programs. Texas was still a big deal, as was Oklahoma, but coming off...that's right...bad decades. Fortunately you weren't there to tell them the Aggies were gonna wipe the mat for the next 10 years.

Further, saying Penn State is a second tier team on par only with Nebraska is a little misleading.  Penn State was abysmal in the Big Ten from 2000-2004 (16-24) and certainly would not have been considered a conference powerhouse for  that half of the decade.  They were also 45-35 over the last 10 years and their 86-50 all time record in the big ten (.586 winning pct.) is not exactly impressive.  Wisconsin is 80-53 (very similar to Penn State) over the same period (since PSU joined the Big Ten, i.e. 1993), although Wisc. does lag  slightly behind again (43-37) in the past decade and Iowa is obviously slightly better than both of them. 

Again, you're looking at Ws and Ls and not at program potential. Penn State can recruit nationally, while Wisconsin and Iowa have had success through good coaching and training of players they've pulled from a much smaller footprint. Penn State doesn't have the name that Michigan has, but they spent decades as the biggest deal in the Northeast before they joined the Big Ten, and so long as they have Paterno, they will remain a big deal. Nebraska's the same thing.

The rest of your post basically repeats these same things, until you get to:

Even under my rubric, Misopogon's proposal is more balanced

Uhhh.....well if my proposal is better than the one you're proposing, then what's the poin....

but the point I'm trying to make is that the differences between Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and Penn State are not really evident in their conference records.  We are not an elite program any longer and, honestly, the Big Ten should be about as worried about putting Ohio State, Iowa and Penn State in the same division as it would be putting Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State together.  In any case, balancing Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State out with Purdue (40-40), Michigan State (32-48),  Indiana (20-60) isn't ridiculous and is almost exactly the same as the bottom 3 in my proposed West division Northwestern (38-42) Minnesota (30-50) and Illinois (27-53), although Illinois has gone to two BCS bowls in the last decade, so I would argue they are at least stronger than Indiana.  While the East is tougher, this is only because there is no one who is on par with Ohio State and balancing OSU is next to impossible without a batshit divisional setup which still will not produce any significant difference because of OSU's dominant position and the relative similarity between at least UM, Iowa, Wisconsin and Penn State. 

Pulling wins and losses is helpful. But the point is much simpler: if you look at only conference records for the last 10 years as your predictor of the next 10 years, then the Big Ten should consider Ohio State on a plane of its own, and everything from Iowa to Michigan as secondary things.

But that's not the best predictor of future success. If we've learned anything by watching Oklahoma, USC, Florida, Texas, Alabama, Miami (that Miami), Nebraska, Ohio State, etc. rise from the ashes to dominate college football for a time since the late '90s, it's that major historical programs maintain a spark. Notre Dame hasn't been "relevant" since Holtz, right? Except they were grabbing the best recruits in the nation just a few years ago, and this winter they nabbed the hottest coach in football who didn't even look back before abandoning a BCS team and kickin' it in clovers. Our last national championship was in '97 -- when was theirs?

Wins and Losses determine seasons, and winning can breed more winning certainly, but what really drives college football success, long-term, is money, and Michigan has a tit lot shot ... I mean a shit ton lot of it.

The spark can go out, but it won't just because we had Nick Sheridan as our quarterback for a season. Have a little faith in the brand, man.

jlvanals

June 16th, 2010 at 12:59 PM ^

You are truly both a gentleman and a scholar.  My only point was that, while your divisions are certainly more balanced, I don't think they produce so much more balance (I dont like the way that sounds, but can't think of another way of expressing that idea) as to justify splitting up UM and OSU.  Granted, you do deal with that problem elegantly in your proposal, but I still think the chance that OSU and Michigan would play in consecutive weeks, alone, might be enough to kill your idea from an institutional standpoint (i.e., the Big Ten). 

In any case, thanks for responding, especially in that depth, I don't disagree that Michigan has a stronger brand than Iowa or Wisconsin, but the real question is whether Delany (sp?) is taking brand into the equation that decides competitive balance, which I read more literally to mean recent performance.  I very well may be looking at this too myopically.   

joeyb

June 16th, 2010 at 10:18 AM ^

I figured out why your strength of schedule was basically the reverse tiers. For a tier 1 team, you are taking a tier 1 team out of the rotation on the schedule. The reason that Michigan and OSU aren't at the bottom of your list is because the two years that they would rotate off of each others' schedules, they are still playing each other which significantly brings the average down for them.

I propose that we group the teams into 3 tiers/4 pods:

Tier 1: Michigan(1), OSU(1), PSU(2), Nebraska(2)
Tier 2: Minnesota(5), Illinois(5), Wisconsin(3), Iowa(3)
Tier 3: MSU(4), Purdue(4), Indiana(6), Northwestern(6)

The first teams in each tier will be in a pod, the second teams will be in a pod, etc. You can see that the pods are very balanced. I rotated the 4's and 5's in the first two pods because my proposal is to have each team play every team in their pod and tier, then rotate the remaining teams on the schedule by pods so that we Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin, and Indiana in year one, then Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, and Northwestern in year two, etc.

Some might argue that this forces tier 1 teams to play a stronger schedule but it is in fact the exact opposite. This type of rotation guarantees that each team is playing exactly 3 teams from each tier every year. When a team is in a tier, they take themselves out of the rotation and are forced to play 3 out of 3 teams remaining in the tier.

 

I know that we would need divisions. There are three ways to handle this, but first we need to analyze the breakdown of the schedule.

There are two teams in your pod that you need to play. 1-1 (home-away)
Two pods of two teams means 1-1 in each pod. 3-3
Three teams in your tier. Either 4-5 or 5-4 depending on rotation.

The first two ideas for divisions depend on FA's idea of rotating pods to make divisions. In any given year you and the two teams in your tier, whose pods you play round robins with, will have either one 1-2 (home-away) team and two 2-1 teams or two 1-2 teams and one 2-1 team.

The first idea is to try to group the 2-1 teams together and the 1-2 teams together. This would mean that everyone in one division has a 4-5 home-away schedule and everyone in the other division has a 5-4 schedule. Then the championship game can be held at the 4-5 division winner's stadium so that the two division winners end up with a 5-5 record. This would only work 2 out of every 3 years because in the third year the 2-1 teams do not play round robins with each others' pods. In that case, group them however and have a neutral site game.

The second idea is to always have a mixture of 2-1 and 1-2 teams and always have a neutral site location. You could also look to see if one team has a 4-5 schedule while the other has a 5-4; if that's the case then the 4-5 team gets home field advantage. If they have even schedules the neutral site location. I'm not sure this would work well because they need to book venues in advance.

The third idea is to always pair the same two pods essentially making all of this meta into how it was created. This allows less flexibility because you essentially are adding two more teams as annual games and only rotate 2 teams on and two teams off. In this case, I would suggest the Michigan and Nebraska pods get linked so that Nebraska can play Minnesota every year and Michigan can play Iowa. This also makes it so that Michigan and OSU are in separate divisions.

In most cases I am against them being in separate divisions because I don't want them to play twice. However, if we know that between the two one will always have a 4-5 schedule and the other will have a 5-4 schedule, that would guarantee that Michigan if they were to meet up for the championship game, they would play at the other team's venue. Essentially, if you assume Michigan vs. OSU win their divisions every year, this would guarantee a home and home between them, which would be incredibly sweet.

Regardless of how divisions are assigned, I think you need to look at adding one more opponent from the same tier for each team so that everyone gets an equal schedule.

joeyb

June 16th, 2010 at 4:55 PM ^

They are in the same pods. Essentially, put them into a table and then each team plays every team in their row and column, then rotates between the other 6.

I did some analysis on it earlier because I was debating on breaking this out into yet another diary of its own. The average schedules strength you displayed above has a standard deviation of .17. Without swapping the 4s and 5s for more traditional rivalries, that drops to .07 and after the substitution it goes back up to .13.

At some point, those teams are interchangeable and with such small standard deviation in any case, it really doesn't matter. But, I still think this takes rivalries into account better.

MikeUM85

June 16th, 2010 at 11:27 AM ^

I love this proposal. The 9th game will be difficult to get done for reasons stated above, but nothing else I've seen comes even close to the balance of this proposal.

YoungWolverineFan

June 17th, 2010 at 6:33 PM ^

This is by far the best divisional setup i have seen on this site. You really put some time and effort into this post. Its nice to see people trying to make setups that work.