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.


Kilgore Trout

August 23rd, 2010 at 11:57 PM ^

Maybe we're all missing the most obvious solution...

Red(ish) Division

OSU, Wisconsin, Indiana, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois


Not Red Division

Michigan, PSU, MSU, Purdue, Iowa, Northwestern


No?  Ok.


August 24th, 2010 at 12:00 AM ^

How about

Blue: Michigan, PSU, MSU, Illinois, Purdue, Northwestern

Red: OSU, Nebraska, Wisc, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota

Almost all rivalries will be covered either by division or by crossover game. And you can develop new ones like Mich/PSU, Neb/Wisc, Neb/Iowa, Neb/Minn.

You can guarantee headlines like Red vs. Blue, Offense vs. Defense, Spread vs. ProStyle, etc. for conference championship which is always good for TV.


August 24th, 2010 at 8:04 AM ^

They have to play Nebraska, Wisc, Iowa every year, AND us as a protected rivalry?  Talk about a tough schedule.  At the same time Penn State has to play the likes of Illinois, Purdue, MSU, and Northwestern.

Snidely Doo Rash

August 24th, 2010 at 12:14 AM ^


I can solve this little problem.  

Bunyan-Babe Divisions  with these rivalries played second or third to last week of conference season.  Keep it simple and good things can happen on the way to 14 teams.  








Snidely Doo Rash

August 24th, 2010 at 1:22 AM ^

The idea is to avoid rivalry re-matches the next week, so I suppose the last week of the conference schedule would be intra-divisional match-ups that could not occur in the champ game.  I had no problem with the rematch idea after "the game" in 2006 but I can see not wanting MSU-PSU twice in two weeks.     

Ugh, maybe too much SEC Conference, but the Big Ten needs this kind of season set up to have better odds of getting a spot in the BCS champ game.  Also, this seems to be workable with 14 teams so I think that's part of the appeal to the league brass.  


August 24th, 2010 at 6:39 AM ^

Take 20 year history...

Div. 1 gets...
1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 12

Div. 2 gets...
2, 3, 5, 8, 10, 11

This would translate to....

Ohio St, Penn St, Iowa, Michigan St, Northwestern, Indiana

Div. 2...
Nebraska, Michigan, Wisconsin, Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois

Competitive balance based on the last twenty years of games.


August 24th, 2010 at 7:55 AM ^

But with your system several of the current protected rivalries will be lost (including UM-MSU).  Swapping Indiana and MSU for Minnesota and Purdue would keep roughly the same balance, but it would also allow all but one protected rivalry to be maintained with only a single protected cross-divisional game each year.  

The one rivalry lost (Iowa vs. Wisc.) would be easily replaced by the new cross-divisional rivalry of Iowa vs. Nebraska.  

Other rivalry games (including trophy games like The Little Brown Jug) are not even yearly games right now, and they would continue to be played every other year.  

To me, that solution seems to stand head-and-shoulders above the others.


August 24th, 2010 at 9:09 AM ^

Why does Wisconsin have to be in that division? I'd say that Wisconsin and Iowa will intentionally be split as they are seen as the top two teams outside of the big 4.  Flip Wisconsin with Northwestern in your scheme and you get much more competitive balance - the named priority in the alignment.

I will add that splitting UM and OSU is a travesty.  We can only hope that 13th and 14th teams are added soon and they adjust the alignment in the near future.  Wetzel's article sums it all up nicely:



August 24th, 2010 at 9:48 AM ^

If you don't go beyond the four highest ranked teams in the confernce (Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State) in terms of competitive balance, then you could make a case for keeping Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa together in the West.

I don't think the Big Ten is going to do this though--they're going to have to split up Iowa and Wisconsin as well and make it a protected interdivisional rivalry game.  I know that Alvarez and Bielema have talked about want to play Nebraska at the tail end of each year, but if Michigan and Ohio State have to agree to move The Game to October or early November, then the Badgers are going to have to compromise as well.  Since Iowa is in close geographic proximity to Nebraska, they'll be in the same division (along with Minnesota for the same reason).  Minnesota and Wisconsin also don't play regularly, but as part of an interdivisional-rotation:

My guess on divisions would be as follows:

West - Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern

East - Illinois, Indiana, Penn State, Purdue, Ohio State, Wisconsin

The protected interdivisional games would be as follows:

Michigan-Ohio State

Nebraska-Penn State



Michigan State/Minnesota - Purdue/Indiana

For Michigan, that means a regular schedule which includes the five other teams in its divisions (Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern) and Ohio State.  The other two divisional games would be against two of the following--Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, Penn State, Wisconsin.  Since the season ender won't be OSU, it could be a major team like Nebraska or a trophy game against Minnesota.  I don't think there's any way Michigan would agree to making Michigan State the season ender under any circumstances.

One important thing people have to keep in mind is that this arrangement may only last for a handful of years due to conference expansion or when/if the Big Ten opts to go to a nine-game conference schedule. 

In the latter case, you could introduce a set up where teams have two protected inter-divisional games instead of one.  Keeping the divisional setup outlined above, for example, would allow Wisconsin to have both Minnesota and Iowa as protected games.  That means the Badgers would play the five teams in its own division plus Minnesota and Iowa on a regular basis with the two remaining conference games against two of the following:  Michigan, Michgan State, Nebraska, Northwestern.   Wisconsin wouldn't play Nebraska every season, but would probably alternate that schedule slot with Michigan every two years.

I have no idea what Michigan's second protected game would be in this set-up.  The choices would be Illinois, Indiana, Penn State and Purdue (Wisconsin not included since it already has its second protected opponent). 





steve sharik

August 24th, 2010 at 10:34 AM ^

...here is how the high schools would do it.  I'm not saying this is how it should be done, but this is how the high schools do things.  (Note: I like how they do their playoff system and is something I would love to see implemented at the NCAA D-1A level.)

You take the rivals and split them up, like so:

  • Michigan-Ohio State
  • Michigan State-Penn State
  • Nebraska-Iowa
  • Wisconsin-Minnesota
  • Northwestern-Illinois
  • Purdue-Indiana

Next you take half of each rivalry and create divisions, [edit: while maintaining competitive balance], like so:

Bo Division:

  • Michigan
  • Michigan State
  • Nebraska
  • Wisconsin
  • Illinois
  • Purdue

Woody Division:

  • Ohio State
  • Penn State
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • Northwestern
  • Indiana

You play two crossovers the first two weeks (not including your rival), followed by your five divisional games, followed by "match-up week", and finally "rivalry week." (Two things: a) I would prefer rivalry week then match-up week and b) there is great potential for rematches on back-to-back weeks, something coaches hate.  And since playoffs is geographically determined in HS, there have been times when teams have played three weeks straight.)

During "match-up week" it's #1 Bo vs. #1 Woody, #2 Bo vs. #2 Woody, etc.  Divisions host alternating years; e.g., 2011 all the Bo division teams are at home, 2012 Woody teams host, etc.

So, let's say Michigan randomly draws Iowa and Minnesota.  The schedule might look something like:

  1. [edit: Some fledgling D-1A team; e.g.,] Utah State
  2. at ND (edit: at ND when we have 5 home Big Ten games, home vs. ND when we have 4)
  3. [edit: Directional Michigan MAC team; e.g.,] Central Michigan
  4. Iowa
  5. at Minnesota
  6. Nebraska
  7. at Wisconsin
  8. Illinois
  9. at Purdue
  10. Michigan State
  11. (match-up) #1 Michigan at #1 Ohio State
  12. (rivalry) Ohio State at Michigan

Personally I don't see this happening.

However, it looks like we're heading for M-OSU in opposite divisions.  If that's the case, I say keep The Game the last week of the regular season.  I know this presents the possibility of back-to-back match-ups, but if everyone arguing against opposite divisions is claiming an M-OSU championship game would happen only once every ten years, then back-to-back M-OSU would only happen once every ten years.  The other nine years the vociferous opponents to opposite divisions would be happy.

In my opinion, best case scenario is really to kick Penn State and Nebraska out and go back to a true Big Ten.  Obviously, that's not going to happen.  Given the current circumstances, I believe M-OSU opposite divisions with protected rivalry crossovers the final week of the regular season is the best way to go.


August 24th, 2010 at 11:00 AM ^

Balance the divisions. Put OSU with us and we play last game in Nov. Hopefully we'd be across from Spartans and they would be our cupcake rivalry game. Just thinking of best-case scenarios.


August 24th, 2010 at 1:43 PM ^

I don't know the exact answer to the question, but I do know that the wierdest possible solution is what will ultimately happen.  So try to think of the strangest possible alignment imaginable and you will have your answer.


August 24th, 2010 at 2:06 PM ^

"Competitive balance" is very subjective. It will ultimately be about taking the marquee programs and squeezing the monetary juice out of them.

If it were competitive balance first, there is nothing about Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State in the same division that is all that objectionable.  A. There are other sports besides football. B. We aren't any good right now in football and it is speculation whether we will be elite again.

So competitive balance is code for: we'll do whatever we want for money and even if it makes no sense in any other way.


August 24th, 2010 at 4:50 PM ^

The divisions are only for football.  For other sports there either won't be any or possibly some other setup.  But I agree in general.  There is no guarantee that an East division with UM/OSU/PSU would necessarily dominate.  We obviously haven't been strong since the coaching change, and PSU is heading for a coaching change themselves (and OSU might sometime this decade, too).  Going to straight geography also preserves just about every rivalry within divisions:


West: Neb, Wisc, Iowa, Minn, Ill, NW


August 24th, 2010 at 6:22 PM ^

How silly would it have been for the SEC to go away from geography and start fiddling with "competitive balance" when the SEC East was dominant with FL, TN, GA while the SEC West was relatively weak with AL and LSU still struggling?

These things go in cycles.  It's just like the stock market, you'll lose a lot of money trying to chase last years hot item.



August 24th, 2010 at 8:09 PM ^

Thanks for clearing that up. My bad there. 


Divide it right along the Indiana, Illinois border. done.

There is no more money in a Michigan v. Ohio State rematch then there is Michigan v. Nebraska in the Championship.  And while they are marquee programs, it probably won't happen all that often just based on probabilities.


August 24th, 2010 at 2:58 PM ^

Just throwing this out there...why not continue the practice of having two protected "rivalry" games like we do now? Especially if and when the league goes to 9 games....

Bo: Michigan, MSU, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Illinois, Northwestern

Woody: OSU, PSU, Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana

TWO protected games:

Michigan - OSU and Minnesota

MSU - PSU and Indiana

Wisconsin - Iowa and Minnesota

Nebraska - OSU and Iowa

Illinois - Indiana and Purdue

Northwestern - PSU and Purdue

I'm probably fudging the rivalries a little bit, and I'm definitely fudging the balance of the schedules, but to me these divisions look pretty balanced.

My main problem is that it is really hard to maintain competitive balance within the divisions and also amongst schedules, especially within the context of maintaining as many rivalries as possible. Who knows what the Big Ten will do.


August 24th, 2010 at 10:09 PM ^

I posted the other day with a breakdown of WPCT% since Penn State joined the league (which I believe Delany said would be the barometer) and came up with 4 clear tiers.


Ohio State/Michigan/Penn State/Nebraska




Michigan State/Purdue/Northwestern



"Competitive balance and preserving rivalries". Those are the two driving forces behind whatever alignment the Big 10 chooses. Therefore I give you two options...

Michigan/Ohio State NOT in same division (order of teams indicate locked games: Michigan vs Ohio State, Nebraska vs Iowa, etc.)

BLUE: Michigan/Nebraska/Wisconsin/Michigan State/Purdue/Indiana

WHITE: Ohio State/Iowa/Minnesota/Penn State/Northwestern/Illinois

Taking into account trophy/rivalry games and the current 2 "locked" opponents for each school you only lose...

* indicates the fact the game is already not played every year

Iowa vs Wisconsin
Illinois vs Purdue*
Michigan vs Minnesota*

Last weekend of November is "Rivalry Weekend".  Games played on this date are...

Michigan vs Ohio State
Nebraska vs Iowa
Minnesota vs Wisconsin
Michigan State vs Penn State
Purdue vs Northwestern
Indiana vs Illinois  

Michigan/Ohio State IN same division (order of teams indicate locked games: Michigan vs Ohio State, Nebraska vs Iowa, etc.)

BLUE: Michigan/Ohio State/Iowa/Minnesota/Illinois/Northwestern

WHITE: Michigan State/Penn State/Nebraska/Wisconsin/Indiana/Purdue

Taking into account trophy/rivalry games and the current 2 "locked" opponents for each school you only lose...

* indicates the fact the game is already not played every year

Iowa vs Wisconsin
Illinois vs Purdue*
Minnesota vs Penn State*

Last weekend is "Rivalry Week". Games played are...

Michigan vs Ohio State
Iowa vs Minnesota
Illinois vs Northwestern
Michigan State vs Penn State
Nebraska vs Wisconsin
Indiana vs Purdue

SAMPLE 2011 MICHIGAN SCHEDULE-Ohio State NOT in same divison

September 3rd - vs Western Michigan
September 10th - vs Notre Dame
September 17th - vs Eastern Michigan
September 24th - vs San Diego State
October 8th - at Wisconsin
October 15h - vs Indiana
October 22nd - at Michigan State
October 29th - at Nebraska (replaces at Iowa)
November 5th - vs Purdue (replaces vs Minnesota)
November 12th - vs Illinois
November 19th - at Northwestern
November 26th - vs Ohio State

SAMPLE 2011 MICHIGAN SCHEDULE-Ohio State IN same divison

September 3rd - vs Western Michigan
September 10th - vs Notre Dame
September 17th - vs Eastern Michigan
September 24th - vs San Diego State
October 8th - at Wisconsin
October 15h - vs Indiana
October 22nd - at Michigan State
October 29th - at Iowa
November 5th -  vs Minnesota
November 12th - vs Illinois
November 19th - at Northwestern
November 26th - vs Ohio State

As you notice, there are literally zero changes to Michigan's current schedule in the 2nd division alignment.


August 25th, 2010 at 9:34 AM ^

[Note: This was meant to be a reply to smwilliams' comment.]

I think then you have to go whole hog with the end of the season protected rivalries.


  • Michigan/MSU/Nebraska/Wisconsin/Indiana/Northwestern
  • OSU/PSU/Iowa/Minnesota/Purdue/Illinois

Rivalry Week:

Michigan vs Ohio State
Michigan State vs Penn State
Nebraska vs Iowa
Wisconsin vs Minnesota
Indiana vs Purdue
Illinois vs Northwestern


  • Michigan/MSU/Nebraska/Iowa/Indiana/Northwestern
  • OSU/PSU/Wisconsin/Minnesota/Purdue/Illinois

Rivalry Week:

Michigan vs Ohio State
Michigan State vs Penn State
Nebraska vs Wisconsin
Iowa vs Minnesota
Indiana vs Purdue
Illinois vs Northwestern

In my considered opinion, these two options are the best compromises, and one of them is likely to be what they are going to do.


August 25th, 2010 at 12:09 PM ^

20-year historical rank in parens, and protects rivalries for a rivalry week cross-over.

NEB (2), UM (3), MSU (7), PUR (8), NW (9), MINN (10) - (39 total)

OSU (1), PSU (4), WISC (5), IOWA (6), ILL (11), IND (12) - (39 total)


However, that seems unfair to ILL and IND, so I probably agree with those above who say:

NEB (2), UM (3), WISC (5), MSU (7), NW (9), IND (12) - (38 total)

OSU (1), PSU (4), IOWA (6), PUR (8), MINN (10), ILL (11) - (40 total)