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Predicting Big Ten CFB divisions following realignment
Oregon Ducks defensive end Bradyn Swinson (44) sacks Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) during the fourth quarter of the NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. (Credit: Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

Predicting Big Ten CFB divisions following realignment

ROSEMONT, Ill. (BVM) – The college football season is just a few weeks away but that hasn’t stopped the recent conference realignment debate that has changed the landscape across college athletics. 

With the Big Ten front and center following its additions of UCLA and USC last summer, the conference continued its expansion over the past few weeks, landing both Oregon and Washington from the Pac-12. While the Big Ten and the Big 12 have been the benefactors of college programs looking to move, the Pac-12 has found itself on the opposite side of the spectrum.

The Big Ten conference, currently standing at 18 programs, has a number of questions to answer when it comes to the logistics of their recent moves. With a focus on football, the current seven-team divisional setup will need to be restructured with the newest additions being added to the conference in upcoming seasons. 

With that in mind, here’s a look at a few divisional ideas that the Big Ten could implement for football heading into future years.

Ohio State-Michigan conference realignment
Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Emeka Egbuka (2) catches a pass behind Michigan Wolverines defensive back Mike Sainristil (0) and defensive back R.J. Moten (6) during the second half of the NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium. Michigan won 45-23. (Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch)

Two divisions 

East: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers

West: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, UCLA, USC, Washington, Wisconsin

Many have suggested a new-vs-old format when it comes to a potential setup that would feature the original teams on one side and the newest additions on the other. While moving the original Big Ten teams into its own division looks nice on paper, a yearly schedule that consists of teams like Maryland, Rutgers, USC and Oregon doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when it comes to travel. 

The Big Ten will obviously be cognizant of keeping big rivalry games like Michigan-Ohio State and UCLA-USC alive, but in doing so will certainly come with its fair share of reshuffling. This two-division setup laid out above keeps much of the current structure intact and allows many of the rivalries fans have become accustomed to to remain.

 

UCLA-USC football conference realignment
Southern California Trojans running back Austin Jones (6) runs the ball against UCLA Bruins defensive back Stephan Blaylock (4) during the second half at the Rose Bowl. (Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Four divisions

East: Maryland, Penn State, Rutgers, Two more realignment teams

Central: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue

Midwest: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin

West: Nebraska, Oregon, UCLA, USC, Washington 

This idea likely can only happen if the conference were to add two more teams to get to an even 20, but the setup could end up being the smoothest route depending on the teams that would be added in. This structure gives the conference some flexibility with programs like Nebraska and Penn State able to work in a few of the different divisions, but preserving many of the current rivalries remains untouched in this scenario. With realignment likely far from over across the country, the blueprint listed would obviously change depending on the location of any possible additions that would be added to the Big Ten. 

Minnesota-Wisconsin football conference realignment
Wisconsin running back Chez Mellusi (1) runs for a first down during the first quarter of their game against Minnesota at Camp Randall Stadium. (Credit: Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

No divisions

Before the additions of Oregon and Washington, the Big Ten announced its plans for 2024 and 2025 when UCLA and USC are set to join, and the conference opted to do away with divisions. With 16 teams at that point, the Big Ten unveiled a model for the two seasons that would protect 11 annual games and had set each Big Ten program to match up twice in a four-year span. USC and UCLA were set to face every Big Ten team at least once before the end of 2025. With two more additions added into the fold, the idea of a divisionless system seems like the route the conference has its sights set on.