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Friday, August 20, 2010
Momentum builds for Michigan-OSU split

By Adam Rittenberg

For years, we heard that Michigan and Ohio State never would regularly play The Game after Thanksgiving. That will change this fall.

When the Big Ten added Nebraska in June and a divisional split seemed imminent, most folks (including me) thought there was little chance the Wolverines and the Buckeyes would end up on opposite sides of the league. This, too, has changed as we anxiously wait the division pairings to be announced.

If you're paying attention to the words coming out of both Columbus and Ann Arbor, you shouldn't be surprised if Michigan and Ohio State are placed in opposite divisions.

Athletic directors Gene Smith (Ohio State) and Dave Brandon (Michigan) both are preparing their respective fan bases for the Buckeyes and Wolverines to possibly move their rivalry game earlier in the season. The only reason this would happen is if the teams went in opposite divisions, creating the potential for a rematch in the Big Ten championship game. They would meet every year in a protected crossover game.

Brandon weighed in Friday morning on WTKA radio in Ann Arbor, and the blog MVictors has a good breakdown of theinterview.
Translation: Get ready for Michigan-Ohio State in late October. Probably.

Smith was a little less direct in his comments this week to The Columbus Dispatch.

"I know one thing for sure -- that we're going to play [Michigan] every year," Smith said. "We may end up playing the last game of the year, or not. I just don't know that yet."

Smith said his one unshakable objective at the start of the realignment discussion was to assure that Ohio State and Michigan would play every year. There is no danger of that being threatened. Beyond that, Smith said it's wise to let the process play out, step by step, without trying to insist on further requirements.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel added this at Big Ten media days when asked about The Game: "Where it will be in the future, I'm not sure. But I don't think it will ever change in its importance to the people that are involved in it, especially, what it means to all of them and all of us."

There are some obvious pros to splitting Ohio State and Michigan into two divisions.
The big negatives relate to tradition and the importance of the first game. Will it mean as much in mid October as it does in late November? Also, splitting Ohio State and Michigan could actually decrease the number of blockbuster games that could be enhanced through protected crossovers.

I'm all for being more open-minded in the Big Ten, but I'm concerned about the potential ramifications here.

Just be prepared for this to happen.
When asked if he were making the decision, would he put Michigan and Ohio State in the same conference division? Brandon paused then answered. "No."