At the Big Ten media day, Commissioner Jim Delany stated that he would like to see the conference change to a 9-game schedule and add a conference championship game. While I agree that a conference championship game is long overdue for the Big Ten (no more co-champions, PLEASE!), I disagree with the idea of expanding the length of the conference schedule.
It seems only logical to split the Big Ten into two six team divisions once Nebraska joins in 2011. While there has yet to be a formal decision on how these two divisions would be aligned, I feel that a geographical West/East alignment makes the most sense.
The divisions would look like this:
West: Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Minnesota, and Wisconsin
East: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan St., Ohio St., Penn St., and Purdue
The most common criticism to this alignment proposal is the perceived lack of parity between divisions. When factoring in each team's conference record for the past 10 years (*using Nebraska's Big-12 record), the West/East format seems relatively even. The rankings are as follows:
1) Ohio St. [64-16] East, 2) Micigan [53-27] East, 3) Iowa [49-31] West, 4) Nebraska [*47-33] West, 5) Penn St. [45-35] East, 6) Wisconsin [44-36] West, 7) Purdue [41-39] East, 8) Northwestern [38-42] West, 9) Michigan St. [32-48] East, 10) Minnesota [30-50] West, 11) Illinois [26-54] West, 12) Indiana [18-62] East
In short, each division would be comprised of three teams from the top 6, and three teams from the bottom 6. If the schedule were organized so that each team plays their 5 divisional opponents and then 3 non-divisional conference opponents, every current annual rivalry would be maintained except for Illinois-Indiana and Northwestern-Purdue.
A 9-game conference schedule would be ill-advised with a 12 game regular season. Adding another conference game would only lower the winning percentage of the conference as a whole, and this could ultimately reduce the amount of bowl eligible teams for the Big Ten in a given season. Furthermore, non-conference schedules provide Big Ten teams with an opportunity to showcase their brand to other parts of the country.
What do you think about my proposed conference alignment? Where would you like to see the Big Ten Championship game played? I personally would love to see a championship game at Soldier Field.