This week on the blog we're pitting the Big Ten's two divisions against one another in a series of topics and debating who comes out on top. Today, we conclude the series by debating which side will take longer to settle who will represent them in the Big Ten championship game in December. Will the East or the West provide more drama in the closing weeks of the 2015 season?
Mitch Sherman: East
Ohio State and Michigan State over the past two years have combined to lose one regular-season Big Ten game. It happened in East Lansing last November as the Buckeyes began to flash their national-title form.
The near-consensus opinion as the 2015 season approaches says that the East Division -- likely the Big Ten title and perhaps a spot in the College Football Playoff -- boils down to Nov. 21 at Ohio Stadium. If so, that’s not a bad scenario, with the hype building throughout the season as OSU and MSU throttle opponents until their meeting on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
I think it’ll play out in a slightly more complex fashion, potentially adding to the drama with multiple East Division scenarios in play until Nov. 28, when the Buckeyes visit Michigan Stadium for Round 1 of Meyer-Harbaugh and the Spartans host Penn State.
Imagine that fun.
College football is an unpredictable game, even among the likes of MSU and OSU, which look better than the rest of the Big Ten by a sizable margin. And likely they are better, but one or both may lose a league game before Nov. 21. The Spartans must visit Michigan -- surely no longer a pushover for MSU under the guidance of Harbaugh -- and Nebraska.
If Ohio State picks up where it left off in January, forget about the competitiveness of this race. But this isn’t the NFL; the Buckeyes aren’t the New England Patriots, despite what you may hear and read this month as preseason camp nears.
Ohio State’s league schedule is undeniably on the easy side, what with Penn State and Minnesota at home and Illinois as its West Division road game. Maybe the Buckeyes will run the table as expected and roll into the third week of November with their three quarterbacks ready to wreck everything in sight.
My guess is that something unpredictable will happen -- and that it will add to the drama of an East Division race that remains unsettled until the final Saturday.
Dan Murphy: West
More contenders mean more late-November drama in the West Division.
Michigan State’s visit to Columbus might end up being the de facto conference championship game, but that happens with two weeks left in the season. That should settle things in that division. There’s a pretty good chance the West will need an extra week to figure out their champ.
Like last season, there are four teams that have a realistic shot at winning the West if the year goes well for them -- Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa. Whichever team wins that three-game round-robin tournament will have a huge leg up on the others for the chance to be playing in Indianapolis in December.
Those four are scheduled to pair off and go head-to-head for their regular-season finales. Nebraska hosts Iowa the day after Thanksgiving and Wisconsin will visit Minnesota a day later. Historically, Nebraska and Wisconsin have been the two heavyweights from this group. They face off in October, but that meeting won’t set anything in stone. There will be plenty of scoreboard-watching in the West during that final weekend.