According to Rittenberg at ESPN, the Big Ten has all but Indiana and Purdue split into two divisions, with a perfect East/West split, upon Maryland and Rutgers joining the B1G in 2014. The divisions:
It's important to note that with this alignment, the Big Ten is guaranteeing Indiana and Purdue their Old Oaken Bucket game every year--but no other Big Ten teams will be guaranteed that crossover. Moreover:
League sources tell ESPN.com that a 9-game conference schedule likely will go into effect for the 2016 season -- there's still some discussion about a 10-game league slate, but all signs point to nine -- and that the goal is for every pair of teams to play at least once every four years.
So that'll be some Little Brown Jug action at least once every four years. Disappointing for Gophers fans, but hey, one less trophy to lose every year! You won't even notice it's gone. Oh, and the Governor's Victory Bell, too! I WAS SO WORRIED. Some early thoughts!
State to the East?
Yep, Sparty is heading east. Spartans AD Mark Hollis apparently likes the strength of the East Division and the traditional matchups that Michigan and Ohio State offer the Spartans. Apparently Michigan State cares more about the yearly game with Ohio State and possibly Penn State (LAND GRANT TROPHIES FOR EVERYONE) than it does playing in Chicago, which was one of the original reasons for Sparty joining the Legends Division two years ago.
Assuming Indiana goes to the East and Purdue comes West, Michigan State would also keep its trophy with Indiana, thus helping them retain all their trophy matchups.
Just Send Purdue West.
I commend Delany on making this decision (for reasons forthcoming). Now he just needs to make the sensible decision of sending Purdue to the West Division to make the geographic split perfect. Purdue gets to keep its crossover game with Indiana, it can play for the Purdue Cannon with Illinois (I'll take "Things Nobody Cares About" for $200, Alex), and it's a short 2-hour drive to Chicago. This makes the most sense.
Seriously, How Cool is the West?
You have an awesome 5-way of HATE HATE HATE in the West: the Iowa-Minnesota-Wisconsin triangle, a budding Nebraska-Wisconsin showdown, the growing hate between Iowa and Northwestern, good games between Nebraska and Northwestern... There's a lot of potential here. Let's not forget that Wisconsin has been to the last three Rose Bowls, Nebraska will turn in their 9-win seasons (and probably fire a couple of coaches for it), and Northwestern is set to bring back arguably their strongest team in a decade.
Ohio State looks to have the inside track out in the East, where Penn State presumably has to feel the effects of Sanctionpalooza soon, Michigan needs to find Offense After Denard, and Michigan State is coming off its worst season in five years. But with time to rebuild and reload, these four schools look to have a fun tango for the top spot. Never underestimate Purdue to upset a couple of these squads if Darrell Hazell can pull off the rebuilding.
Oh, and welcome to the Big Ten, Rutgers and Maryland! Thanks for all your TV sets and cable revenue. Take your beatings, enjoy the $20 million checks you'll get every year, and just stay quiet until basketball season. Unless you want to beat Penn State a few times and get all high and mighty about it. That'll be fun to watch, too.
But but but COMPETITIVE BALANCE!
Save it. Competitive balance may make sense for the next, oh, two years or so, but asking the Big Ten to predict its conference landscape even five years from now is dubious at best. Besides, who knows if we'll still have the Big 14 by the time the 9-game schedule reportedly will kick off in 2016.
That's not enough for you? Well, I'm with Rittenberg on this one. The Wisconsin-Nebraska-Northwestern(!!!) triangle is becoming quite a competitive triad. I can't see Iowa staying down for long and at least becoming a competitive team. Overall, the West looks to be more top-to-bottom competitive (save Illinois), whereas the East has its Big Four, Little Three setup rather entrenched.
Overall, this division setup is incredibly utilitarian. The greatest number are positively affected by keeping time zones common, preserving the maximum amount of rivalries, and splitting the divisions geographically. Please, Jim Delany and Co., move Purdue to the West and don't come up with any fancy division names.