These 2 Big Ten Teams Should Swap Divisions

first_imgGeneral view of Penn State vs. Purdue in 2011.STATE COLLEGE, PA – OCTOBER 15: A general view during the game between the Purdue Boilermakers and the Penn State Nittany Lions on October 15, 2011 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)During last week’s Big Ten Media Days, coaches were not afraid to speak their minds about the conference’s divisional layout. Just about every head coach weighed in on the possibility of changing things up, and they were pretty split on the matter.Since the Big Ten moved from the goofy “Leaders and Legends” breakdown for East and West in 2014, the East has won the Big Ten title every single year. Much of that is thanks to Ohio State’s dominance under Urban Meyer, obviously.The balance issues are bigger than the Buckeyes though. There have been years where Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State are four of the five best teams in the entire conference, if not one through four in some order.Obviously, that is not ideal. Wisconsin has been a stalwart over in the West, but they’ve been the only really competitive team on a year-to-year basis, and haven’t gotten over the hump for a conference title since 2012. There is some hope, with Nebraska gaining steam and teams like Purdue and Minnesota looking improved. Still, the Big Ten East looks to be the much stronger division.One simple fix to Big Ten football’s divisional balance issues: swap Penn State and Purdue.Penn State won the Big Ten back in 2016, and has been very competitive under James Franklin over the last few years. Perhaps most importantly to those in power, this move would be the least disruptive of any of the big four programs going East to West.This move would go a long way towards helping out the balance in football, while preserving the most important rivalries in the sport. Splitting up the Ohio State-Michigan-Michigan State triumvirate would be messy, while Penn State is easier to remove from that round robin. PSU and Ohio State have a nice budding rivalry in particular, and there was obviously hope that the series with Maryland and Rutgers could develop into something, but that hasn’t taken hold.Meanwhile, this would bring Indiana and Purdue, which currently have the only protected cross-division rivalry in the league, into the same division.If Penn State and Ohio State, or one of those Maryland/Rutgers aspirational rivalries is super important, we know the Big Ten is willing to make accommodations like it is to IU/Purdue to keep it as an annual series.As it turns out, James Franklin might be the head coach pushing hardest for change to come to the Big Ten layout. From Media Days, via the Detroit Free Press:“I think the East is very strong and has been strong for a number of years. Obviously you can have the argument over history that there’s ebb and flow, but if you look at the East, it’s been pretty strong. Probably similar in a lot of ways to what the SEC West is like. I think we’ve got to look at that, at least have a discussion. I’m not saying we have to make any changes, but we need to have discussion.”If this was implemented ahead of this coming season, the results would be pretty stark, at least in terms of preseason predictions.Right now, the average FPI rank for the Big Ten East is 35.86, with Michigan (No. 5), Penn State (12), Ohio State (13), and Michigan State (14) coming before the first West team, Nebraska (23). The average rank for the West is 44.71.Trading Penn State for Purdue (62) would just about flip the two, moving the East to an average of exactly 43, and the West to 37.57.Not everyone is on board for a change right now, but if the Big Ten does want to find an easy way to smooth things out a bit without reshuffling the entire conferences, this switch seems like the most seamless option.last_img read more