It seems like it’s been over a decade since an idea this sound has emerged from the Big Ten Conference.
Play eight conference games.
While the SEC found a way to play through the 2020 COVID season, the Big Ten was paralyzed by fear. They delayed their season, while the ACC, SEC and Big XII played on, a poor look that hurt the national perception of one of the premier conferences in the country.
To add insult to injury, the SEC then began working out a deal to bring in two major college powers from another conference. SEC Commissioner Greg Sanky had negotiated with both Oklahoma and Texas to join the SEC, and struck a deal with their media partners to assure that both schools would receive full television revenue shares without diluting the current conference membership.
The Big Ten stayed still.
That is, until the announcement of The Alliance.
The Alliance, an informal agreement between the ACC, Pac-12, and Big Ten to basically slow down the rapid change rate of college athletics and possible arrange non-conference games, is a good idea, but it hasn’t really acted on anything yet. So, while it sounded great at the opening press conference, it’s just been a bunch of hot air ever since.
But there’s hope, as the Alliance may have finally pressured the Big Ten to convert promises into production.
Instead of continuing to complain that the SEC plays only eight conference games as opposed to the nine played by the Big Ten, Iowa AD Gary Barta indicated the conference may soon reduce the Big Ten conference contests to eight. With that extra game, the Big Ten can then schedule some long-term agreements with schools from the ACC and Pac-12.
This is important because it helps prevent cannibalism of the best teams within the conference, and gives the Big Ten schools another worthy opponent.
Eliminating divisions will also help promote the best teams within the conference and ultimately help more school earn a bid to the CFP once it expands. The plan is to have each school lock in three rivals that they play every year, and then rotate the rest of the schools through the schedule.
No one needs to see Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State beat up on Rutgers and Maryland every season.
The best part of a division-less Big Ten is it will prevent bad matchups in the conference championship game. Since the creation of the East and West divisions, no West representative has won the championship game. Now, fans can finally see the top two teams in the conference square off on Championship Saturday in December.
While rematches are less than desirable, they are preferable to the current format, which is an imbalance in favor of the East. Removing divisions will ensure the two best teams play without fear of eliminating a good team that happens to have the “wrong” loss.
Michigan v Michigan State
Ohio State v Penn State
Or even a back-to-back rematch of Ohio State v Michigan
While these plans are still in their infancy, it’s nice to see the Big Ten finally be proactive and set up their conference for success.