Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Like a fiddle

We doubted Dave Brandon. We knew better and yet, we doubted him nevertheless. The storm clouds were gathering, we quaked with fear that all that we cherished, that all we held dear, was being rent asunder.

We said that they were wrong, that they would sell their souls and screw it up.

And it was a smoke screen. It was a head fake and we bought it hook, line, and sinker.

We must trust Dave Brandon. Trust, but verify.

It is wholly possible that Michigan is one of the biggest winners in the Big Ten divisional alignment. I see the downsides, but here's what I see as the upsides for Michigan: You now get a major annual game against Nebraska, a traditional power with over 800 wins and a built in animosity between the 1997 National Championship issue, and the 2005 Alamo Bowl. It will not be an instant rivalry, but it will hit the ground running. A bonus is that Michigan and Nebraska will face off in the game before The Game, at least for 2011.

Michigan State is a divisional rival, meaning that Michigan's two protected rivalries will be preserved. It means that the Michigan/Michigan State game means something beyond bragging rights and the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Also, Michigan State is not the last game of the season. I was genuinely dreading that possibility. They'll now close at Northwestern in 2011 and at Minnesota in 2012.

You now get the annual playing of the Little Brown Jug game against Minnesota, improving that situation from the old schedule where it occurred eight out of every 12 seasons. The Little Brown Jug's history is full and rich and is the essence of the Big Ten Trophy game. This is a very unexpected perk of this division.

An annual game against Iowa, which just feels right. 1939 Heisman winner Nile Kinnick vs. 1940 Heisman winner Tom Harmon. Forest Evashevski and Bump Elliot as Venn overlap!

An annual game against Northwestern, meaning every other year, Michigan plays in Chicago, where it has a ton of alums. Also, the battle of the two biggest university endowments in the Big Ten.

Michigan and Ohio State playing The Game on the last weekend, even if in opposite divisions, with the potential rematch in the championship game if someone [glares at someone] can ever get their act together.

The downsides:

The biggest loss is going from playing Penn State 10 years on, 2 years off to playing Penn State 2 years on, four years off. I hope that the nine conference game potential change in 2015 will help that. Jim Delany even acknowledged that Michigan and Michigan State both "gave up" playing Penn State every year, or almost every year as one of the losses in the new configuration.

No Indiana and Purdue annually, well...Michigan frequently didn't play Indiana every year during the ten team era of the Big Ten, so that's not that surprising (similarly, they were frequently off the schedule in the rotation in the Penn State era of scheduling.) I lament losing Purdue, as that is quickly becoming a heated rivalry, what with wizard hats and such, but they are on the schedule for 2011-12, so, there's that.

No Wisconsin or Illinois annually, well, Wisconsin was also frequently off the schedule in the old ten team era. Plus, we'll still, hopefully, play them in hockey every year with the Big Ten's effort to make the CCHA and WCHA Big Ten teams play one another.

As for Illinois, I am sure they are bummed as they consider Michigan one of their arch rivals, but again, each of the five teams Michigan does not face every year previously rotated off the schedule at some point.

So yes, there are down sides, but I think the upside is better for Michigan.

A couple of other notes. Jim Delany says that he "doesn't do trial balloons." I am pretty sure that he believes that, but consider, the last three weeks of the run up to college football, pretty much since after Michigan went to Seattle, have been discussions about the Big Ten's divisional alignment, and then about possibly moving "The Game". It has kept the Big Ten in the media spotlight for the last three weeks, and now tomorrow night Ohio State and Marshall play on the Big Ten Network. This is about building the brand. Similarly, Jim Delany targeted hopefully 90 days from now, or December 1, oh yeah, the week of the Conference Championship games for the Big XII, SEC, and ACC. Jim Delany keeps the Big Ten in the discussion for another week and reminds people that next year, the Big Ten will be playing one of these as well. This is brand management and it's pretty darn slick.

Is it the best of all possible worlds? No. But honestly, if you're a Michigan fan, there's a lot to like here. Now to work with Nebraska to create the "We call it Maize, you call it Corn" Trophy.

1 comment:

Brian D said...

Agreed. Lots of wins, and the only two losses are 1) not playing PSU that often, and 2) Once every 15 years, we play OSU back-to-back.