The mysteries of Big Ten Conference Alignment have become much clearer in the last couple of weeks. Although no final announcement has been made, comments from Athletic Directors across the league have made it possible to predict the final outcome of Big Ten Division alignment.
What we know:
Wisconsin and Iowa will be split into separate divisions. Barry Alvarez has made this very clear, when he told the Wisconsin State Journal the following.
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez told the Wisconsin State Journal that his Badgers will not be placed in the same division as rival Iowa.
In addition, We know the Divisions have been already set, and the league’s current focus is on creating the schedule. Jim Delany has made this clear as well, saying to ESPN.
“We’ve got the divisions, but we really don’t have the schedules,” Delany said. “The key critical area is we already had schedules [set] for ’11.”
We also know Brett Bielema and ex-Cornhusker Barry Alvarez would like to have an end of season game with Nebraska and have been lobbying for it.
But it looks like Tom Osborne and Nebraska would rather have Iowa yearly.
We also think Wisconsin and Minnesota will be in the same division. This is also from Alvarez.
Alvarez told the Associated Press that at least one of the Badgers’ rivalries would be protected for divisional play, with the Wisconsin State Journal speculation it being the most played game in Football Bowl Subdivision history – Wisconsin vs. Minnesota for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.
What is almost certain:
Ohio State and Michigan will be in Separate Divisions. Both Athletic Directors Brandon and Smith have spoke to this, as well as a curious comment from OSU’s President Gee when he said the following.
“We want to beat them twice,”
That very un-presidential comment created a firestorm in the state of Ohio, basically confirming the Michigan v. Ohio State game would almost certainly be moved up in the schedule. This has sent Gee and Smith into a Buckeye Back-peddle, trying to back off the statement before anything has been finalized. This was Gene Smith a couple of days ago.
Smith said there was an all-day meeting in Chicago for the ADs this Monday, with a conference call scheduled for next week. He believes the divisions will be finalized soon, and then the talk will turn to scheduling
An obvious contradiction to what Delany had said earlier about division alignment being complete, and schedule becoming the next order of business. But that’s what happens when a University President opens his mouth too soon. Nice work President Gee.
I must admit I like watching Smith and Gee scrambling for cover when the truth is they have probably already agreed to the Divisional Alignment with UofM and OSU in separate divisions.
The End Game:
With what we know I believe Big Ten Division alignment will look like this.
Northwestern and Illinois could easily be interchanged with Purdue and Indiana. With that said I believe they stay paired wherever they end up, so they can play their respective rivals the last week of the regular season.
I believe Michigan v. Nebraska is a better choice as an end of season game then Michigan State for two reasons.
Michigan doesn’t see MSU as that end of season rival. If Brandon has agreed to let the OSU game be moved back in the schedule, which it looks like they have. He is going to want Nebraska in its place not MSU. League approval may be a different story.
Michigan v. Nebraska and Ohio State v. Penn State is a major cash cow for the league in terms of TV money.
The soap opera which has been Big Ten Expansion and consequently Big Ten Division Alignment is soon to come to an end. Delany has said it will be decided by mid September. I have been racking my brain trying to be at peace with a conclusion. The above alignment seems to make the most sense to me.