Wednesday, June 16, 2010
A few questions for Penn State fans
By ESPN.com staff
My division alignment proposal is on its way, but I wanted to check in first with one group of Big Ten fans.
Obviously, the big debate is over whether Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State should remain together or be split up in new Big Ten divisions. By any long-term historical measure, these three programs have been the most successful in the league. They also move the needle nationally more than the other Big Ten programs, garnering the most attention. (Trust me, working for ESPN, I understand these things better than most.)
There's a strong argument, fueled mainly by Iowa and Wisconsin fans, that with Nebraska joining the Big Ten, a division without Ohio State, Penn State or Michigan would be strong enough and prevent the league from falling into a Big 12 South-like situation. I'll admit that the case certainly looks stronger with Nebraska in the group, but I still have serious questions about balance in the league. Geography can work, but it also can be the easy way out. As Big Ten commish Jim Delany said Friday, competitive balance should be the No. 1 determining factor for divisions.
I've toyed with the idea of splitting Michigan and Ohio State into different divisions and maintaining a protected crossover rivalry, much like the SEC does. But the prospect of back-to-back matchups (in late November and then in the Big Ten championship game in early December) just isn't appealing. Those matchups don't work well in college football. Never have.
This brings me to Penn State. I want to know what Nittany Lions fans think.
Note: This is all based on the Big Ten remaining at 12 teams.
Here are my questions:
- How would you feel about Penn State being in a division with Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin, but not Ohio State or Michigan?
- How would you feel if Penn State had a protected crossover rivalry with Ohio State, preserving an excellent annual series?
- How would the very real prospect of nine conference games impact your view of divisions? In this format, teams would play all but two conference foes every year, just like the current setup.
Let me know your thoughts. I see the downsides, namely travel and the potential to face teams like Michigan a little less, but I also see the chance to keep building rivalries with Iowa and Wisconsin and to truly spark a new rivalry with Nebraska.