The Sox fan pointed out yesterday that, in the hoopla surrounding the Buckeyes’ first game, I failed to comment on Wednesday’s announcement of the Big Ten divisions and scheduling. Ohio State and Michigan fans everywhere who were concerned that numbers-crunching, revenue-addled Big Ten administrators might ruin The Game can breathe a sigh of relief: Ohio State and Michigan will play every year, in the last game of the regular season, once the Big Ten starts divisional play.
What about the fact that Ohio State and Michigan are in different divisions? Well, what about it? The divisions are phony constructs anyway, developed just to allow the Big Ten to play a conference championship and collect the additional TV revenue that every major college seems to crave above most everything else. The important thing is that the The Game will still have prominence as The Game — the tradition-rich, bitter, end-of-the-season capstone of the Big Ten regular season.
As for the divisions themselves, the Big Ten clearly tried to achieve competitive balance and probably did so. Two of the traditional football powers — Ohio State and Penn State in division X, and Michigan and Nebraska in division Y — are in each division and will play each other every year, and those teams also get a guaranteed out-of-conference game against one of the non-divisional powers, with Ohio State facing Michigan and Penn State facing Nebraska. In addition to Ohio State and Penn State, division X will include Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Purdue, and in addition to Michigan and Nebraska division Y will include Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan State, and Northwestern. Ohio State thus gets to continue to play Illinois every year for the Illibuck trophy.
It would be interesting to know whether the outcry about moving the Ohio State-Michigan game had any effect on the scheduling decisions made by the Big Ten, but we will probably never know the full story.