What would happen if the Big Ten eliminated the divisions? This is how it could look

With the ACC considering scrapping the divisions and moving to a 3+5+5 format, we wonder what that format would look like in the Big Ten. Many Big Ten fans, especially in the East division, have been calling for the divisions to be dropped for a few years. No team from the West has won the Big Ten Championship since B1G moved to the current division format. Wisconsin won the first two B1GCGs in 2011 and 2012 from the then Leaders division.

3+5+5 means 3 protected games played every season, while the other 10 teams would be placed in groups of 5 and played every other season.

When choosing matchups, I decided to focus on three things;
Current opponents in the division
Crusader opponents
Schedule Balance

My priority was to preserve as many historical rivalries as I could. Next, I wanted to give as many teams as possible two current division opponents and a matchup. Since rivalries take precedence, four teams have protected games that are currently in their division. The rest follow the 2 and 1 format, with no team playing two opponents currently in the other division. Naturally, the historically better teams in B1G have more difficult schedules, and in some cases I had to choose a more difficult schedule rather than preserve a rivalry to ensure that a consistently good team didn’t have a protected schedule that was too easy.


Priority was given to rivalries that have been around the longest and/or have played the most games. Some teams have more than 3 games of rivalry, so some are left out. Michigan vs. Northwestern has been played 75 times since 1892, but it wasn’t enough to be a protected game. Here are all the protected rivalries in our 3+5+5 format.

Now let’s take a look at how it all played out for each team in the conference.

Team Protected Schedule

Illinois Fighting Illini – Northwest, Purdue, Maryland

Illinois vs. Northwestern is the fourth most played rivalry in the Big Ten. That matchup and his rivalry with Purdue are protected. Their third game is a crossover of the old division in Maryland.

Indiana Hoosiers – Purdue, Michigan State, Rutgers

Indiana vs. Purdue is the second most played rivalry in the Big Ten. That game along with its rivalry with Michigan State is protected. His third game is an earlier matchup in the division with Rutgers.

Iowa Hawkeyes – Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin

Iowa has no former East division crossover opponents, as they have three shielded rivalries. Hawkeye’s clashes with Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin date back to the 1890s.

Maryland Terrapins – Rutgers, Penn State, Illinois

Maryland only joined the Big Ten in 2014, so they don’t have the rivalries that many teams do. Its rivalry with Penn State dates back to 1917. Rutgers joined the conference that same year. Illinois is a junction with the old Western Division.

Michigan Wolverines – Ohio State, Michigan State, Minnesota

Michigan has three of the most played rivalries in the conference and some of the biggest in the country. While they haven’t played much with the current division format, The Little Brown Jug are protected in this format, along with their in-state rivals Michigan State and of course “The Game” with Ohio State will be played every season.

Michigan State Spartans – Penn State, Michigan, Indiana

Like Iowa, the Spartans have three sheltered rivalries with current opponents in the division. Penn State has become a bigger rivalry in recent years, joining Michigan and Indiana as protected games. MSU would only have to play the Buckeyes every two years.

Minnesota Golden Gophers – Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan

No Big Ten game has been played more times than Minnesota vs. Wisconsin. That game combined with the Iowa and Michigan rivalry comes to three protected games for Minnesota played a total of 344 times.

Nebraska Cornhuskers – Iowa State, Wisconsin, Ohio

Despite being new to the Big Ten, Nebraska has two storied rivalries with Iowa and Wisconsin. Those games are protected along with a division matchup with Ohio State.

Northwest Wildcats – Illinois, Purdue, Rutgers

Northwestern only guards one rivalry, their game with Illinois. Their second most played rivalry is against Michigan, but that doesn’t make the cut for the Wolverines. The Wildcats get Purdue, as well as a crossover with Rutgers.

Ohio State Buckeyes – Michigan, Penn State, Nebraska

The state of Ohio does not see rivalries with Illinois and Purdue as protected. Instead of joining The Game, there are current division opponents Penn State and a crossover game with Nebraska.

Penn State Nittany Lions – Michigan State, Ohio State, Maryland

Penn State remains in the Eastern division with rivalries against the Spartans and protected Maryland, as well as an annual showdown with the Buckeyes.

Purdue Boilermakers – Illinois, Indiana, Northwest

Purdue gets one of the easiest guard sets in the conference. Thanks to rivalries with Illinois and Indiana, and then a division matchup with Northwestern.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights – Maryland, Indiana, Northwest

Rutgers, new to the conference in 2014, has no established rivalries other than Maryland being the closest thing. They get a division matchup with Indiana and a matchup with Northwestern.

Wisconsin Badgers – Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa

Wisconsin, the last of four teams to remain in their division. With storied rivalries against Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa each protected.

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