Restoring Balance to the Big Ten


Illustration by John Callison

Illustration by John Callison

Noah Housler, News Editor

   Since the Big Ten football left behind the Leaders and Legends division and transitioned to the Big Ten East and Big Ten West, there has been an inexplicable imbalance in competition. The Big Ten East has completely left the Big Ten West in the dust. While it may be a small sample size because these new divisions were unveiled only four years ago, no team from the West has ever won a Big Ten title game. Of the seven teams in the West, only two have made it there. Three of the four years, the Western slot was occupied by Wisconsin. From top to bottom, the West division is outmatched by the East, with the exception of Rutgers. This mismatch comes mainly from all of the storied powerhouse programs in the East, such as Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and the less storied but just as dominant, Michigan State. At a basic level, the Big Ten East has more talent in almost every position on the field as they recruit much better players. As of today, the East has three teams within the top fifteen recruiting classes for 2019 and the highest ranked class in the West is Nebraska at 26.

    There are some good teams in the West, such as Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue, and Northwestern, but these are as previously stated, just good teams, not elite. Coaching can only take two and three star talent so far giving these teams a lower ceiling than their counterparts in the East division. Pat Fitzgerald, Kirk Ferentz, and Paul Chryst are some of the most consistent coaches in football and they are all in the West division. However, the teams led by these coaches are still not elite and not championship contenders by any stretch of the imagination. For those that ask how we know these teams will remain mediocre, I would point to the fact that only 19 teams have won a national title in the last 30 years. That would be a lot if two teams weren’t allowed to claim a title up until 2006.

   This imbalance has a reverberating effect across all of college football because of the limitations it has on the College Football Playoff picture. If a team comes out of the West division to the title game with one or two losses, they are more than likely not even being considered for a playoff spot because of how weak their schedule is, along with the fact that they are more than likely going to lose the title game. Some may view these divisions as a chance for lesser teams to get some achievements, but it starves three of the four dominant programs, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State, in the East of possible conference titles.

   These rebalanced divisions would require new names because they no longer coincide with the geographic location of the schools. This is how a balanced Big Ten would look, on side one: Michigan, Michigan State, Maryland, Purdue, Northwestern, Minnesota, and Illinois. In the second side: Ohio State, Penn State, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and last and most certainly least, Rutgers. This puts two powerhouses, three above average teams, and two bottom feeders in each division. A major part of the Big Ten is history and tradition, because of this the storied rivalry games need to be protected, even if the teams are in separate divisions. Hopefully the Big Ten will see the error in what they have created before coaches begin losing jobs and recruits, along with programs losing prestige and money.