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How would current B1G race look last year?

11/3/2011

As Brian Bennett wrote this week, the arrival of division play came at a perfect time for the Big Ten. It has given us two exciting races to track and kept more fan bases involved in the drama.

The decision to select the divisions based primarily on competitive balance and not geography also has turned out well.

The current setup is undoubtedly better than the silliness the Big Ten employed for years: crowning co-champions, having debatable tiebreakers for the BCS automatic berth and deciding who went to the Rose Bowl based on athletic directors' meetings or which team had the longest drought of playing in Pasadena. It was a Little League approach all around.

As we prepare to enjoy what should be a delicious plate of November football in the Big Ten, let's look at how this season's races would function in the previous format.

Here's a quick look at the current Big Ten standings:

LEADERS DIVISION

Penn State: 8-1 overall, 5-0 Big Ten

Wisconsin: 6-2, 2-2

Ohio State: 5-3, 2-2

Purdue: 4-4, 2-2

Illinois: 6-3, 2-3

Indiana: 1-8, 0-5

LEGENDS DIVISION

Michigan: 7-1, 3-1

Nebraska: 7-1, 3-1

Michigan State: 6-2, 3-1

Iowa: 5-3, 2-2

Minnesota: 2-6, 1-3

Northwestern: 3-5, 1-4

Here's how the standings would look in the 2010 format:

Penn State: 8-1, 5-0

Michigan: 7-1, 3-1

Nebraska: 7-1, 3-1

Michigan State: 6-2, 3-1

Wisconsin: 6-2, 2-2

Ohio State: 5-3, 2-2

Iowa: 5-3, 2-2

Purdue: 4-4, 2-2

Illinois: 6-3, 2-3

Minnesota: 2-6, 1-3

Northwestern: 3-5, 1-4

Indiana: 1-8, 0-5

The schedules likely would have been made differently, but Penn State doesn't play Michigan or Michigan State in the regular season, setting up a potentially tricky tiebreaker. Wisconsin and Michigan also don't play this season.

Under the old tiebreaker rules, we could have a situation where overall record or even the BCS standings would break a tie because certain teams didn't play. Penn State would be penalized for testing itself in nonconference play against Alabama, while other teams with less challenging non-league slates could be rewarded.

Unless Penn State were to win two of its final three games, the potential for a convoluted tiebreaker would be high under the old format.

One thing I really like about the Big Ten's division tiebreakers is that overall record and the BCS standings aren't nearly as important as they were under the old system. It comes down to winning key head-to-head matchups, winning conference games and winning division games.

The way it should be.