Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Big Ten Divisions: moving the Ohio State-Michigan football game up into October is good for the Big Ten Conference

The Big Ten Conference will add a 12Th team in 2011. Further, the Big Ten will conduct a conference championship game beginning in 2011, with the addition of Nebraska, as the 12Th conference member.

With the decision to conduct a conference championship game, the Big Ten will break into two- six team divisions. The annual Ohio State-Michigan football game is likely in for a major change in the series. The game is traditionally played at the end of the regular season, but with the suggestion that Michigan and Ohio State should be in separate divisions. Look for the Ohio State-Michigan series to move up the schedule into the month of October, which should be good for the conference. Further, look for one out of division game being protected for each program. When a nine game conference schedule is implemented, than two games will likely be protected.

The likely final games of the season for each program in the new Big Ten:

  • Illinois vs. Northwestern

  • Indiana vs. Purdue

  • Iowa vs. Nebraska

  • Michigan vs. Michigan State

  • Minnesota vs. Wisconsin

  • Ohio State vs. Penn State

The conference championship game will follow the last week of regular season play. For Penn State, this move will be great for the Nittany Lions. The current series between Michigan State vs. Penn State hasn't grown into the type of end of season rivalry that the Nittany Lions have naturally wanted. But, Michigan State vs. Michigan is a natural in-state rivalry, while Ohio State vs. Penn State will work quite well for both programs. The other four conference match ups are all natural rivalry games.

How will the Big Ten divisions likely fall out? Here are some of the expectations being discussed within the Big Ten, assuming that you a.) preserve in-state rivalries; b.) split Ohio State and Michigan and Iowa and Wisconsin up; and c.) make sure the Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska are divided evenly across two divisions, Kerry Whisnant’s computer came up with just eight possible scenarios. And in terms of league victories, these were the three most “balanced” alignments:

  • Option 1 — Division A: Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Illinois, Northwestern, Ohio State (422 conference wins and one tie since 1993); Division B: Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin (421 wins and one tie).

  • Option 2 — Division A: Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State (422 and one tie); Division B: Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois (421 and one tie).

  • Option 3 — Division A: Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State (419 and one tie); Division B: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Nebraska, Indiana, Minnesota (424 and one tie).

Traveling trophies woven into Big Ten football fabric - from Marc Morehouse - The Gazette

The current Big Ten Traveling Trophies:

  • Little Brown Jug (Michigan-Minnesota)
    First game: 1909; Series: Michigan 66-22-3

  • Illibuck (Illinois-Ohio State)
    First game: 1925; Series: Ohio State 58-23-2

  • Old Oaken Bucket (Purdue-Indiana)
    First game: 1925; Series: Purdue 56-26-3

  • Floyd of Rosedale (Iowa-Minnesota)
    First game: 1935; Series: Minnesota 39-34-2

  • Purdue Cannon (Purdue-Illinois)
    First game: 1943; Series: Purdue 30-26-2

  • Paul Bunyan’s Axe (Wisconsin-Minnesota)
    First game: 1948; Series: Wisconsin 36-23-3

  • Old Brass Spittoon (Indiana-Michigan State)
    First game: 1950); Series: Michigan State 40-12-1

  • Paul Bunyan’s Trophy (Michigan-Michigan State)
    First game: 1953; Series: Michigan 34-21-2

  • Governor’s Victory Bell (Minnesota-Penn State)
    First game: 1993; Series: Penn State 7-4

  • Land Grant Trophy (Michigan State-Penn State)
    First game: 1993; Series: Penn State 13-4

  • Heartland Trophy (Iowa-Wisconsin)
    First game: 2004; Series: Iowa 4-2

  • Land of Lincoln Trophy (Illinois-Northwestern)
    First game: 2009; Series: Northwestern 1-0

Defunct Trophies for Big Ten programs:

  • Slab of Bacon (Wisconsin-Minnesota)
    Dates: 1930-1943; Series: Minnesota led 11-3
    Why defunct? Minnesota Coach George Hauser refused to accept trophy following 1943 game out of respect for World War II. The trophy was lost in a Wisconsin storage room until it was found in 1994.

  • Sweet Sioux Tomahawk (Illinois-Northwestern)
    Dates: 1945-2008; Series: Illinois 33-29-2
    Why defunct? Trophy was deemed politically incorrect and retired after 2008 season.

Other Trophies between Big Ten schools and other programs outside the Big Ten:

  • Megaphone (Michigan State-Notre Dame)
    First game: 1949; Series: Notre Dame 31-25-1

  • Shillelagh (Purdue-Notre Dame)
    First game: 1958; Series: Notre Dame 34-19

  • Cy-Hawk (Iowa-Iowa State)
    First game: 1977; Series: Iowa 22-11

So, how should the divisions shape up to best protect conference rivalries and drive the Big Ten into the next era as the nation's premier collegiate athletic conference? The protected rival in Division A is paired with the team in Division B, in the order listed.

  • Division A: Ohio State, Penn State, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue and Wisconsin

  • Division B: Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern, Michigan State, Iowa and Minnesota


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