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"But the league should have figured out by now that all that matters, especially in the four-team playoff era, is whether a conference title game affects that postseason.
Is there a team playing to get in? It doesn't have to be two great teams, or a great rivalry. But is one playing for something bigger? "
Ohio State and Michigan -- the Big Ten's Big Two -- belong in the same division
By Doug Lesmerises, The Plain Dealer
updated February 05, 2013 at 2:31 AM
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- To understand the future of the Big Ten, look to Texas.
Not for the Longhorns to come aboard, but for the three recruits from that state -- linebacker Mike Mitchell, quarterback J.T. Barrett and running back Dontre Wilson -- that Ohio State grabbed. All were ranked by Rivals.com as among the top 20 players in Texas.
Wilson, a four-star speedster who flipped from Oregon after coach Chip Kelly left for the NFL, became the 24th pledge to Ohio State's class when he announced his choice on the Dallas TV news Monday night. National Signing Day is on Wednesday, and the Buckeyes may be done or could have another player to add.
To understand the future of the Big Ten, look to Virginia.
Not for the conference to add another Eastern member there, but for running back Derrick Green, the state's top recruit according to Rivals, who could wind up carrying the ball 25 times per game as one of the biggest gets in Michigan's recruiting class.
To understand the future of the Big Ten, look to Wednesday, when Ohio State and Michigan will lock down recruiting classes ranked among the top five in the nation, distancing themselves from the rest of the Big Ten pack in both approach, attitude and ability when it comes to acquiring talent.
Understand then, that the idea of putting Ohio State and Michigan in the same division, which both schools want when realignment comes as part of Maryland and Rutgers joining the conference for the 2014 season, is about far more than preserving tradition.
It's about the future. Specifically, a future where Ohio State and Michigan see themselves rising above the rest of the league and see the idea of playing each other in the Big Ten title game as not only redundant, but counterproductive.
If they are going to be the two big boys, they won't see a need to beat up on each other any more than they have to. That means getting into the same division, turning that regular-season finale into a conference pseudo-semifinal and sending the winner on to the Big Ten Championship, with the hope that in many years a win there would propel that team into the four-team playoff that will begin in 2014.
Instead of thinking about the Big Ten title, Ohio State and Michigan are now thinking big picture. And the recruiting rankings help tell you why. They aren't everything. But it's hard to ignore the Buckeyes and Wolverines among the top five, Nebraska in the teens and everyone else at 30 or worse.
A conference like the Southeastern, which can consider Alabama, LSU, Florida, Georgia, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Auburn and maybe Arkansas national title contenders, doesn't have the same issue. Chances are that conference title game is going to put two national title contenders on the field, for good and bad.
The SEC has eight teams ranked among the top 20 in ESPN's recruiting rankings. The Big Ten has Ohio State and Michigan.
When the Big Ten went to divisions for the 2011 season as Nebraska made the Big Ten a 12-team league, splitting Ohio State and Michigan was done in the name of competitive balance and OSU Athletic Director Smith and Michigan Athletic Director David Brandon were fine with it.
Neither wanted the Ohio State-Michigan game moved off the final weekend, but they were OK with potentially playing back-to-back weeks, possibly devaluing what ideally are the two most important games on the Big Ten football schedule -- Ohio State-Michigan and the conference title game.
That scenario also created the possibility of what they should view now as a worst-case scenario: Ohio State and Michigan as the two best teams in the Big Ten, the only teams in the league with legitimate national title hopes, facing off in back-to-back weeks, splitting the games and knocking both of them out of the national title picture.
So this should be the last season where that's a possibility. Neither Michigan nor Ohio State has played in Indianapolis the first two years of the title game. The Buckeyes would have gone last season if they hadn't been banned. So the game hasn't been what it could be.
But the league should have figured out by now that all that matters, especially in the four-team playoff era, is whether a conference title game affects that postseason.
Is there a team playing to get in? It doesn't have to be two great teams, or a great rivalry. But is one playing for something bigger?
If there is, people will go and people will watch. If there isn't, fewer will go and fewer will watch.
In the Big Ten, the teams with the best chance to play for more are Ohio State and Michigan.
Smith said both he and Brandon want to be in the same division, as long as it doesn't hurt the conference. They will gather their talent bounty Wednesday, then in the future plan to bash heads on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, saying goodbye and sending the winner on to, they hope, bigger things.
Woody and Archie.................................. Alex being Alex, ....................................and Woody at Dennison
Same division make the most sense.
Same division is the best.... would be ridiculous if we played for the yearly Game .... and then turned around a week later to play for the B10 Championship.
At least same division the game decides who wins the division every year....big implications.
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