The craziest summer in recent Big Ten history came to a clarifying close this evening when the league confirmed the members of the "X" and "O" divisions along with schedules for the 2011 and 2012 season. The division names, placeholders for now, still need to be determined, but the teams that will occupy the divisions, on the football side, at least, are a reality.
|Indiana||Illinois||Ohio State||Penn State||Purdue||Wisconsin|
If the makeup of the divisions rings a bell, it's because they were leaked by virtually every beat reporter in the Midwest earlier today. Also leaked today -- and later confirmed by conference commissioner Jim Delany this evening was the hands-off approach the league took towards the scheduling of the Ohio State - Michigan game. Acknowledging fan reaction on both sides of the rivalry (Nebraska's Tom Osborne said he, too, had even received some unpleasant mail, which is really just the way we welcome people to the Rust Belt), the game will remain the final regular season game for both schools for the near future, though Delany, ever the lawyer, wouldn't commit to the anything permanent on that front.
The issue had caused tummy aches throughout Michigan and Ohio for most of the last two weeks after word surfaced of the conference possibly exploring the option of separating the two and moving the game up in the season. In fact, Delany said the conference considered a plan in which all "rivalry" games would be played within the first seven weeks of the season with intra-division games closing things out, but the plan was never passed on to the athletic directors for a vote. So, in the end, the people won out, though they did concede a split, which athletic directors at each school favored, and the necessary chance of immediate championship game rematches that comes with that.
Looking at the schedules, the Buckeyes earn the distinction of being the opponent in Nebraska's first-ever Big Ten home game, scheduled for October 8th, 2011. The Cornhuskers return the favor, traveling to Columbus for a game on October 6th, 2012. Pitting these two in an out-of-division game was a no-brainer for the Big Ten, with both programs currently peaking and staring down top 10 clashes each season.
|9/29 - @ Michigan State|
|10/6 - Nebraska|
|10/13 - @ Indiana|
|10/20 - Purdue|
|10/27 - @ Penn State|
|11/3 - Illinois|
|11/10 - BYE|
|11/17 - @ Wisconsin|
|11/24 - Michigan|
|10/1 - Michigan State|
|10/8 - @ Nebraska|
|10/15 - @ Illinois|
|10/22 - BYE|
|10/29 - Wisconsin|
|11/5 - Indiana|
|11/12 - @ Purdue|
|11/19 - Penn State|
|11/26 - @ Michigan|
Some quick thoughts on the 2011 and 2012 conference schedules:
- The Buckeyes essentially swap Minnesota and Northwestern for Nebraska and Wisconsin. Next year, we're looking at road trips to Miami, Nebraska, and Michigan with home tilts against Wisconsin and Penn State. In 2012, we welcome Cal, Nebraska, and Michigan, while traveling to Sparty, Penn State, and Wisconsin. At least we'll have SoS.
- The race for championship game berths should be intense. The final weekend of '11 features Iowa @ Nebraska, Ohio State @ Michigan, and Penn State @ Wisconsin. The matchups remain the same, but the venues are flipped in 2012.
- Terrelle Pryor will never have to play another game at Beaver Stadium, the Millennium Falcon to his Han Solo.
- Thanks to scheduling being an imperfect art, Penn State will travel to Columbus next season as well, making two straight road appearances against the Buckeyes. A little bit of payback for the sweetheart deal Penn State received upon entering the conference that saw the Buckeyes travel to State College in '94 and '95.
- Each school will play two home and two road games in each half of their conference slate.
- There are six guaranteed cross-divisional matchups: ILL-NW, IND-MSU, OSU-UM, PSU-NEB, PUR-IOWA, and WIS-MINN. Not all rivalries and trophy games were accomadated, but Indiana and Michigan State will still get to play for their spittoon, so we'll chalk that up as a win for the league. Iowa kind of got shit on, but Delany explained Wisconsin was already somewhat geographically disadvantaged with the schedule, so the move was made to allow for a Badger/Gopher game.
- They skipped each other in '03 and '04, but not seeing Penn State play Michigan will seem weird.
- Most importantly, Delany confirmed games played out of division will count in the division standings, contrary to rumors that sprouted up last week.
Whew. Anyone else ready for some real football already?