Scheduling Nebraska: Ranking the Big Ten Rivalries

Submitted by oakapple on June 14th, 2010 at 10:30 AM

Nebraska will begin Big Ten play in the fall of 2011, and the Internets are full of proposals for splitting the twelve-team conference into two divisions. Many of those proposals are fundamentally flawed, either because they are parochial (obviously to one school’s advantage), or because they ignore what Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney has already said about the conference’s priorities.

In the press conference welcoming Nebraska to the Big Ten, Delaney said that divisional alignment would be based on competitive balance, protecting rivalries, and geography, in that order. He also said that some rivalries are more important than others.

By putting geography third, Delaney sent a clear signal that an east–west split is highly unlikely. As many commenters have noted, that arrangement would put three of the conference's four traditional powers—Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State—in the same division.

A north–south alignment seems equally unlikely. There isn't a huge difference in latitude between the northernmost and southernmost schools in the conference. No one in Illinois thinks of a trip to Michigan as “going north,” even if that’s literally true. It would be an awfully odd way to split up, if geography is the commissioner’s bottom priority.

Last year, three BCS leagues had twelve teams in two six-team divisions: the SEC, the ACC, and the Big XII. All three used the same scheduling formula: teams play all five members of their own division annually, plus three of six in the opposite division on a rotating basis, for a total of eight conference games. This is the most straightforward scheduling plan. It preserves the same number of league games that Big Ten teams play today, and it also ensures that every team plays all of the others reasonably often.

If we assume this format for the Big Ten in 2011, then Michigan and Ohio State will probably be in one division, Nebraska and Penn State in the other. This is the only arrangement that ensures the Wolverines and Buckeyes will play The Game every year. Putting the two in opposite divisions would either eliminate The Game as an annual affair, or create other scheduling headaches. There is simply no good reason to put Michigan and Ohio State in different divisions. Penn State and Nebraska may be at opposite geographic poles, but the commissioner has already said that geography is his last priority.

With the traditional powers evenly divided and geography a minimal concern, the remaining eight teams will probably be divided up based on rivalries, and the commissioner said that some are more important than others. Let us consider, then, how the rivalries might be ranked.

Two groups of rivalries are probably at the bottom of the heap: those that are not contested annually, and those involving Penn State. The Little Brown Jug, involving Michigan and Minnesota, is in the first category. Even the current Big Ten scheduling system does not ensure that these two meet every year. If that’s acceptable today, then surely it is acceptable in the future.

Before Penn State joined the conference in the 1990s, it did not have a notable rivalry with any Big Ten team. Several rivalries were more-or-less invented for the Nittany Lions. They play for two named trophies—the Governor’s Victory Bell with Minnesota and the Land Grand Trophy with Michigan State—plus an annual unnamed tilt with Ohio State. As none of these rivalries is long-standing, they are presumably dispensable.

We move on to the Big Ten’s current protected rivalries—those that are contested every year, under the current system, minus those involving Penn State. Here they are:

Illinois: Indiana, Northwestern
Indiana: Illinois, Purdue
Iowa: Minnesota, Wisconsin
Michigan: Michigan State, Ohio State
Michigan State: Michigan, Penn State
Minnesota: Iowa, Wisconsin
Northwestern: Illinois, Purdue
Ohio State: Michigan, Penn State
Purdue: Indiana, Northwestern
Wisconsin: Iowa, Minnesota

We have already concluded that Michigan and Ohio State will be in the same division, so that rivalry is taken care of. We can assume that the conference would seek to preserve the same-state rivalries, such as Michigan vs. Michigan State, as most Division I football schools have an opponent in their own state that they play annually.

The adjoining-state rivalries require a bit of discussion. Michigan fans wax poetic about past Ohio State games, but many haven’t a clue about the games that matter to other teams in the conference. I am astonished when I see proposed line-ups that put Wisconsin and Minnesota in separate divisions. Amazingly enough, these two schools have the oldest annually contested rivalry in Division I football. There is no way Wisconsin and Minnesota would give that up. They’ve played every year since 1892. In contrast, Michigan didn’t play MSU until 1898, and it wasn’t an annual meeting until 1902.

The annual Minnesota–Wisconsin game is for a trophy called Paul Bunyon’s axe. There are named trophies for these two schools’ annual games with Iowa too—the Floyd of Rosedale and the Heartland Trophy respectively. In contrast, the annual Illinois–Indiana and Northwestern–Purdue tilts are of no special significance, beyond their longstanding membership in the Big Ten, a fact they share with other teams.

With our background on rivalries complete, we can now try to slot the new twelve-team Big Ten into divisions. It is obviously sensible to put Iowa into the same division as Nebraska, given that they occupy adjoining states. Nebraska does not have a long-standing rivalry with any Big Ten team, but if they were going to develop one, Iowa would be an obvious candidate. As the Hawkeyes and the Wisconsin Badgers are routinely strong football programs, it makes sense to split them, for competitive balance reasons. And given the background recited above, where the Badgers go, the Minnesota Golden Gophers go too.

(Incidentally, Nebraska has played Minnesota 51 times, more than any other team in the conference. But as the two have not met since 1990, this is not likely to be a factor in setting up the divisions.)

We therefore have the following start:

Plains: Iowa, Nebraska, Penn State
Lakes: Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin

The Illinois and Indiana schools cannot be slotted into this arrangement without splitting one of the in-state rivalries. Fortunately, there is a straightforward solution. Although Illinois and Northwestern have played every year within living memory, the game was not annual until 1927. They played many times before that, but with numerous gaps. Indiana and Purdue have missed only two years since 1899. The state of Indiana therefore trumps the state of Illinois.

I therefore submit the following alignment as consistent with Jim Delaney’s stated priorities of competitive balance first, rivalries second, and geography third.

Plains: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, Penn State, Purdue
Lakes: Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Wisconsin

This plan has reasonable competitive balance. The only named trophy rivalries that would no longer be contested annually, aside from those involving Penn State, are Iowa–Minnesota, Iowa–Wisconsin, and Illinois–Northwestern. Of course, this doesn’t mean they’d no longer play each other, only that it wouldn’t be annual.

There does not appear to be an alignment that preserves these rivalries without breaking others that are more important, or setting up divisions that are clearly unbalanced. For instance, in the alignment above, if you swap Iowa and Northwestern, then the broken rivalries would be restored, but the Lakes division would be top-heavy, with Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. Other re-arrangements meet with similar objections.

Obviously, with the Big Ten’s expansion study still very much alive, the conference might not have 12 teams for very long. But while it does, I think the Plains/Lakes alignment given above does the best job of meeting the Commissioner’s stated priorities of competitive balance first, rivalries second, and geography third.

Comments

maizenbluenc

June 14th, 2010 at 10:53 AM ^

I'm sorry. I don't get why you move Penn State over with Nebraska for competitive balance purposes and then Wisconsin the other way for the same reason.

I like you logic and approach otherwise, and will have to think through a counter proposal with those two switched.

oakapple

June 14th, 2010 at 11:08 AM ^

If you line up the Big Ten teams based on long-term strength, it’s clear there are four long-term powers: Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State. Competitive balance requires that they be split two–two, with Michigan and Ohio State together, to preserve “The Game.”

After the four traditional powers, Wisconsin and Iowa are the next-strongest teams, historically. If you put Iowa in the same division as Nebraska (because they occupy geographically contiguous states), it implies Wisconsin goes in the same division as Michigan and Ohio State.

In other words, I’m presuming a competitive hierarchy, with four schools in the top tier, Wisconsin and Iowa in the middle. The remaining six are not perennial contenders, and could be divided up any which way.

MGoRobo

June 14th, 2010 at 11:44 AM ^

Or we could have, as previously proposed, a fixed intra-division game.  In that case, Michigan-OSU could be played when they're not in the same division.  AND it would actually make Michigan-OSU deciding th B10 champion a possibility.  Whereas, when you have them in the same division, they would still have to play another game to decide the champion.  For that reason alone, I think M-OSU should be in different divisions.

J.W. Wells Co.

June 14th, 2010 at 5:03 PM ^

I think you mean fixed inter-division games.  Extra-division games is also a reasonably accurate term.  Intra-division games are games played against teams in one's own division.

Yes, oakapple's original post completely neglects this idea, which is used in the ACC and SEC (for a while each SEC team even had *two* inter-division permanent opponents).  This surely is the best course for the Big Ten, with its many many important (and yes, even recently conjured) rivalries.  Under this system, Michigan could play Ohio State, Michigan State, and Minnesota every year, and would restore an annual contest for the Little Brown Jug.

With permanent opposite-division opponents, you play the other five teams in the opposite division on average twice (home and away) every five years, as in the ACC and SEC.  I consider that pretty acceptable.  Without such games, you play the teams in the opposite division only slightly more often, on average twice every four years, as in the Big 12.

Not having permanent opposite-division opponents seems to have been one of the early problems that pissed off Nebraska with the whole Big 12 scheme... losing its annual game with Oklahoma... a huge game that in the past had a similar effect on the Orange Bowl and the national championship as Michigan and Ohio State had on the Rose Bowl.

Also, not having permanent opposite-division opponents also goes toward another problem the Big 12 has/had: too few links between divisions.  Remember that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were members of the old Big 8 for decades and had solid ties with all of the northern schools.  It was a very closely knit conference, not unlike the Big Ten (the difference being a wider spectrum in academic quality and its schools lacking cache beyond the Big 8's region).  Look what's happened after the division split: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are basically in bed with the old Southwest Conference schools, and have very few ties (or anything in common anymore) with their old northern Big 8 brethren.  A definite us-vs-them mentality was created, which wasn't helped by the recent strength of the South relative to the North.

turd ferguson

June 14th, 2010 at 11:08 AM ^

i think i would have taken a different turn after you got to michigan-OSU and PSU-nebraska-iowa, though. why not just keep iowa, minnesota, and wisconsin together? something like this:

division 1: penn state, nebraska, iowa, minnesota, wisconsin, northwestern

division 2: michigan, ohio state, michigan state, illinois, indiana, purdue

division 1 looks stronger at the moment, but i'm a little reluctant to call any school other than michigan, OSU, penn state, and nebraska a near-permanent football power. plus, i think it's good for the big ten (hype-wise) to set up that michigan-OSU game to determine a division champion in most seasons.

on another note, it's interesting to talk to big ten grads about which schools they consider their primary rivals. it's often not what i'd expect, and i constantly hear graduates of schools like penn state, illinois, iowa, and wisconsin saying that they see michigan as their biggest (or second biggest) rival.

oakapple

June 14th, 2010 at 11:10 AM ^

I started out with that, but based on historical performance (at least the last 20 years) your Division 1 is quite a bit stronger than Division 2. If competitive balance is the #1 priority, I don’t think they would go that route.

On the other hand, that does preserve more rivalries than my version, but Delaney said that rivalries come second after competitive balance.

kmd

June 14th, 2010 at 5:58 PM ^

I think that just like you started off assuming that Michigan and Ohio State have to stay together, independent of competitive balance, you have to start out assuming that the Iowa/Wisconsin/Minnesota trifecta stays intact.  I think we're most likely going to see a largely geographic split, with Iowa/Wisconsin/Nebraska on top in the west, Michigan/Ohio State/Penn State on top in the east. It might not be perfect, but I think that what you gain in competitive advantage through alternate approaches is marginal compared to the severe breaches in rivalries/geography those approaches entail. Competitive balance being the highest weighted factor doesn't mean it's the deciding factor in every decision, just like geography being the lowest weighted factor doesn't mean you can throw it out completely and stick Penn State with a bunch of teams in the central plains.

pete-rock

June 14th, 2010 at 11:12 AM ^

Penn State and is gonna scream about their travel costs relative to everyone else in the conference.  I wouldn't be surprised if their costs will be 20% more than anyone else's in their division.

However, I think Penn State would accept this if there's an understanding that this is short-term -- meaning, the addition of a couple of Eastern schools ( any two of the 'Cuse, Rutgers, Pitt triumvirate) and ND in the Big 16.

turd ferguson

June 14th, 2010 at 11:27 AM ^

the other way to encourage penn state to accept this is to set up a yearly nebraska-penn state rivalry game to end the season (the same weekend as michigan-OSU). it would be manufacturing a rivalry to some extent, but it would send a clear message that the center of power in one division is michigan-OSU and the center of power in the other is nebraska-PSU.

Bosch

June 14th, 2010 at 11:41 AM ^

is a bigger rivalry for those two schools than you might realize.

I think the Minnesota "rivalry" for each school is secondary and it's not close.

Keeping Iowa and WIsconsin together complicates your divisions, but you are looking at this from the biased perspective of being a U of M fan. 

WolverBean

June 14th, 2010 at 12:16 PM ^

Interestingly, the Wisconsin fans I've talked to feel exactly the opposite way:  they don't care about Iowa, and consider only the Minnesota rivalry to be important.  Meanwhile, apparently Barry Alvarez wants to set up a Wisconsin-Nebraska rivalry.

Also, of all the current permanent rivalries to split, the Illinois-Northwestern one seems the most obvious.  I don't think anyone at either school particularly cares about beating the other.  Though if they start having that game at Wrigley or Soldier fields on an annual basis (as I believe they are moving toward), that might heighten the interest.

PSU1BOB

June 14th, 2010 at 11:26 AM ^

Wow!  Do you realize how arrogant you sound?  To dismiss Penn State from your reasoning is very myopic.  Even though Nebraska is the newest member, to dismiss them is equally arrogant.  If Delaney is going to split the conference into 2 divisions, which I assume is a necessity, he must and I suspect will look at what all member schools bring to the table.  To dismiss any member school from the evaluation process is not only very short-sighted, it is very likely a financial gaff waiting to happen.  I assume you do not want the Big Ten to alienate any member school as being a second citizen.  Just look what has and is happening with the Big 12.  Texas getting preferential treatment has and is causing other member schools to want to look around.  I am sure you don't want conference members of the Big Ten doing the same.  Besides, what did Penn State give to the Big Ten  . . . not much, except for the Mid-Atlantic states for the television market (i.e., Big Ten Network) and recruiting; and the prestige for its multiple championship non-revenue sports.  Finally, if you are so concerned that Michigan won't get to play Ohio State every year if they are split,  I have a solution for you ... win your division every year and meet them in the Conference Chamipionship game.  Yes, I am a Penn State fan and alumnus and happy and gratefull to be in the Big Ten.

turd ferguson

June 14th, 2010 at 11:35 AM ^

i think he "dismissed" penn state mostly because you guys haven't been around long enough to really have established permanent big ten rivals. i love having penn state in the big ten, and i'm excited to see those rivalries develop. in truth, though, the PSU-MSU rivalry feels forced, and the PSU-OSU rivalry seems more like it's just two very good teams playing very big teams, not necessarily a rivalry game (the test of which would happen when both programs are struggling). as a penn state fan, you know more about this than i do, but i could see PSU developing good, long-term rivalries with schools like nebraska and iowa, and getting PSU out of the michigan-OSU division is probably good for penn state anyway.

MGoRobo

June 14th, 2010 at 12:03 PM ^

I'm sorry if you think that came out as arrogant...but Michigan-Ohio State IS important.  Maybe the most important game in Big Ten season.  And it's not just us who think that...why do you think it's a top 5 rivalry in pretty much EVERY list of rivalries ever composed?  Let alone college football rivalries...cause there it's pretty much a #1 spot lock.

ESNY

June 14th, 2010 at 1:53 PM ^

Dude, have much of an Inferiority complex?

The only "dismissing' of Penn State was in relation to the rivalry games especially considering they are considered one of the powerhouses of the conference and thus need to be split away from OSU/Mich.

c williams

June 14th, 2010 at 3:16 PM ^

PSU doesn't have a rivalry with any Big Ten team that comes anywhere near the magnitude of UM vs. OSU.  Be glad you were considered to be one of the top teams, along with newcomer Neb, to be accounted for in partioning conference powers.  Since joining the Big Ten, are you any more successful than Iowa or Wisc? 

Basically, we have UM and OSU at the top - make no mistake UM's current struggles will have to continue much longer to prove otherwise - and then PSU, Iowa, Wisc, and Neb in the next tier.  So, It seems reasonable to put #s 1 and 2 in the same group (A) to preserve the Game, and put #s 3-6 in the next group (B) for competitive balance.  Then, give Minn to B and one of NW and Ill.

So, group A:  UM, OSU, MSU, IU, PU, Ill

group B:  PSU, Neb, Iowa, Wisc, Minn, NW

 

(Also, I wouldn't be that dissatisfied with geographic split with UM, OSU, PSU, MSU, IU, PU - I don't see the schedule as that daunting, but I agree that Conf champ would probably come from this group quite often)

Big_G

June 14th, 2010 at 11:34 AM ^

The more I think about this idea, the more I think an east/west split might be the only way to go for doing everything from protecting the most amount of rivalries along with competitive balances.  I understand what you are saying in regards to having 3 traditional powers on one side and what that might mean from a competitive balance, but what really do they mean by stating keeping a "competitive balance"? 

Is this looking at things from a historical standpoint or from a more current view?  If its from a historical standpoint then by all means an East/West split would fail when considering UofM, OSU, and PSU on one half.  If they go for a more modern approach to competitive balance, wouldnt this take into account Wisconsin's and Iowa's recent sustain success, along with recent struggles from teams such as UofM?  I'm tending to agree with you that they mean from a historical standpoint, but still this part of the question screams chart with total W/L and recent (ten years or so) W/L. 

For my money though I keep going back to the traditional east/west split even despite the fact that this has PSU, OSU, and UofM in the same half.  The only rivalries broken up in this scenario would be some involving Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, and Indiana, and of course ones currently already broken up (Minnesota/Michigan, Ohio State/Illinois, etc).  A deeper look beyond the protected rivalries finds that only the Purdue vs Illinois and Purdue vs Indiana as having an actual "trophy" awarded the winner (The Purdue Cannon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purdue_Cannon, Old Oaken Bucket: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Oaken_Bucket

Illinois, Purdue, Indiana, and Northwestern fans can weigh in with their feelings but from everything I know, I've read, and I've heard the rivalries between these four schools are largely based upon longevity in the Big 10 rather than something deeper.  Even the Purdue/Illinois tilt isnt a protected matchup either.  With that said here is my breakdown which ends up being a strictly east-west breakdown. However I feel one can swap the layout of these four teams (Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois) for each other without jeopordizing competitive balances either current or historical.  Competitive balance is accomplished largely based upon a mixture of historical and current competitiveness of each squad.  Notice also how travel costs for each team are still manageable whereas in your breakdown, PSU might have a problem sending with their travel costs as those will probably rise up higher than any other team. 

Plains - Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue

Great Lakes - Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana, Northwestern

Hail-Storm

June 14th, 2010 at 5:26 PM ^

I made a post about this earlier, and tried to quantify the inequity of the two conferences strengths. I took Jeff Segarin's rankings of all 12 teams over the last ten years and averaged the rankings of each division.  Althought there were years when the strength of the divisions was noticably different (particularly 2007-08 and 2006-07 when Mich and OSU were 1 and 2) the overall average of the divisions was very close win an average rank of 44 for the East and 48 for the west. The problem is that the East is more top heavy with Michigan and Ohio State winning 9 of 10 division titles (PSU had only 1). The West had 4 different division winners (Iowa would of taken 5) and seemed to have more depth overall. When I took had the top ranking team as the winner of the conference championship, the East won 7-3 over the decade, but this stemmed more from Ohio State dominating over the last half of the decade than anything.  I think the geographical split maintains all important rivalries, and is not as much of a division gap as most would believe.

Blue in Seattle

June 14th, 2010 at 11:31 AM ^

I'm guessing the power trios of the OP are Michigan-OSU-Wisconsin, versus Nebraska-PSU-Iowa.

So I disagree with bluebugsy of flipping Wisconsin and Illinois as a solution to balance competition.

Also it ignores the strong Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry that the OP was protecting.

So if more balance needs to go from Lakes to Plains, then Wisconsin-Minnesota get swapped with Illinois-Iowa.

Although, from year to year, the power will ebb and flow some, so I don't know if there's a real difference between Iowa and Wisconsin as strong programs.

Maybe we should rank teams based on their recruiting ranking over the past 5-10 years, including Nebraska and see how a pure balance of recruiting would shake out?

WolverBean

June 14th, 2010 at 12:27 PM ^

In Big11Ten country, it's football first and foremost, but I suspect Delaney isn't thinking only of football when he highlights "competitive balance."  Factoring in men's hoops, and looking historically, centering one division around Michigan-OSU and the other around Nebraska-PSU isn't so balanced.  Although, that being said, your final divisional alignments don't work out too badly basketball-wise, either.

Another random observation:  all five schools with D1 hockey teams are in the same division.

OysterMonkey

June 14th, 2010 at 2:05 PM ^

I don't think we'll see divisions in basketball. With a conference tournament that everyone gets into, and with every team playing every other team at least once, there's not a need for divisions. I think the only BCS conference that uses divisions for basketball is the SEC.

funkywolve

June 14th, 2010 at 9:26 PM ^

Doesn't use divisions for standings but their basketball scheduling follows the football divisions.  The teams in the football version of the Big 12 north do home and home's with the other north teams, and play one game against each team in the south. 

Not sure how the ACC does it.

mgovictors23

June 14th, 2010 at 2:29 PM ^

I wouldn't be shocked at all if we developed a rivalry. Considering the 1997 national championship and the 2005 Alamo Bowl I wouldn't be surprised it all if it turned into a rivalry.

Tater

June 14th, 2010 at 3:50 PM ^

I would have to consider Nebraska an "instant equal" or just a hair behind, and I don't know how far behind I would put PSU, either.  But I definitely think UM and OSU are still the two best programs in the conference.  Hopefully, we start to see this in Ann Arbor again.

vegasjeff

June 14th, 2010 at 4:39 PM ^

Competitive balance may be the most important criterion but geography and rivalries are also significant.

I think it is ridiculous that one of the conference's best programs, Penn State, wouldn't have its best rivalries considered in divisional alignment. The artificial Land Grant rivalry (MSU) may not rank with most others, but an alignment along sensible geographic lines (Penn State, OSU, UofM, MSU, Purdue and Indiana in an Eastern Division) would continue that rivalry game every year along with the games that Penn State fans probably consider their most significant, against Michigan and Ohio State.

It's clear this division setup protects the most significant rivalries, sets up logical Western Division rivalries for Nebraska and is a clear, sensible geographic split. Is the competitive advantage of OSU, PSU and UofM that much better than Neb, Wiscy and Iowa? Historically, yes, but maybe not now. If you take the past three years and look at how the teams set up for the next three years, I think the top three are pretty balanced. And the bottom three teams in the West, Minnesota, Illinois and Northwestern, I contend would be roughly equal to Purdue, Sparty and Indiana.

Putting Penn State in a division with a bunch of distant schools would be a slap in the face. I don't think Buckeye, Nittany Lions or Wolverines fans should worry about a competitive balance disparity. Nebraska, Wiscy and Iowa look pretty strong to me. In the SEC putting Florida, Georgia and Tennessee together has proven to be a success, and the same for Bama, Auburn and LSU.

Having awesome divisions AND rivalries is a great thing for the Big 10.

Of course, adding ND and one or three other schools would be a significant complication. But for now, I like keeping UofM, PSU, OSU and Sparty in the same division.

Tha Stunna

June 14th, 2010 at 5:57 PM ^

I think you're overinterpreting Delany's criteria; just because he said balance, rivalries, then geography, doesn't mean that he'll break lots of rivalries just to make the divisions slightly more balanced.  Balance is a tricky thing, as traditional powers can have terrible seasons at times.  In particular, I'd consider Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska as a package deal in one division, just because MWI have a three-way rivalry and Nebraska would fit naturally with the others, particularly Minnesota and Iowa.  (see http://espn.go.com/blog/bigten/post/_/id/13189/nebraska-vs-the-big-ten for Rittenberg's count of the games played between Nebraska and the Big Ten).  Michigan, MSU, and OSU would form the start of a natural other division.

At that point, you'd decide where to put Penn State.  While Penn State appears to be a balance issue if grouped with Michigan and OSU, all three schools have ended the year ranked only twice from 2002-2009 (in 2002 and 2006).  Since Indiana, Purdue, and Michigan State are only rarely going to produce divisional contenders, I think it's fine for the East to be top-heavy, since the bottom is rather lacking.

I talked about this in my post:

http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/performance-hypothetical-western-division

but basically, with the geographical divisions, you'd get a balanced title game almost every year, and in the unbalanced years ('04, '07, and '08), the lower ranked team actually beat the higher ranked team during the actual regular season.

Mainly, I'd expect the divisions to be relatively balanced, and then rivalries to be preserved; since rivalries tend to follow geography, this could work out fairly well.

mgolf4

June 14th, 2010 at 9:17 PM ^

Since everyone is giving their opinion I thought I might offer mine. This setup somewhat neglects geography but preserves most rivalries and creates balance if there was one permanent cross-division rival (Minnesota/Wisconsin, UofM/OSU, Purdue/Indiana, UofM/Minnesota, Northwestern/Illinois). 

Group THIS

  1. Michigan
  2. Ohio State
  3. Wisconsin
  4. Purdue
  5. Minnesota
  6. Indiana

Group THAT

  1. Penn State
  2. Nebraska
  3. Iowa
  4. Michigan State
  5. Illinois
  6. Northwestern

Permanent cross-division rivals could be:

Michigan vs Michigan State

Ohio State vs Penn State

Wisconsin vs Nebraska

Minnesota vs Iowa

Purdue vs Northwestern

Indiana vs Illinois

funkywolve

June 14th, 2010 at 9:23 PM ^

is how UM/OSU winner does in the conference title game.  Bo and Woody said one of the reasons they felt the Big Ten's record was so poor in the Rose Bowl in the 70's (OSU and UM played in every Rose Bowl that decade) was because the UM/OSU game was so big it was hard to play after it - and the Rose Bowl was 5-6 weeks after it. 

Once UM gets back to being a Top 10 - Top 15 team, it'll be interesting to see how hard it is for the OSU/UM winner to come back a week later and play in the conference title game. 

Spurrier used to grouch about having to play Florida St (when they were a perenial Top 5 team) right before the SEC title game.

BlueinLansing

June 15th, 2010 at 1:39 AM ^

changed every year or two years.  Preserving certain rivalries as best as possible.  ie UM/MSU, Minn/UW, Minn/Iowa etc

Michigan/Ohio State +4  (The Schembechler/Hayes Division)

Nebraska/Penn State +4 (The Paterno/Osborn Divison)

then the other 8 rotate through the divisions in some manor decided with slide rules and supercomputers.

uminks

June 15th, 2010 at 2:31 AM ^

UM and OSU is the greatest rivalry in college football, period!  You would never prvent the Iron bowl every year in the SEC, or the Red River show down in the old b12! USC will always play UCLA  every year in the pac10.  There is no way that UM and OSU will not be in the same division, so that the THE GAME will be played on a yearly bases. Wow, talk about the revolt in both MI and OH if UM and OSU got placed in separate divisions.

WI, IA would give NE a challenge in the west.  OSU would be tops in the east but UM will be back and PSU will be a strong team with MSU and PU occasionally challenging. The doormat in the eastern division will be IN.  The doormat in the the west will be MN.  I like just splitting up the b10 into two divisions called b10 East and b10 West.