FanPost

Analysis of the New Divisions

Go East/West Young Man

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the B10 has leaked the new divisions. They also let it be known that the B10 will move to 9 conference games starting in 2016.

The new divisions:

East = OSU, MI, PSU, MSU, IN, RU, UMD

West = NE, WI, IA, MN, NW, IL, PU

The only locked game will be IN/PU.

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Pros

  • The B10 finally got rid of Leaders and Legends and the nationally mockery that came with them
  • East/West is easy to remember for casual fans
  • The western quadrangle of hate is together as it should be, and so is the eastern triad
  • A lot of drivable road games for fans
  • Lots of big brands playing RU and UMD regularly to help drive growth and TV demand in DC, Philly and NYC

Cons

  • A lack of balance with OSU, MI, PSU and MSU all in the East
  • Most of the major media markets, best recruiting areas and biggest brands are all in the East
  • Only 4 traditional B10 teams in the East versus 6 in the West (and their 7th team fits really well)

Depends on Your Opinion

  • OSU and MI are together
  • Geography over balance

Reason They Are What They Are

  • Potential money from the NYC TV market

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We Already Knew All of That

I know, but common ground is a good place to start. Now let’s get to the actual analysis part.

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How Bad Is the Balance, Really?

Good question. Obviously nobody can tell the future, but we can make some reasonable estimates based on history and recruiting rankings.

Recruiting

I took a look at the recruiting issue a few months ago (HERE). In the comments, I even provided a look at the B12 as a comparison. The net result is that over the past 2 years, OSU and MI have dominated B10 recruiting much more than they did in the prior decade. On the other hand, PSU will do better as they get off of their penalties and OSU and MI may not get as many top recruits once they have their type of players in place instead of having lots of PT available for a stud that didn’t fit their old system. That is good news for the East, but not so much for the West. They ‘ll need to continue coaching up lower-ranked recruits and look to compete that way.

Conference Winning Percentage from 2003-2012

If we look at the past decade, the difference becomes clear. Based on conference W% over the past decade, the East has 3 of the top 4 teams. If you compare them slot by slot, the top 6 East teams all have the advantage over their West counterpart.

Div

#

Team

Win%

Div

#

Team

Win%

Difference

E

1

Ohio State

0.800

W

2

Wisconsin

0.659

0.141

E

3

Michigan

0.625

W

5

Nebraska

0.583

0.042

E

4

Penn State

0.600

W

6

Iowa

0.550

0.05

E

7

Michigan State

0.519

W

8

Northwestern

0.500

0.019

E

9

Rutgers

0.478

W

10

Purdue

0.450

0.028

E

11

Maryland

0.412

W

12

Minnesota

0.338

0.074

E

14

Indiana

0.175

W

13

Illinois

0.237

-0.062

E

7.0

Average

0.516

W

8.0

Average

0.474

0.042

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You have to add the obvious caveats that NE, RU and UMD weren't in the B10 for most or any of this period, so their numbers are the ones most likely to change. In addition, success is always cyclical (look at PSU from 2001-2020). However, history says that the top 4 programs over the long haul are OSU, MI, PSU and NE. Having 3 of those 4 in one division is likely to skew the balance.

Also important when looking at the future is looking at the landscape. Having the best recruiting grounds in one division as well as most of the major media markets tends to favor that division growing stronger. Since the East is starting out as the stronger division, that doesn't bode well. Making it worse, NE may be in the worst position of the 4 to stay on top long term due to their small state population and distance from big states.

Schedules

Here's where some good news comes in. Clearly the divisional schedules will be harder for the East teams. However, once the B10 moves to 9 conference games in 2016 everyone will also have 3 crossover games. Those 3 games help to balance the 6 divisional games. The average divisional opponent in the East is 0.516, but their overall average opponent will be only 0.502. On the other hand, the West goes from an average division opponent of 0.474 to an overall average opponent of 0.488. That shrinks the gap from 0.042 per team (an extra 3/8 of a W per team in the West just from the easier division) to 0.014 (down by a factor of 3 to an extra 1/8 of a W per team).

The big winner overall is PU, getting the easier division and locking in IN every year. Despite having the 10th best winning percentage, they will have the easiest schedule in the B10. That hurts IL and MN especially, since they will most likely be battling PU for position in the standings. It should help PU establish themselves as #5 in the West and challenge IA and NW to move up. In the east, it will hurt UMD, RU and MSU as the teams most likely to be jockeying with PU for a bowl slot.

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