It’s inevitable. As soon as Nebraska became the twelfth team in the Big Ten (thereby activating the opportunity for that league to host its own championship game), the rivalry that has in many ways defined that conference was in jeopardy. And while it’s easy to discount the national implications of Ohio State’s annual football tilt with Michigan, the local ramifications of moving the game off that third Saturday square will be drastic for both programs. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Big Ten will be splitting into two divisions. Early reports have Ohio State and Michigan in separate divisions. That’s fine, whatever. But the more crucial discussion revolves around moving the game up the calendar, to October. The logic here is that this would give each team a chance to rebound from a loss in the polls and the standings, thus keeping one or both of the league’s powers in its conference championship picture.
Whether you care about the Big Ten or not, the proposal here is rather baffling: the Big Ten wants to INTENTIONALLY downgrading its biggest regular-season game, presumably so that it doesn’t upstage their own conference championship. And really, that’s what they’ll have to do to make sure anyone gives a damn about that game, because there will never be a Big Ten game bigger than The Game.
It’s easy for someone whose team never won anything before the 1990s to bash tradition, but think about the value of that game RIGHT NOW to both schools. In many years, Michigan has spoiled Ohio State’s season and vice versa. The Game has been a campaign climax for both schools for over 100 years. It is literally a one-game season. Ask anyone in Columbus or Ann Arbor; they’d be content with a 1-11 season, as long as the one came against their perennial arch rival.
The Game loses all of that if you make it just another date in conference play. And while it’s not as stylish as a true conference championship, one would be hard-pressed to argue that it’s less important. But this is the Big Ten, who can’t be be expected to value what it already has when it can’t even count the number of teams in its own damn league.