Performance of a hypothetical Western division

Submitted by Tha Stunna on June 11th, 2010 at 7:05 PM

I looked through the final AP rankings from 2002-2009 to see how a hypothetical Western division would stack up.


Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern


Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue

For kicks, I also tracked Penn State in case of less geographical but more balanced divisions, in which case PSU would be swapped with Illinois or Northwestern.  Given that I'm at Illinois and people don't really seem to care about Northwestern in football, I doubt it would be a big deal.

I'm ignoring division depth and most of the actual games for the sake of simplicity.

The format is:

Year (highest big ten team rank)

Team, # ranking


2009 (5)

Iowa, 7

Nebraska, 14

Wisconsin, 16

Penn State, 9


2008 (8, OSU 9)

Iowa, 20

Penn State, 8


2007 (5)

Illinois, 20

Wisconsin, 24


2006 (2)

Wisconsin, 7

Penn State, 24


2005 (3, OSU 4)

Wisconsin, 15

Nebraska, 24

Penn State, 3


2004 (8, Michigan 14)

Iowa, 8

Wisconsin, 17


2003 (4)

Iowa, 8

Nebraska, 19


2002 (1)

Iowa, 8

Penn State, 16



-A Western division would produce a similarly ranked challenger (<6 difference) except in '02, '05, '07, and '08, mainly due to Iowa.  '02 would have been fine however, since it would be a top ten team (Iowa) playing OSU.

-Oddly, in '07-'08, the hypothetical Western division champion had a win over the actual Big Ten champion (Illinois in '07, Iowa in '08), despite the significantly lower ranking.

-Penn State in the other division would make for very balanced divisions each year except in '07.

-The Western division champion would be significantly higher ranked than an Eastern division champion in only 1/8 years - regardless of which division contains Penn State.

-The lone exception is 2004, when #14 ranked Michigan actually beat #8 ranked Iowa during the season.  Good times.


Tha Stunna

June 11th, 2010 at 7:47 PM ^

I ignored the Eastern schools unless they were the highest-ranked school in the Eastern division.  Thus, Michigan '02, '03, and '06 were all omitted.

As for the divisions, there aren't really a lot of options - the main choice is the location of Penn State.  Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Nebraska all go together, while Michigan, MSU, and OSU all go together.  Indiana and Purdue go together but don't really matter; they still make more sense in the East.  Illinois-Northwestern doesn't really matter, but makes more sense in the West.

For what it's worth, PSU has protected rivalries with OSU and MSU, and they do seem to care about the OSU rivalry, along with us.  Nebraska has done a good job of pissing off both us and PSU during undefeated seasons (1997, 1994), but that's a much weaker basis for a rivalry than the geographical proximity and similarity to Iowa-Wisconsin-Minnesota.


June 11th, 2010 at 7:20 PM ^

PSU pretty muched sucked the first decade in the B10. They certainly didn't play to the level most people expected or even to the level they have played the past 2-3 years. I do not have a good answer, but I am concerned with UofM, OSU and PSU all in the same division going forward. It could easiy evolve into the B12 South v. B12 North. Again, I know it is easy for me to complain without having a better answer, but this looks very East heavy to me.

Edit: Ok, I do have an answer. Get TX and put them in the West. That would be even.


June 11th, 2010 at 7:20 PM ^

Penn State could feasibly take a step back when Paterno steps down...but I agree East is Stacked.

On the other can argue that having Penn St, Iowa, Wisco, Nebraska in one division is stacked over Mich, Mich St. Ohio St etc


June 11th, 2010 at 9:59 PM ^

I don't get people that think putting Michigan, Ohio St. and Penn State in one division "stacked".  Before the expansion, I dreaded the years we didn't play PSU b/c it could lead to a tie situation which I loathe.  We always play OSU, ND, and MSU.... so frankly, why would it matter if they were in our division or not.  We already play them every year anyway.  Nothing would change IMO.