Big Ten announces division lineups

Rivals Minnesota and Wisconsin, and Ohio State and Michigan, will be in opposing divisions starting next year.

(Left to right) Penn State head coach Joe Peterno, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne at the Big Ten Media Days conference in Chicago in August.

Mark Vancleave

(Left to right) Penn State head coach Joe Peterno, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne at the Big Ten Media Days conference in Chicago in August.

Andrew Baker

The Big Ten announced Wednesday how its new 12-team, two-division setup will look, and although Minnesota and Wisconsin will be in different divisions, they will still play each other every year. The new look, which affects only football, will begin with the 2011-12 season when Nebraska formally joins the conference. The two divisions, for now known as the X and O Divisions, will look like this: âÄ¢ O Division: Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern and Minnesota âÄ¢ X Division: Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana and Illinois Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said that although the new divisional setup will split longtime rivals Ohio State and Michigan into different divisions, and do the same to Minnesota and Wisconsin, interdivision crossover games will be played each year to keep those rivalries intact. âÄú[Minnesota and Wisconsin have] the longest rivalry in the history of college football,âÄù Delany said. âÄúIt will be maintained.âÄù Seven out of the nine weeks in the 2011-12 Big Ten season will include a rivalry and/or trophy game, while nine out of 12 conference trophy games will be guaranteed annually. Minnesota Athletic Director Joel Maturi said that, for the most part, the division alignment and the 2011-12 schedule are favorable for the Gophers, noting that the team will open that season playing for the Little Brown Jug trophy at Michigan and that they will play rival Wisconsin every year. âÄúI think all Gopher fans are going to be extremely happy with the setup of the divisions and certainly with the schedule we face in 2011 and 2012,âÄù Maturi said. Maturi said heâÄôs âÄúnot ecstaticâÄù that Minnesota will play both Iowa and Wisconsin at home in 2011-12 âÄî usually one game is home and one is away each year âÄî and that some fans may be disappointed that neither of those games will be played at the end of the season. âÄúYou donâÄôt get everything that you want, but I do think that itâÄôs a fair and equitable process,âÄù Maturi said. Each team will play eight conference games, four home and four away, with no more than two consecutive at home or on the road. Teams will also have one protected inter-division crossover game to be played every year and two rotated crossover games. In other words, each team will play five intra-division games and three games against the opposing division each year. The winners of each division will square off in the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the right to play in either the Rose Bowl Game or the BCS National Championship Game. The protected inter-division crossover games will be: âÄ¢ Ohio State-Michigan âÄ¢ Wisconsin-Minnesota âÄ¢ Penn State-Nebraska âÄ¢ Illinois-Northwestern âÄ¢ Indiana-Michigan State âÄ¢ Purdue-Iowa The Ohio State-Michigan game will be played at the end of the season, as it has since 1935, Delany said. This presents the possibility of those two teams playing twice in a row, should they meet in the conference championship game. Michigan athletic director David Brandon said heâÄôd have no problem playing Ohio State twice in one year, and Ohio State athletic director Gene SmithâÄôs take was simple. âÄúIf it happens, it happens,âÄù he said. With the addition of Nebraska, there will be one more team in the conference playing the same number of conference games (eight) each year. That means Big Ten teams will play their cross-division rivals less often than they do now. Delany said that to address the problem, the conferenceâÄôs athletic directors and presidents are strongly considering adding a ninth game to the conference schedule sometime in the future. âÄúWe donâÄôt want to play each other less, we want to play each other more,âÄù Delany said. Delany said the three main factors in determining the division alignment were competitive equality, rivalries and geography. âÄúWe think that [the divisional alignment] does a pretty good job of not only maintaining great old matchups, but also of creating some wonderful new matchups,âÄù Delany said. Delany said the conference will continue to be called the âÄúBig Ten,âÄù despite its growth to 12 teams, and that the division names âÄúXâÄù and âÄúOâÄù will serve as placeholders until official names are decided.