For the past month, talk of rematches and whether that's a good thing has dominated college football.
Truth is, rematches are about to become a lot more commonplace, thanks to the advent of championship games in the Pac-12 and Big Ten. This weekend, Michigan State and Wisconsin will meet for a second time in six weeks in the inaugural Big Ten title game.
Rematches sometimes occur in bowl games -- just ask Nebraska, which lost to Washington in the Holiday Bowl last season after beating the Huskies in the regular season. But playing the same team from your own conference twice? That's something Big Ten schools will have to get used to.
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said he asked all his assistants last weekend if they'd ever been a part of a rematch. None had.
"It’s uncharted water," he said.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio doesn't exactly have any recent experience with it, either.
"I think in the eighth grade, we played each team twice and that’s about it," Dantonio said.
So it will be interesting to see how the rematch aspect affects Saturday night's game. There are few secrets between these teams. They have played each of the past five years, and the games have all been close, including the Oct. 22 thriller that the Spartans won 37-31 on a Hail Mary pass from Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol.
But teams do change and adapt during the course of a season.
"We've played a lot of games since we played last," Bielema said. "So you get some tendencies and some new things."
Neither side will have to spend a ton of time on scouting reports, though, because they already did that for the first meeting. Dantonio said that allows the preparation to get a little deeper.
"You have an opportunity to go back and critique what you’ve done," he said. "And that’s one of the things that we always do, is we write down everything that we’ve done in that past game -- good, bad or indifferent -- so we can lean on that for the next year. So we’re able to lean on it again this year, but with the knowledge that things are going to change out there as well."
There will be some key differences for both teams. Wisconsin will likely be without star center Peter Konz, while Michigan State will have defensive end William Gholston, who was suspended for the first matchup. Expect each team to throw in some new wrinkles, especially from a Spartans staff that loves to call trick plays. Wisconsin knows it will have to be much better on special teams after having a punt blocked for a touchdown and a field goal blocked in the first game.
But for the most part, Dantonio said, both teams will stay true to themselves and what they do best.
"Probably the majority of what they do and we do are going to be within that system," he said. "Probably 75 percent are going to be within that system, and 25 percent are going to new things that have maybe gone on in the past five games. Maybe 10 percent or 5 percent of those are really new things."
Who has the edge in a rematch: the team that won the first game, or the losing side that's now extra motivated? History indicates that the team that won the first time more often than not goes on to win again.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, there have been 22 rematches in conference championship games. The team that won the regular-season meeting is 14-8 in those rematches. Notable exceptions are: Virginia Tech turning the tables on Boston College in both the 2007 and 2008 ACC title games; Colorado upsetting Texas in the 2001 Big 12 championship game; Nebraska reversing order versus Texas in 1999; and LSU getting revenge against Tennessee in the 2001 SEC championship game.
Divisional play makes rematches in the Big Ten championship game very likely, though there will be times when the title tilt features teams that didn't meet in the regular season. A potentially thorny issue for the Big Ten will arrive if Michigan and Ohio State both rev up and start winning division titles. Then the Wolverines and Buckeyes would stage a rematch just one week after their season-ending rivalry game. If you think there's a public distaste for rematches now, wait until two teams are playing each other in consecutive weeks.
Get used to it, though. Rematches are here to stay in the Big Ten.