This isn't exactly breaking news since we've heard rumors about it for months now, but it seems that common sense has actually won out in the offices of the Big Ten, and the new divisions will in fact be based upon geography. ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg wrote about it on Tuesday morning, saying that the only thing that's still up for grabs is how Indiana and Purdue will be split.
League sources have told ESPN.com that the Big Ten, as expected, will go with a geographic split for its divisions in 2014. As we first reported last month, time zones are expected to divide the divisions. The only problem: eight Big Ten schools are located in the Eastern time zone, including future members Maryland and Rutgers, while just six are located in the Central time zone.
One team needs to move West, and speculation has centered on three schools: Purdue, Indiana and Michigan State. But Michigan State isn't in play to move West, sources say, and the debate now is whether Indiana or Purdue enters the "West" division.
I'm thrilled by this news and not just because Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State are all outside of our division -- though that doesn't hurt! While losing the "Illibuck" rivalry with Ohio State is something to mourn for a minute, I just feel that schools like Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota and of course Northwestern make more sense as "natural rivals" for the Illini.
As for whether I prefer Purdue or Indiana, I don't feel all that strongly either way, but I think I'd prefer Purdue for no other reason than it's less than two hours away.
Another interesting tidbit from Rittenberg's story is that it looks like the nine-game schedule will take effect in the 2016 season, and that as a compromise for splitting Indiana and Purdue, the Hoosiers and Boilermakers will have the only protected rivalry in the conference. This ensures that no school will ever go more than four years without playing a school, and that's pretty much the best you can hope for with an expanding conference.
And, of course, all of this will no longer matter or mean anything once the Big Ten expands to 16.