After a few seasons of going with a Leaders and Legends divisions as part of the expansion of the Big Ten, the ongoing conference realignment struck a bit more sense into those running the conference, going with a geographical split in 2014, with renaming and a bit of shuffling around into East and West divisions.
The arrival of Maryland and Rutgers will turn the Big Ten into a 14-team conference, with some saying they’re still looking to add teams into the mix (watch out ACC). While trying to keep traditional rivalries intact as much as possible, trying to go by time zones and being exact with the East and West thing isn’t exactly easy, or creating parity within the league.
As of now, this is how it’s going to look. The East will have Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers, while the West has Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin. Point of debate? What to do with Purdue and Indiana, both in the same state, both with an important rivalry (Old Oaken Bucket), but not the importance, lets face it, other programs bring in College Football at least.
Another issue that’s been raised from this divide is the strength of both divisions, although that is a thing that fluctuates in the sport. Still, some are concerned that Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State are all in the same division, but the Big Ten argues that Nebraska and Wisconsin, the teams that made the conference title game last season, are strong enough, while Northwestern is a team on the rise and Iowa also provide enough quality, most years, to the newly formed division. It was also hard to see anyone separating Ohio State and Michigan, or the two Michigan schools, with the two biggest rivalry games in the conference at the moment.
But what about Indiana Purdue? Indiana-Purdue will be the only protected crossover, as the Big Ten wants to create as much flexibility as possible with its schedules. With a 9-game conference schedule going into effect from the 2016 season (although some are trying to push for 10), the idea is to have every pair of teams play each other at least once every four years.
Both Indian and Purdue have trophy games against other Big Ten teams: Illinois play the Boilermakers for the Purdue Cannon; Indiana and MSU play for the Old Brass Spittoon. Once again, these rivalries are expendable in the eyes of those making the realignment, despite many pushing for Michigan State to move an play in the West division, in order to dilute the power forming in the East (sounds a little too Lord of the Rings).