Next to realignment itself, Big Ten division alignment is one of the most popular topics on the blog. We engaged in a healthy debate in 2010, and it's time to do so again as the Big Ten will be at least a 14-team league in the near future with the additions of both Maryland and Rutgers.
While some astutely point out that the division alignment debate might be pointless because the Big Ten in all likelihood will expand to 16 teams, we don't know who the other two schools will be, so we can only look at a 14-team model.
Our friends at BTN.com recently put the question of future division alignment to Big Ten fans, noting that the results of the survey will be sent along to the league office. Whether the Big Ten listens to its constituents remains to be seen, but it's possible.
Three models are listed:
1. The existing model plus one new addition to each division: The current Leaders and Legends teams would remain in their assigned divisions. Rutgers or Maryland would be split up, one going to the Leaders and the other to the Legends.
2. East-West: The divisions would be aligned based on geography. Both new members would appear in the East division. The divisions would look like this ...
East: Rutgers, Maryland, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana
West: Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue
3. Inner-Outer: Not sure who came up with this concept or the names (worse than Leaders and Legends?), but one division would include teams in the center of the Big Ten footprint and another division would include teams on the periphery.
Inner: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, Indiana
Outer: Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland
You can vote for any of the three, but I'd immediately eliminate the Inner-Outer concept because geography should be a much bigger factor in determining the divisions this time around. Having Nebraska and Maryland in the same division doesn't make much sense to me.
Keeping the status quo and splitting Maryland and Rutgers also is a head-scratcher. It's clear the Big Ten had Penn State in mind when adding both schools. It seems like a no-brainer to have Penn State, Maryland and Rutgers all in the same division.
I'm guessing most of you like the East-West split, and while I supported the initial division alignments, I've definitely warmed up to this idea. Having Michigan and Ohio State in the same division is fine, and likely would add even more to The Game, which should remain at the end of the regular season.
Brian and I will share our division alignment proposal in the near future, but one thing to keep in mind is whether the West division will be strong enough by adding Wisconsin and losing both Michigan and Michigan State. In my view, it might be worth it to split up the Michigan schools and have them play a protected crossover each year.