But this also caused the Conference to deal with the fact that it's not a Ten. Nor is it even an Eleven! (Goodbye, old logo, which I didn't even realize had an 11 in it till a few years back!) It is a Twelve (though it's still going to be called Ten - don't get me started.), and by being a 12-school conference, they are obligated to have a championship game and split into divisions.
Tonight, the Big Ten announced those divisions and explained how it would keep traditional rivalries while maintaining divisions. The two divisions are
Division 1: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin
Division 2: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern.
If you read that carefully, you'll realize that Ohio State and Michigan are NOT in the same division. But while yes, a team will play each of its division teams every year, they'll also play three of the other division's teams. One of those games will be a "guaranteed cross-rival game" where those two teams will play each other even though they're not in the same division. And yup, Michigan's guaranteed cross-rival game will always be Ohio State.
My dad hates this, because he thinks it's going to make it even harder to make it into the championship game because they're always playing the always formidable Ohio State. And this guy I'm watching on the Big Ten Network, Gerry DiNardo, is saying the same thing.
I also have a few thoughts. Read on...
- Honestly, how much money did Michigan State AD Mark Hollis pay the Big Ten to have INDIANA be their cross-conference rival on a permanent basis? We play Ohio State; they play INDIANA?? Are you kidding me??
- I am loving the fact that Wisconsin and Penn State are not in our division. We don't even see either team in the 2011 or 2012 seasons! They are always difficult teams to play, and not having them on the schedules make me breathe a little easier.
- I am eagerly anticipating the final two games of the 2011 season for Michigan. Both games are at home, and the first is Nebraska; the second is Ohio State. I'd like to mention now that I am all for the match-ups. Unlike my dad, who always likes to see how we'll get to a championship game, I take each game at a time (unlike what I do for baseball, where I'm always looking ahead). To host Nebraska will almost be more exciting than going to the Ohio State game! (Dad: I'd like to claim that ticket, if I can get the free time.) I can already imagine the lusty booing that will resound through the newly renovated stadium.
- I watched the Big Ten Network coverage tonight, and they interviewed Nebraska AD Tom Osborne. It looked like he'd been dead for two years and had been decomposing! It's the Crypt-Keeper!
- I really didn't care if U-M/OSU was at the end of the season. I'm happy it is, but having to play them while they are NOT a division rival is a bit unsettling.
- The season just got a ton harder. That mountain that Lloyd Carr talked about back in 1997 was just a molehill compared to this gigantic Everest that we're going to have to play in future seasons.
- The first championship game is in Indianapolis, but I really hope that Ford Field can claim a championship game in the future.
- I'm still a little confused about how exactly you get to the Big Ten championship game. If you win all your divisional games, does that put you in the championship? Or do you have to win every game in the conference, regardless of which divisional team you're playing? Because people keep saying that Michigan and Ohio State could play twice in a row. (For example, both teams are 5-0 in their division and play each other twice.) But I only see that happening if they only count the divisional games. How do the conferences like the SEC and ACC do it?
- This is all extended only to the 2012 seasons. This is a method that even the Big Ten commissioner has said can change. And I'm comfortable with that. It's not like the BCS, where the NCAA has pretty much said that there's no way a playoff is going in place anytime soon - it's the BCS, period. The adjustments after the 2012 season will be welcome.
- Did we really have to keep all the rivalries? It seems like they wasted a lot of time on something that is purely tradition. If they had done away with tradition and just adopted any old format, sure the fans would have griped for a while about schedules, but after the griping we would begin to adjust with what's been given us. One acronym helps me to explain this reasoning: ALCS. After the 1968 season Major League Baseball adopted a divisional system where they had a championship game for the AL and the NL before the World Series. There was complaining, but after a while it just became how it is.