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Ohio State and Big Ten expansion: Same or separate division as Michigan?

The Big Ten is expanding again, and has discussed divisional realignment. Should the Buckeyes be in the same division as Michigan, or not?

Jim Delany smiles because.  Just because.
Jim Delany smiles because. Just because.

As we all know, the Big Ten conference recently expanded to 14 teams, adding Rutgers and Marlyland. And if Internet message boards and Twitter accounts are to be believed, some combination of ACC teams North Carolina, Duke, Virginia, Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Boston College are heading our way.

That's all well and good, but the pressing question for OSU fans boils down to this: should we be in the same division as Michigan?

If they were in the same division, we wouldn't have to worry about Michigan being a protected cross-divisional rival. At 12 teams, this isn't a big deal, and I think even if the B1G were to expand to 20 or however many Jim Delany wants to conquer, we would always be a protected rival. So the chances of OSU and Michigan not playing every year seems to be remote, at best. But that said, remember when Nebraska-Oklahoma was yearly must-see TV?

But let's assume they would play as cross protected rivals. Would The Game still be played as the last regular season game of the year? In that, I'm a lot less sure of. And if there's a 1% chance that would happen, I say screw it, put them in the same division.

When there was talk of moving The Game because of the future potential of us meeting Michigan one week later in a conference championship game, both sides raised enough of a ruckus that a potential move from Thanksgiving weekend was stopped.

But as Michigan begins their climb back to the top of the conference and OSU comes out from under their one year post-season ban, the threat (or treat) of back-to-back OSU-UM games is a possibility more realistic. The first time that would happen, I am of the opinion that there would be a movement to move The Game to sometime in October.

And that sucks.

But to think an OSU-UM rematch would be an every other year kind of proposition is a bit foolish. OSU is going to have a yearly battle with Wisconsin and eventually Penn State again to win the Leaders, and Michigan is going to have to contend with MSU and Nebraska. None of those opponents are easy, and if you look at the Big Ten standings the last 10 years or so, Ohio State and Michigan would have only met in a rematch in 2003, 2006, and 2007 (that is if my quick look at final standings and divisional losses is correct).

However, all that needs to happen is for this to occur once, and there would be a lot of push from the rest of the conference to move The Game. As sacrosanct as having The Game as the last one of the regular season is for us as it is for Michigan fans, it's just a game for the rest of the conference. And there would be a lot of push to see Us play Them in October.

And would a rematch intensify or dilute this great rivalry? I'm actually of the opinion that it would dilute it. Oh, there would be great drama in a rematch, to be sure, but that championship game rematch, in and of itself, takes away from The Game being what it is: the most intense game these teams play, regardless of standings or record.

If you put them in the same division, in many ways it gets back closer to what we saw in the 10 Year War, and what this series has been about historically--a physical dogfight that goes a long way in determining who the ultimate conference champion would be. True, it would no longer be a winner take all scenario, like we've seen so many times in the past, but for one team, it would be.

Yes, times change, and things evolve. We're not going back to 10 teams, and at the end of the day, this expansion is good for the conference, but it's still important to hold on to certain things that mean the most to each of our fanbases moving forward.

For us, keeping The Game as the last one of the year is one, and to make sure that happens, put OSU and Michigan in the same division when all the dust settles.