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OSU-Michigan Game: Should Iowa Fans Care?

August 24, 2010

Written by Jon Miller

Hawkeye Nation

I don’t speak for Iowa fans…you do a great job of that on the HawkeyeNation.com message boards, talk radio shows, water coolers, barbershops and cafe’s around the state…

We mostly consider topics that directly involve Iowa. In the spring and summer, the scope widens to more general college football thoughts, which is natural, as we love the sport, love talking about it and it’s the off season.

As we approach the 2010 season, there are still several general Big Ten topics that are garnering a lot of headlines, mainly conference realignment. We already have Nebraska as the 12th team in the league, and now every fan of a Big Ten team wants to know which division their team will wind up in…the answer to that question should arrive in the next three weeks.

However, a HUGE debate rages on with regards to the league’s two Cadillac programs, from a historical perspective; The Game between Michigan and Ohio State.

Such as, should those two teams be in the same division? If you split them, when should the game be played, and should the league risk tampering with it’s most valuable single game commodity?

It’s becoming nearly a foregone conclusion that the two teams will be in different divisions, based all of the chatter that has come out in the last few weeks. When this process began, I didn’t think that was going to be possible because I didn’t believe the schools would want to jack with that tradition. Apparently, I am an old thinker at the age of 39, because OSU Coach Jim Tressel, OSU AD Gene Smith, Michigan AD Dave Brandon and Big Ten Commish Jim Delany are floating trial balloons to soften the shock of the eventual decision to split the old rivals.

In splitting these rivals into two divisions, it means they are going to move the date of the Michigan-Ohio State game from the last regular season game of the year to an earlier date, likely in late October or the first weekend in November. Were I Michigan or Ohio State, if the decision has been made to move them into separate divisions and still play one another as protected rivals, I would want the game played as close to the first half of the season as possible.

Why? So that the loser of the game could climb back into the chase for a title; be it Big Ten or national title, or for the at large BCS pool. Obviously, Michigan has some work to do before they get back to that level, as they didn’t garner even one vote in the coaches or media Top 25 preseason polls.

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If they split these two teams, I think you should plan on Michigan and Nebraska being in the same division, and Ohio State and Penn State in the other. I also think those teams could then play one another in the final regular season game; Michigan v Nebraska and Ohio State vs Penn State. Four of the winningest programs in the history of the sport on the television from 11am to 6pm is a pretty good deal for ratings and money.

I mentioned before that the Ohio State-Michigan game was the league’s most valuable single game commodity. There are a lot of people talking and writing about that, but even I must admit that is old school thinking. The league is going to have a championship game starting in 2011…that game could generate between $15-$20 million in a bidding war…just for one game. Sorry to say, but the Michigan-Ohio State game has never brought in that kind of money, nor would it. So the most valuable commodity in all of the Big Ten from a one-game standpoint is going to be the championship game.

Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is against this thinking, citing that if Nebraska had joined the league in 1993, along with Penn State and if you would have split Michigan and Ohio State, the Wolverines and Buckeyes would have played one another for the title just three or four times in the last 17 years. He basically argues that it’s not worth throwing that amount of history away for a once in every four or five year coincidence. It’s a strong argument with facts to back it up, something I always appreciate.

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I guess the question is this: Should Iowa fans care?

I care about the Michigan-Ohio State game from the standpoint of it being a tried and true tradition in my household as long as I can remember. Sometimes it affects where Iowa goes to a bowl game and has even affected whether or not Iowa could win a Big Ten title. As a stand alone entity, it’s one of those games where you stop what you are doing if you can, and you watch it.

However, I don’t care as much as Michigan or Ohio State fans do. It’s not my tradition, even though it’s a big tradition in a league I care the most about.

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It’s a new league; inviting Nebraska into the fray and splitting into divisions is a step into the brink from which there is no return. Yes, it’s uncharted waters, but we are in those waters and there is no going back. So I am far more concerned about which teams will be in Iowa’s division. I feel safe in assuming that Michigan, Nebraska and Iowa will be in the same division. Beyond that, I don’t feel comfortable with the remaining scenarios.

So while two of the traditional marquee programs in the league debate the merits of moving a game that has 70+ years worth of tradition as the final game of the Big Ten’s regular season, I care more about Iowa’s season ending opponent. Let them gnash their teeth and fight it out; what’s in it for me, as an Iowa Hawkeye fan?

Perhaps that is a selfish way to look at it, but in the end, I really don’t care if Michigan or Ohio State wins another Big Ten title. I’d just as soon see other teams rise up and make a name for themselves in the face of the historical Big Ten bullies.

What do you think? Should we care more about this game than the opinions I have expressed? Do you?

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