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Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Poll: Biggest winner in new B1G divisions

By Adam Rittenberg

Shortly after the Big Ten revealed its new divisions for the 2014 season, Brian Bennett weighed in on the winners and the losers of the league's new setup. Now it's your turn.

In the first of two polls, we're asking you which team, teams or, in one case, league-wide document was the biggest winner of the realignment.

Here are the candidates ...

Wisconsin: The Badgers were Bennett's pick as the biggest winners in the Big Ten's realigned divisions. He makes a compelling case. Wisconsin moves away from both Ohio State and Penn State, and stays away from Michigan. Although Wisconsin has won the first two Big Ten championships of the divisions era, its path to the league title game appears to be significantly easier in the West division than the East. Wisconsin also is the only West division team not to take a significant prolonged dip on the field in the past decade. Plus, the Badgers maintain traditional annual rivalries with both Minnesota and Iowa, and keep a potentially spicy new rivalry against Nebraska.

Purdue: One team from the Eastern time zone had to go West, and Purdue, located slightly West of in-state rival Indiana on the map, proved to be the pick. The Boilers don't have to contend with Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State in the division, and their road back to the form they showed from 1997-2003 under Joe Tiller seems a lot easier in the West. They get to keep the annual Bucket game against the Hoosiers. They'll also play more often in the Chicago area, a fertile recruiting territory for the program.

Michigan/Ohio State: The rivals are paired together because they wanted to be in the same division and keep The Game where it is. They get both in the new alignment. There will be no rematch in the Big Ten championship game, which could have watered down the teams' traditional game. Michigan gets rival Michigan State in the division, and Ohio State will be able to maintain its annual series against Penn State. Sure, the division looks loaded, but these teams are the two biggest reasons why.

Maryland/Rutgers: The Big Ten's two newest members undoubtedly have to upgrade their programs to compete in a tougher conference and in an extremely challenging division. But having national programs like Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State come to their home stadiums every other year should help both the Terrapins and the Scarlet Knights build their brands and boost revenue, enthusiasm and recruiting efforts. Although both teams could take their lumps early on, both should be better off in the long run.

The Big Ten's next TV contract: In case you haven't figured it out, TV revenue drives college football, and the Big Ten is the last in line to negotiate a new deal in a super-sized environment. Annual division games between Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan will appeal to the TV folks, as will regional matchups like Wisconsin-Nebraska. The Big Ten will use "parity-based scheduling" in the first 18 years of division play, which will match up the top teams in each division more often -- another selling point for TV.