Bitter rivals Ohio State and Michigan won't be in the same division when the Big Ten reorganizes its football setup in 2011. But they still will play each other every year and, if they're both good enough, possibly even twice.
The Big Ten on Wednesday announced the alignments of its two new football divisions, which will debut when the conference expands to 12 schools by adding Nebraska next year. The introduction of the divisions - the conference currently has no such thing - will allow for a new conference championship game akin to those played in some other big conferences, with the winner of each division battling for the title.
The alignments for the new divisions, which have yet to be named, are as follows:
- Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin in one division.
- Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern in the other.
Each school will play its five division mates every year. Each school also will face three teams from the other division, including one cross-division school that it will be guaranteed to face annually, according to the Big Ten.
The guaranteed cross-division match-ups, some of which keep intact longstanding rivalries, are Ohio State-Michigan, Illinois-Northwestern, Wisconsin-Minnesota, Indiana-Michigan State, Penn State-Nebraska and Purdue-Iowa.
The Big Ten's 2011 and 2012 conference schedules have been posted on its website.
"Over the past several months, Big Ten staff and directors of athletics have met on several occasions to discuss and finalize division alignments," Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany said. "We focused on competitive equality, traditional rivalries and geography.
"We considered multiple models and countless permutations in an effort to achieve the most competitively balanced divisions while at the same time respecting our traditions, preserving existing rivalries and creating opportunities for the establishment and growth of new rivalries. We have listened to the feedback from our institutions, alumni and fans, and while we understand that no final alignments could possibly satisfy all of our constituents, we believe that we have achieved a very exciting result."
The Big Ten's first football championship game will be held December 3, 2011, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. That game will determine the conference’s participant in the Rose Bowl or the Bowl Championship Series national championship game.
Nebraska announced earlier this year that it was bolting its current conference, the Big 12, for the Big Ten.