One thing that was made clear in the invitation to Nebraska to join the Big Ten Conference was that there was a cultural fit between the two entities.
One of the key elements in culture is tradition and tradition is what the Big Ten is all about.
So why is there this obsession to find “competitive balance” at the sake of the Big Ten’s greatest attribute?
There’s nothing wrong with competitive balance, but it can be easily found while preserving most of the conference’s most cherished rivalries. And by cherished, we mustn’t be so selfish to think of rivalries as only those that have national appeal (like Ohio State-Michigan.)
The notion to separate Michigan and Ohio State divisionally is absurd. “Oh, we might get to see the schools play twice, once in the cross-over game and once in the title game.”
Kids, this isn’t basketball. College Football is a game of sudden death. You get one crack at your rival each season. That’s what makes it special, a game that’s worth the 364 day wait. Meanwhile, if you have division rivals who keep their usual place at the end of the regular season, there is a chance that the game will determine the division champion.
The Big Ten has something very special. Something no other conference has: Four of the top six winningest programs of all time. #1 Michigan, #4 Nebraska, #5 Ohio State and #6 Penn State. It takes the mighty SEC until 12th place to get to their fourth winningest team. Why the league wouldn’t take full advantage of that, I don’t know.
Ohio State and Michigan should be divisional rivals while the Big Ten “newbees” Nebraska and Penn State (who already have had their own special series) should be on the other side. Then the final weekend of the regular season should be a Big Ten big game bonanza. A doubleheader on Thanksgiving weekend. THE Game followed by Nebraska-Penn State or vice versa. Hard to compete with that kind of star power.
It’s an opportunity the Big Ten simply cannot pass up. Forget the last 17 years. College football is more than what happened in the last two decades. It’s about what has happened over several decades. The Big Ten has that in spades. They shouldn’t blow this opportunity.
Here are my divisions. The team directly across from the other is the “cross over game.” Nebraska and Michigan are paired as well as Penn State-Ohio State. The in-state rivalry with Illinois and Northwestern is preserved as well as Iowa-Wisconsin. This format preserves most of the Big Ten’s most cherished rivalries and ensures that marquee matchups happen annually.
Division 1 Division 2
Minnesota Michigan State
Penn State Ohio State