Report: 2014 Big Ten Alignment Almost Complete

Reid Compton-US PRESSWIRE

With Maryland and Rutgers joining the conference in 2014, the Big Ten intends to reshape the divisions geographically. At first glimpse, Wisconsin's "West" division seems significantly weaker.

The Big Ten has settled upon time zones as the primary divider between its future football divisions, according to a report from ESPN.com.

Maryland and Rutgers will be joining the Big Ten in 2014, bringing the conference to 14 schools. Currently, the Legends and Leaders Divisions are divided based upon a generally arbitrary geographic division, with some respect toward competitive balance aimed at increasing the chances of an appealing Big Ten Championship Game match-up. But with two more East Coast schools coming in, the Big Ten has nearly settled upon splitting the conference by time zones.

The lone remaining hurdle is deciding where to put Indiana and Purdue, as eight Big Ten schools will be located in the Eastern time zone and only six will be in the Central time zone. Michigan State was previously lumped in with those two schools as a candidate to move west, but ESPN now says the Spartans are no longer in play in the West.

No decision is imminent and replacements for the "Legends" and "Leaders" division names are still being considered (thank you), but here's how the two should look:

"EAST" DIVISION "WEST" DIVISION
Indiana/Purdue Illinois
Maryland Indiana/Purdue
Michigan Iowa
Michigan State Minnesota
Ohio State Nebraska
Penn State Northwestern
Rutgers Wisconsin

Boilermakers and Hoosiers fans might be inclined to clamor over their schools' being separated, but if current discussion holds, Purdue and Indiana will have the conference's only protected rivalry. That means they'll player every year, while every other pair of teams is intended to play each other at least once every four years.

That's also based off the likely nine-game conference schedule, which several coaches have expressed disdain before, including Wisconsin's Gary Andersen. A 10 game conference schedule is still also on the table, though reports indicate nine is the preferred number.

So what about this divisional breakdown? The East certainly boasts better name recognition with Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State. That leaves Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin and a Northwestern team that appears to be steadily improving.

Moving Michigan State to the West would appear to alleviate that apparent competitive disadvantage, but as mentioned above, that likely won't happen. MSU also has expressed a desire to play Michigan every year, which really does make sense. That leaves Purdue and Indiana, and the former seems more likely at this point to head west. The Boilermakers simply have a richer football history and a program that's more recently competed for conference titles.

How do you like this new alignment, both for Wisconsin and the conference? The geographic orientation makes sense and probably should've been the central factor from the start, but at least it seems like we'll be getting rid of "Legends" and "Leaders."

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