Don’t be surprised if the Big Ten continues to expand, sooner than later.
But the true certainty in the next few months? Its divisions will be re-organized with the additions of Rutgers and Maryland in 2014.
What seems certain: Maryland and Rutgers will be joined with Penn State. No other scenario makes much sense.
What seems probable: That three of the league’s four traditional powers — Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State — will be together with Maryland and Rutgers in what amounts to the core of an Eastern division.
Of course, things would probably work well enough if the current divisions were simply kept nearly in tact. Just move Maryland and Rutgers into the Leaders Division (I looked it up) and ship Illinois to the Legends. Wisconsin would be the only team truly out of place geographically.
But it seems more likely that the Big Ten will shake things up more.
That could mean an East division of Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Rutgers, Maryland and Indiana. The West division would be Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois and Purdue.
And the more I look at it, the more I like it. Or, at least, I don’t really
One key to why this works: Purdue, Minnesota and Illinois should hold up the back end of the West almost equally to how Rutgers, Maryland and Indiana are projected to hold up the back end of the East.
Could the complete re-alignment be more equal, even better?
Maybe with a tweak like sending Northwestern to the East in exchange for Indiana.
But, then, the geography would be messed up by one team.
And we’ve been down that road before (with Wisconsin), and people seemed to be all bent out of shape over it.
But in regards to whatever happens, two things are imperative:
One is moving Michigan and Ohio State together. Because how many really want the those teams meeting in the Big Ten title game a week after playing each other in the regular-season finale?
The other is this: Penn State and Maryland must play each other on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend to end each season.
It’s the one geography issue that stands out above most others.
And that’s an issue we’ll tackle more in-depth in an upcoming column and post.