Last week, both UM AD Dave Brandon and OSU AD Gene Smith were quoted saying that the annual Michigan-OSU game will likely no longer take place at the end of the season. Instead, the game will likely happen closer to the middle of the conference schedule. As suspected, this has rubbed quite a few people the wrong way, and has sent a minor shock wave through the Michigan and OSU fan bases.
When I posted last week about this, I wasn't sure which side of the fence I was on. On one hand, tradition is tradition...so why mess with it. But on the other hand, change is natural. And change...big change is happening in the Big Ten. Let's face it, the game simply can no longer take place at the end of the season. It just simply doesn't make sense...from a TV perspective, from a scheduling perspective, and from a competitive perspective.
Here's why it should be moved.
• You can't keep Michigan and OSU in the same division. The idea of a Big Ten title game featuring your two biggest brands is a prospect too large to pass up. All the Big Ten ADs know this, Jim Delany knows this...and if you really take the time to consider it, you know this too. You can give me all the stats and record you want, Michigan and OSU are the biggest names in town in the Big Ten. The potential TV revenue of a Michigan-OSU Big Ten title game is ridiculous.
I'm not saying it's right, but it's the reality that we live in now. TV dominates college football. TV is the only reason....the ONLY reason Big Ten expansion and a championship game are happening.
• What's better than playing OSU every year? Playing them twice.
Look, its the same argument as the last point. It's all about money. You could say that the Big Ten is possibly trying to exploit it's biggest matchup...but that's probably a stretch. Michigan playing OSU twice a year may only happen once or twice in a 10 year stretch. But from a TV perspective, any Big Ten title game beats no Big Ten title game.
But in the off chance that Michigan and OSU play twice in a season...that means that things are going really well for each team, and by default, going well for the Big Ten. It's like Tiger and Phil playing in the same group on Sunday at Augusta. Everyone wins.
• The game will always have meaning.
For a while there (the 70s, 80s, 90s), the Michigan-OSU game typically determined the champion of the conference. But now, with the addition of Penn State to the conference in 1993, more parity among conference teams like Wisconsin and Iowa...and now the latest addition of Nebraska next year, the prospect of the Michigan-OSU game still determining the champion of the conference is nil.
Throw in a conference championship game, and that percentage drops even further.
Also, and this makes sense from both a TV and fan perspective...you just can't have Michigan vs. OSU two weeks in a row. It's bad for each team, it's bad for the rivalry and it's bad for the fans.
But if you have Michigan-OSU in say, week 6 of the season, then it will surely have meaning. Suddenly, neither school has been eliminated from the conference title hunt. Both teams are still alive and kicking.
Let's use 2009 as an example. If Michigan had met OSU instead of Iowa in week 6, our records would have been Michigan at 4-1 and OSU at 4-1. Instead, we played at the end of the year when Michigan was 5-6 and OSU was 9-2 with the Big Ten title already wrapped up.
Of course not every year would work out like this...I'd like to think that 2006 would be the norm rather than 2009. But last year is a great example of the game not meaning much to either team or fan base. But if the game is played earlier in the year, it will always have meaning to both teams...and will be reflected in how each team's fans treat the game as well.
But hey...this is just my perspective. What say you?