UPDATE: It's official now. Here's the Big Ten's press release, and here's the schedule of conference games for 2011 and 2012.
The guaranteed cross-division games are Ohio State-Michigan, Penn State-Nebraska, Illinois-Northwestern, Indiana-Michigan State, Purdue-Iowa and Wisconsin-Minnesota.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said on the Big Ten Network that the Ohio State-Michigan game will continue to be played on the last weekend of the season, as will Purdue-Indiana.
It was also announced that of the 12 "trophy" games in the conference, nine will be played every year. Three will only be played in some years. As Penn State's guaranteed cross-division game is against Nebraska, it looks like the Land Grant Trophy game against Michigan State will be one of those three.
In 2011, Penn State's conference schedule will be: at Indiana, vs. Iowa, vs. Purdue, at Northwestern, vs. Illinois, bye week, vs. Nebraska, at Ohio State and at Wisconsin.
In 2012, the conference schedule will be: at Illinois, vs. Northwestern, bye week, at Iowa, vs. Ohio State, at Purdue, at Nebraska, vs. Indiana, vs. Wisconsin.
One other bit of news: Joe Paterno announced tonight that true freshman Robert Bolden will be Penn State's quarterback in Saturday's season opener against Youngstown State. It's the first time in Paterno's 45-year tenure that a true freshman will start under center for the Nittany Lions. There's more here from Bernard Fernandez of the Daily News.
ESPN.com's Andy Katz was first with confirmation that Ohio State and Michigan will be in separate divisions in the newly-aligned Big Ten. The divisions will be as follows:
- Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Northwestern
- Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois
The official announcement will be made at 7 p.m. tonight.
These divisions preserve some traditional rivalries, such as Michigan-Michigan State, Ohio State-Penn State and Purdue-Indiana. Katz also reports that each team will have one guaranteed crossover game that will be played every year, which would of include Ohio State-Michigan. Others would presumably include Northwestern-Illinois, Wisconsin-Minnesota and Penn State-Michigan State. Or should it be Nebraska?
Of course, the goal with these divisions is to get Ohio State and Michigan to meet in the football championship game. But there's no guarantee that would happen on a regular basis - Penn State would certainly have something to say about it. We need only to look at the ACC, where Miami and Florida State have yet to meet in the five-year history of that conference's football title game.
The SEC has gotten along just fine having Auburn and Alabama in the same division. The Big 12 hasn't suffered too much having Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M in the same division. The Big 12 title game hasn't always been a huge game, but that's been as much because of downturns at Nebraska and Kansas State as anything else.
So, what do you think? Should Ohio State and Michigan be in the same division? Does splitting them affect the strength of their rivalry? And how does Penn State make out in all this?