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Will the Big Ten eliminate East/West divisions? Better yet, should they?

The Big Ten West is struggling folks, it’s time to scrap it.

2021 Big Ten Championship - Iowa v Michigan Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Last week the NCAA Division I Council announced that it will relax their stance on college football’s conference championship games, paving the way for conferences to make their own decisions on how they determine who plays in their respective conference championship games.

This decision, essentially, allows for conferences to eliminate divisions altogether and place the top two teams in terms of winning percentage into the conference title game. Shortly after the council made that decision the PAC-12 scraped its divisions in favor of the two top teams model, which will start in 2022.

With the PAC-12 making its decision eyes now shift to other power players in the sport in the ACC, Big Ten and SEC. The ACC has long been a proponent of this model, so one would think they’ll follow suit eventually.

When you couple that with the fact that the ACC, PAC-12, and Big Ten are in an “alliance” you would think it’s only a matter of time until the Big Ten joins forces, partly because it would allow them to eliminate one conference game in favor of a fourth non-conference game between schools in the alliance. There have already been discussions, so one would think its only a matter of time.

However, it’s important to ask: should they?

That is a separate question altogether. The answer probably depends on who you ask and what fan base they are a part of. If you’re a team in the Big Ten East you’re probably a fan of this model as it now gives you a greater shot of getting to the title game. Ohio State isn’t going anywhere, but the top two model gives the rest of the division a fighting chance.

Sure, I guess if you’re Michigan, Michigan State, or Penn State that is a fair argument. Maryland, Rutgers, Indiana? Not so much. Let’s not pretend like it was East/West that was holding you back. Indiana wouldn’t even have made it in the 2020 season they talk so much about. Now you have seven more teams you have to surpass? Good luck!

Now, if you’re a Big Ten West fan you could look at this one of two ways. One, going to top two teams likely makes your path to the title game harder. Of course, it does. You now have seven more teams to compete with. The further the odds, the harder to win. That’s simple math.

In the graphic above, you can see that a few years certainly would have been impacted. Last year we would have gotten a rematch of Ohio State/Michigan instead of watching a 42-3 drubbing of that miserable, fraudulent Iowa team. That would again be the result in 2018, eliminating a Northwestern team that had no business being there either.

For Wisconsin fans, the Badgers would have gotten the boot in 2016 in favor of Penn State/Ohio State. Looking back, is that so bad? Was that team really a Big Ten Championship caliber team? Not really.

Ultimately, it does seem like it is time to eliminate the East and West and even out the playing field. If you’re a team in the West you’ve had shots to show balance and failed. No Big Ten West team has won the Big Ten title since the East/West divisions were implemented. That just isn’t getting the job done on the field, and it’s hurting teams off the field. As it sits right now, seven of the top eight teams in terms of Big Ten recruiting rankings are out of the East. Iowa sits in sixth in the conference just ahead of Maryland and Rutgers.

Eventually, things have got to change and with the way things are trending those changes will ultimately be good for the Big Ten West. You simply can’t keep living the way the Big Ten West is and expecting different results. An elimination of divisions will force programs to look themselves in the mirror and face the fact that mediocrity will no longer cut it. What’s the old saying again? Iron sharpen iron? Rather than run from it, it’s time to lean into it. This change is likely coming regardless so the sooner teams wrap their heads around it, the better.