Right now, we're struggling with divisional alignment in the Big Ten, largely due to the fact that any East-West division would put OSU-Michigan-PSU in the same division, which seems pretty unbalanced.
East: PSU, OSU, Michigan, MSU, Indiana, Purdue
West: Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois
And when you look North-South (keep in mind, the way I draw it below isn't exactly perfect, because I flip Nebraska and Northwestern to split the 4 traditional powers 2-and-2 in separate divisions, but you get my drift), you run into what I call "The Game Problem" -- basically, everyone says you cannot split up Michigan and OSU, because even with protected rivalries, you'd have the possibility of them playing twice in a row, and no one wants that.
North: Michigan, MSU, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska
South: OSU, PSU, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern
First of all -- how do we now that? I'd be pretty psyched to see back to back games between the 2 schools, but that's just how I roll.
Second -- couldn't we fix this? Create a simple rule: two protected, end of season, cross-divisional rivals CANNOT meet in a conference title game, even if both win their divisions. The winner of the cross-divisional regular season game gets to play in the conference finals versus the 2nd place team in the other division.
So, let's say Michigan and OSU are in first place in each of their respective divisions leading up to the Game, and that position would not change even if one lost the Game (i.e. both are undefeated, so they have tiebreakers in head to head over any 2nd place team in their division). Iowa (in Michigan's division) and Penn State (in OSU's division) are in 2nd place in those divisions.
Suddenly, the Game becomes even BIGGER. Only the winner of the Game can go to the conference title game -- loser is out.
You'd also have 2 fanbases (Penn State and Iowa) GLUED to their televisions rooting for the other division team to win so THEY could go to the conference title game. It's a win-win for 4 fanbases. I mean, can you IMAGINE the added venom involved in The Game if it meant a ticket to the Big Ten conference title game? It'd be just short of the 2006 Game (which was fought for the chance to be pounded by Florida in the BCS Championship game)....but not that much short.
Couldn't this rule solve all divisional problems, PLUS make cross-divisional rivalries MORE important (at least, on occasions like the one I outlined above)?