Big Ten Realignment: Division Divinations

As we mentioned in Part I of this story, we think splitting Michigan and OSU up and moving their game to the middle of the season is absolutely insane, and not the cool kind of insane, like the type that informs every single stunt in the Jackass movies. Nonetheless, Delany and Alvarez both indicate that this process is almost done--80% is the figure tossed out by Delany--so it's time to accept it as the new, impending reality. Wisconsin and Iowa are split up, and so too shall be Michigan and Ohio State. And, logic would dictate, PSU and Nebraska.

Let's also make one assumption--that pairs of split teams will be divided by East and West across the board whenever possible. For example, of the Big Ten's top tier, Michigan and Nebraska go west, OSU and PSU go east. Likewise, Iowa west, Wisconsin east. It is just an assumption, but one that assumes at least a modicum of consideration for the fans when it's convenient (grumble grumble). Considering how sacrosanct the traditional and/or geographic rivalries are, this assumption will come in handy at the end.

Okay. With that, Alvarez also says there are two more tiers of programs in the conference, considering their recent performance. Let's make that split now:

TIER 1: DANGEROUS ROAD GAMES AND ALAMO BOWL FODDER
Michigan State
Purdue
Northwestern
Minnesota

TIER 2: WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOUR TEAM
Indiana
Illinois

Truth be told, I'm only sold on three of these designations--MSU, Purdue, and Indiana. But Illinois' last bowl win was the 1999 Micron PC Bowl--something they'll never let us forget--and while that beats jNWU's unblemished record of bowl losses, the Wildcats have at least avoided oh-fer-ing the conference slate in the last 12 years. Indiana is horrible. Meanwhile, Minnesota and Northwestern at least have a habit of putting together winning seasons on a fairly regular basis. As for Purdue, tough call, but there's probably enough of an affinity for the heights of the Joe Tiller era that the conference doesn't put them in the same tier as Indiana.

So of tier 1, the west-to-east progression goes Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, Michigan State. In tier 2, Illinois would head west, and Indiana east. That gives us the following:

DIVISION JIM
Michigan
Nebraska
Iowa
Northwestern
Minnesota
Illinois

DIVISION DELANY
Ohio State
Penn State
Wisconsin
Michigan State
Purdue
Indiana

That's mostly fair, except for one problem: there's no way Michigan's going to be split up from both MSU and Ohio State. Also, that is a murderous east squad in the immediate short term. So let's make one little swap among tier 3 teams:

Osbechler With A Side Of Fry Division
Michigan
Nebraska
Iowa
Michigan State
Northwestern
Illinois

Hayesterno Von Corso Division
Ohio State
Penn State
Wisconsin
Purdue
Minnesota
Indiana

This provides competitive balance across the different tiers of play, keeps everyone in the same division as their geographic rivals (hello, Rivalry Week), and provides for one protected interdivisional rivalry per school:

Michigan-Ohio State
Nebraska-Wisconsin
Penn State-Michigan State
Iowa-Minnesota
Northwestern-Purdue
Illinois-Indiana

Yes, it sort of falls apart at the end, but come on; the SEC gave protected status to Mississippi State-Kentucky and Arkansas-South Carolina, and those schools aren't even in bordering states.

Whew. So that's our new plan now that Michigan and OSU are getting divorced or whatever. With that, and considering the Big Ten's conduct over the last few months when it comes to rumors, we expect a flat east/west split to be announced by lunchtime Monday morning.

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