A Way-Too-Early Look at the B1G East, West Divisions

By Michael Citro on April 22, 2013 at 11:30a
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So…we all seem to be pretty happy about saying goodbye to the spawn of the product of the worst focus group in the history of mankind.

The East/West divisional split makes sense on a lot of levels, not the least of which is an end to the embarrassing names we’ve lived with for the past two seasons. Fans of teams from other conferences have had their fun with that, but its time has passed and the news that division name changes are on the way restores the world to a more logical and reasoned state.

The Big Ten East will reportedly consist of Ohio State, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Rutgers. The B1G West features Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin.

While I would have thought that splitting up the Mitten State with a protected Sparty/TTUN crossover would be good for competitive balance, I’m fine with taking a trip to Ross-Ade Stadium out of the normal rotation. It’s also good to see Ohio State’s trips to the wind tunnel in Champaign limited as well, come to think of it.

Separating Indiana and Purdue isn’t great for the rumored fans of those two schools, but a protected crossover is expected.

So now that we’ve got the divisions figured out, the conference’s presidents and chancellors should ratify them soon and put this all behind us.


Regrettably, the change won’t take place until 2014, when Rutgers and Maryland arrive. Conference changes tend to take place on a geological timetable anyway, so “Leaders” and “Legends” get a farewell tour and two lucky teams will be on record as the last ones ever to win these ridiculously named constructs. Most of the readers on this site would no doubt enjoy Ohio State going out as back-to-back Leaders Division champions, while ridiculing the inevitable goofy T-shirts that would be spawned from it.

Taking a look at the new West, it appears Ohio State won’t be much affected. Of the teams leaving the Buckeyes as division foes, they can be said to have a legitimate rivalry with only Wisconsin. The Boilermakers and Illini are also moving out of Ohio State’s neighborhood. Neither are true rivals, but both have given the Buckeyes fits at times, often for little or no discernible reason.

Seeing Illinois less often might bring a little more juice to the Illibuck game. Every Ohio State fan wants the Illibuck, but not many do so because they prize trophies in the shape of turtles. It’s rather a sign that the Buckeyes have won the game that drives a desire for the Illibuck. With the teams playing less frequently, and thereby getting to keep the trophy longer, it might turn the burner up on such a matchup.

Wisconsin and Minnesota will be together, as they should be. Although the Golden Gophers have not had strong teams in recent years, their border rivalry with the Badgers is an important geographical one that should be preserved. Similarly, in-state schools Illinois and Northwestern find themselves grouped together, as do the Spartans and Wolverines.

Newcomers Maryland and Rutgers may enjoy a nifty new rivalry as the only B1G schools on the Atlantic coast (for now). The Iowa-Nebraska “farmageddon” rivalry will have a chance to continue to grow as well.

B1G East
Team Wins ('08-12) CONF Wins ('08-12)
Ohio State 51 32
Penn State 46 29
Michigan State 44 27
Rutgers 39 18
Michigan 34 18
Maryland 25 13
Indiana 16 5
B1G West
Team Wins ('08-12) CONF Wins ('08-12)
Nebraska 48 29
Wisconsin 47 25
Northwestern  40 21
Iowa 39 21
Purdue 26 15
Minnesota 25 12
Illinois 24 11

What about the strength of the two divisions? The balance of power of college football divisions tends to be cyclical in nature. But I think we can project a little of what we might see in 2014 — the first year of the new alignment.

The East looks to be the stronger division in the short term.

Aside from the “big two” of Ohio State and Michigan, the East boasts Michigan State, a team that has averaged nine wins over the last six years with a bowl appearance at the end of each one. In addition, Penn State has yet to feel the full weight of its sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and is therefore still a formidable opponent. And if the USC example is any indication — and if Bill O’Brien doesn’t bolt to the NFL — the Nittany Lions won’t be down for long, if at all.

Rutgers is an intriguing new partner. The Scarlet Knights averaged eight wins over the past eight seasons, and that number climbs to 10 if you throw out an abysmal 4-8 mark in an aberrant 2010 season. The Knights have gone 5-2 in bowl games over those eight seasons as well.

Indiana is a program seemingly on the rise under Kevin Wilson, whose name I am no longer forgetting on a weekly basis. If the Hoosiers can ever put together a semblance of a defense to go with Wilson’s offense, Indiana will stop being an automatic ‘W’ on the schedule.

Maryland has been mostly bad in recent years, with only three winning seasons since 2003. The Terrapins won a bowl game at the end of each of those three, but still this future division foe has lost seven or more games in four of the last six years.

Still, there is much potential in the Maryland program. The Terps went 31-8 from 2001-03, destroying West Virginia (41-7) and Tennessee (30-3) in bowl games after the latter two seasons.

Then there’s the West.

Wisconsin appears to be the obvious class of the future West Division at this point in time, coming off of three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances — even though the world’s largest asterisk should forever accompany the most recent one. That said, the future of the Badgers is in flux right now. New systems are being put into place by the school’s first new head coach (Gary Andersen) since Bert Bret Bielema replaced Barry Alvarez after the 2005 season.

I don’t expect Wisconsin to face a long-term downward trend, but there may be an adjustment period before it normalizes. The storied Nebraska Cornhusker program would appear to be a perennial favorite to challenge the Badgers in the West, but in the long run, if recruiting trends continue, I’m not sure the top two out west can hang with Ohio State and Michigan.

Northwestern has a solid team entering 2013 and the divisions seem to be divided in such a way that the Wildcats can continue to challenge for B1G title games for years to come. After Northwestern, the division seems to drop off.

Iowa has the potential to be a solid program again, but can it happen as long as Kirk Ferentz is at the helm? He’s had some success in the past, but Iowa’s trend has been downward the last two seasons. The Hawkeyes have reached nine wins only twice since 2004, when they concluded a third consecutive year with double-digit wins.

Beyond Iowa there is only potential. Minnesota was better last year under Jerry Kill than the year before, but it’s a long way from returning to competitive Glen Mason levels. Illinois was a mess in Year 1 of the Tim Beckman era and another season like that may usher the coach’s exit before the new divisional alignment.

Purdue welcomes Darrell Hazell this season —a head coach with loads of potential. Hazell won at Kent State, with an 11-3 season and a bowl game appearance last year, and will have an opportunity to improve fortunes in the alleged “city” of West Lafayette. On the flip side, some of Hazell’s assistant coaching hires have been met with skepticism and his sample size at Kent State is quite small — only two seasons.

We’ll have to wait until 2014 to find out how this will all shake out, but I think it’s fair to say the Buckeyes and Wolverines will be the favorites in the East, with Wisconsin, Nebraska and perhaps Northwestern in contention in the West. A lot will factor into that, of course, including attrition — in terms of players, head coaches, and perhaps assistant coaches as well — recruiting, and talent development.

No matter what happens, we’ll all be better off after “Leaders” and “Legends” go away forever.


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Doc's picture

Hasta la vista leaders.. er... legends.. or whatever the hell we were in.

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

steensn's picture

Does anyone else not get why Leaders and Legends were so hated? I

buckeyepastor's picture

1.  Had no rhyme or reason to the pairings.  No geographical considerations were made.   
2.  The names had nothing to do with the Midwest, or the history of the conference.   They did offer some nice tributes with the naming of conference awards.   
I would have loved something like "Great Lakes" division and "Plains" Division, or "Heartland" division and "Tundra" division.   
I think the fact that they had to hire a firm to do research and come up with something that so many people disliked just made it that much worse.    

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

steensn's picture

I totally agree that if they paid a bunch of money for something most people hated and lots of people mocked (from outside the conference) they did a bad job. Again, it is not what I would have picked, but I didn't hate it either.

CC's picture

My mother once told me that people with class don't need to tell you they have class.  In this case we were telling people we were leaders or legands.
A little arrogant in my opinion.

gwalther's picture

Steensn was actually a member of the focus group during division name development.

Class of 2008

steensn's picture

The outcome of my focus group would have been East/West, I just don't hate the outcome they came up with.

buckeyepastor's picture

Hopefully, Nebraska and Wisconsin will become a big rivalry.   My Husker friends have lost in recent years first their rivalry with Oklahoma and then with Colorado.   The desperately want a new rival to despise, but Iowa just doesn't really get people fired up, even though they are trying to create a rivalry there.  But real rivalries happen because of big games and big moments.  The Huskers' first visit to Madison was about as ugly as possible, both on and off the field.  They've hated the Badgers ever since, and obviously last December only made that worse.    

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

CC's picture

You're dead on.  Big games and big moments.  Until Iowa gets good there will be no rivalry.
If we didn't have such big games with UM there wouldn't be a rivalry.
Until the streak ended a couple years ago you could start to feel the air go out of the rivalry.  When it became a question of "how much will we win by" the energy gets lost.

bukyze's picture

I actually quite enjoyed the "how much will we win by" era.  I wish it could be like that every year from here to eternity.

BuckeyeChief's picture

I enjoyed that era as well, even though deep down inside, I know we need them to be good; walking around Disney a few weeks ago seeing all those scUM shirts and hats made my skin crawl.

"2014 National Champions...deal with it!!!"

GoldenBearBuckeye's picture

Please don't shed a tear for the Cornhuskers.  They bolted on Oklahoma when Oklahoma was down, and claimed Colorado as their new rival.  Then they bolted on the entire Big 12.  I don't like Oklahoma or the Big 12, but Nebraska deserves your contempt, not your pity.

Deshaun's picture

When did Nebraska bolt on Oklahoma? The Southwest Conference began falling apart in the early 1990's with the defection of Arkansas to the SEC. With the College Football Association (the negotiating entity for college football tv rights at the time) losing partners like the Big Ten, Notre Dame, and the SEC, Texas and Texas A&M began looking for a new conference with more marketable members than TCU, Rice, and SMU. In the mid-1990's, the Big 8 seized the opportunity to invite Texas and Texas A&M. The Governer of Texas, Lt Governor, Speaker of the House, House Appropriations Committee Chairman, and Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee (2 Baylor grads and 3 Texas Tech grads, respectively) threatened to cut funding if their alma maters were not included. The 4 schools were added to form the Big XII, the new conference was logically divided North/South (separating Nebraska and Oklahoma), and Nebraska was only scheduled to play Oklahoma 2 out of 4 years.

Colorado was never considered by Nebraska to be a significant rival. Tom Osborne even said, "For some reason, they (Colorado) decided we were their rival." Since 1962, Nebraska was 40-8-1 against Colorado. That was a rivalry in the way Gallagher's hammer had a rivalry with watermelons. Also, fwiw, Colorado left the Big XII for the Pac 12 the day (10 June 2010) before Nebraska left for the Big Ten, although both moves were considered imminent for days.

GoldenBearBuckeye's picture

Regardless of the long narrative, which appears to be accurate, Nebraska had a straying eye as soon as OU hit bottom.
They had a ton of leverage when the Big 8 was becoming the Big 12, but did not lift a finger to save the rivalry with OU.

BuckeyeNationProblems's picture

Where are you getting the huskers bolted on Oklahoma?  I live in Lincoln and that never once has crossed my mind. 


4thandinches's picture

I actually like Nebraska to take charge in the West, for at least the next few years. But I would love to see Northwestern in the B1G championship game. 
These divisions are all well and good until shortly when we add more teams. We just might call the divisions then "Original Big Ten and Former ACC/Big East." 

I wasn't born a Buckeye but I became one as fast as I could. 

cplunk's picture

Yeah, except we'll be in the Former ACC/Big East. It is hard to come up with many scenarios where we aren't one of the ten Easternmost teams.

Hovenaut's picture

Leaders and Legends was horrible, a big fail in an attempt to be snazzy/further brand the conference.

East and West, simple.

Buckeyeboy's picture

"...with Wisconsin, Nebraska and perhaps Northwestern in contention in the East." Good article Michael, but I believe you meant to say (West) at the end of the above sentence.

Go Bucks!

Michael Citro's picture

I did, and I actually fixed it at one point buy my changes didn't save because Jason was putting in that snazzy graphic you see at the top at that time. Fixing it now.

Thanks for bringing it (back) to my attention. Your account should now reflect a refund for your purchase of this article.

MediBuck's picture

I really liked Great Plains / Lakes. They're also semi-geographical and are more easily remembered than say "Atlantic" & "Coastal" and "Mountain" & "West"... waitaminute...
Obviously, the power balance favors the East. Having scUM, Penn State, and OSU in the same division alone tips the balance far away from anything Wisconsin and Nebraska could. I agree that for competitive balance, MSU should have been moved over with a protected cross-division rivalry.

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

otrain2416's picture

I don't like that our division spelling wise looks like were in the Big East

We were born to love Ohio State and hate that team up north.

BuckeyeNationProblems's picture

I like Nebraska to take control of the West.  Wisconsin will be there, but  think it is the Huskers in terms of longevity. 


CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Glad to see we are moving to East/West!  Now we'll have more of an idea which team is in which division. 

BucksfanXC's picture

Are we doing divisions for basketball too?

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

Colorado Buckeye's picture

"Separating Indiana and Purdue isn’t great for the rumored fans of those two schools"
This cracked me up!

Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory lasts forever!