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Here's Frank the Tank's slant on realignment:
I believe that the Big Ten will need the following requirements in any divisional structure at a minimum:
(a) Ohio State and Michigan must play annually – This is pretty obvious.
(b) Ohio State and Penn State must play annually – This might be less obvious to people outside the Big Ten (or even with some fans within the Big Ten), but trust me, this is a non-negotiable game.
(c) Penn State, Rutgers and Maryland must be in the same division – The entire crux of the Big Ten expansion to 14 is to solidify the league’s presence on the East Coast, which effectively mandates that they have to be together.
What’s evident here is that Ohio State and Penn State are really the keys to the new Big Ten divisional alignment. For instance, these parameters mean that there is no way that Ohio State can be in a division opposite of both Michigan and Penn State – the Buckeyes have to be in a division with at least one of those schools. The East Coast bloc of Penn State/Rutgers/Maryland also limits the league’s options. We also have to consider whether the divisions need to split up the four traditional powers (Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Nebraska) evenly or if 3 of them can be in one division. I personally believe that 3 of them can be in one division provided that the other side has more depth of non-bottom feeders top-to-bottom, but know that others (particularly athletic directors) may disagree with that.
What are the Big Ten divisions going to look like? - (The Chicago Tribune's Teddy) Greenstein’s...intimated that the Big Ten was looking at an East/West split for divisions with the possibility of putting Northwestern in the East due to its alumni contingents in the New York and Washington, DC regions. However, the word out of Northwestern is that they would prefer to stay in the West with its closer rivals such as Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin along with enjoying a massive influx of Nebraska fans buying up tickets in Evanston every other year.
From what I’ve seen, the divisional alignment that I had proposed a couple of weeks ago with Michigan State in the West and both Indiana and Purdue in the East and every school having a protected cross division rival won’t come to fruition. If Northwestern is in the West (and I’ll be honest as an Illinois fan that I’d personally be pretty pissed if Northwestern ends up in the East on top of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State), then it would seem that Indiana would make more sense as the Hoosier State rep in the East (look at this Wall Street Journal article from a few years ago about how many East Coast students have been invading Bloomington lately) while Purdue would head to the West. That would mean the East would have Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland, Michigan State and Indiana, while the West would have Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois and Purdue. In that event, I would hope that the Big Ten assigns Indiana-Purdue as the only protected cross division rivalry while everyone else goes on a regular rotation. This would allow the West schools to continue playing Michigan and Ohio State more often, especially if the Big Ten increases its conference schedule to 9 games. The Pac-12 did the right thing by only making the games between the various California-based members into annual cross division games and not trying to force any unnatural pairings. Hopefully, the Big Ten has the good sense to do the same.
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