The Big Ten has officially announced new East and West football divisions for 2014 and will move to a nine-game conference football schedule beginning with the 2016 season.
The divisions are geographically split and will look very different than the outgoing Legends and Leaders setup. Michigan and Michigan State will be together in the East, and they will be joined by Indiana, Ohio State, and Penn State. Also joining the East are newcomers Maryland from the ACC and Rutgers from the Big East.
The West Division is highlighted by Nebraska and Wisconsin and looks to be the weaker of the two divisions. Here is a look at the new lineups for the Big Ten East and West:
Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, and Rutgers
Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin
“Big Ten directors of athletics concluded four months of study and deliberation with unanimous approval of a future football structure that preserved rivalries and created divisions based on their primary principle of East/West geography,” said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany. “The directors of athletics also relied on the results of a fan survey commissioned by BTN last December to arrive at their recommendation, which is consistent with the public sentiment expressed in the poll.”
The new alignment places virtually all traditional rivalries in the same division. The lone exception is Indiana-Purdue, which will be a protected cross-division rivalry each season.
In 2014 and 2015, each team will play every other team within its division plus two teams from the opposite division. Then in 2016 when the nine-game schedule begins, each team will play every other team within its division plus three teams from the opposite division.
More on the new scheduling format from the Big Ten release:
With the start of the nine-game conference schedule in 2016, teams from the East Division will host five conference home games during even-numbered years, while teams from the West Division will host five conference home games during odd-numbered years. As a result of the nine-game conference schedule and the Big Ten’s schedule rotation, every student-athlete will have the opportunity to play against every other team in the conference at least once during a four-year period. The Big Ten is returning to a nine-game conference schedule for all teams for the first time since the 1983 and 1984 seasons.
With the return to a nine-game football schedule, the Big Ten joins the Big 12 and Pac-12 as the only three conferences to employ that format. The ACC previously announced that they were moving to a nine-game schedule in 2014, but back-pedaled after Notre Dame agreed to play five ACC games per season.