now that we will almost assuredly have 12 schools for 2011, the Big Ten will need to, in the next month or two, redo the league schedule.
What follows is how I think they should do it. The result is an 8 game league schedule that protects almost all key rivalries, fits into the existing non-conference slate for each school, and creates two balanced divisions.*
* I know some will argue the "balanced" side when they see the final product, keep in mind I also believe that divisions should be frequently reset
Step 1: Create 2 Divisions
First off, teams are split into 3 Pots. Each pot is a cluster of 4 geographically linked schools.
|Pot 1||Pot 2||Pot 3|
In order to split the league into two groups of 6, two schools from each pot should be put in each division. So for example if Illinois and Indiana are in one division, then Purdue and Northwestern must be in the other.
The next task is to rank all of the schools from 1-12. The format I used below I multiplied the number of wins for each of the last 5 seasons by a "weight factor" for each season. The weights add up to 100, with 30% of the score being the 2009 record, 25% being 2008, and so on down to 10% for 2005.
The results are below (go Illinois!)
The basic rules I used are as follows:
- The top school is in group A
- The next best school is in group B
- Alternate into group A and group B until 2 teams from one pot are in a group, then the remaining schools go into the group.
- After that, rearrange schools, keeping 2 from each pot in each division, to try and create divisions with equal "scores" (from the total column above)
- Where possible, split primary rivals (Michigan/Ohio State, for example) into opposite divisions, to allow for a championship game between them.
Long store short, here's the final result:
For practical purposes, the division is perfectly balanced (I agree, seeing Northwestern over Michigan in seeding is a bit to swallow, but its also been the fact the last few seasons). I will again reiterate, my plan calls for divisions to be reseeded every two years. Division names could be geographic (Great Lakes and Plains) or honorary (Zuppke and Yost, rotating every year to other legends of Big Ten football)
Step 2: Competition Format
Now, I know what what you are thinking, you've been thinking it since I first split up Ohio State and Michigan State in an opposite league from Michigan... "How the hell can you put TWO of Michigan's rivals in another division?"
well, here's the answer:
Remember the Pots of 4 teams? Those are your geographic rivals. In addition to 5 division games (which would include 1 geographic rival), you play 2 games against the remaining two geographic foes. That makes 7 games. (I would propose a traveling trophy to the winner of each geographic subdivision, to further reinforce rivalries and add a layer of complexity to the league, and have a permanent system of regional rivalry). The remaining game is a free-for all. 3 schools of each division would have 2 division home games, 3 schools would have 3 division home games, the schools with only 2 division home games would host one of the remaining 3 other schools in match ups made by the committee. These match ups should be made to balance strength of schedule, create TV matchups, or reinforce regional rivalries. They should also be used to balance out schools that have not played for a while.
Again, you are wondering: "Ok, that's great, you play 3 schools from your region each year, and 4 other division schools, so there are 4 random schools you can only play 1 of each 2 year cycle?"
I will say again, this is why divisions are fluid. Regional competition can be reinforced via my 3 traveling trophy proposal. Divisions are meant to spread out games, allow rivals to meet in the finals, and ensure geographic distribution of games each week. You play 3 schools EVERY year, and you play 5 of the remaining 8 schools every 2 years. In rare cases to make divisions even schools might go 4 years without playing, but that should only be for geographically far-flung opponents, and avoided at all costs (if we go to 16 schools, it will be more often, which is the nature of the beast).
Step 3: Idealized Schedule.
There are 8 rounds of play, and 13 weeks in the season (schools play 12 games) between Labor Day Weekend and Thanksgiving Weekend. Because you don't want to have a "dead" week midseason, and you don't want have week 2 or 3 Bye's, the league schedule should be spread out. Spreading out as far as 10 weeks (from week 4-13) allows for league games to be split fewer ways each week, allow for focusing of advertising dollars and less use of overflow channels. Schools also currently have non-conference games for 2011 scheduled as late as week 13 (Northwestern hosting Rice on thanksgiving weekend).... so matchups will have to be pushed around.
What follows is an "idealized" schedule for the league. It is comprised of 8 weeks of play (the
actual league schedule will be spread across at least 9, and preferably 10-11 weeks of play.
The following basic tenants were followed:
- Schools from each division are paired by their key rival (Illinois/Northwestern, Indiana/Purdue, etc. When one school has a home game, the other has an away game. This is to reduce having competing games in any region (for example, fans in Illinois will have 1 home game to go to, and ideally teams won't play opposite one another).
- The schedule follows the following format:
Week 1 Out of Conference Opponent (random) Week 2 Division Game #1 Week 3 Division Game #2 Week 4 Division Game #3 Week 5 Secondary non-division Rival Week 6 Division Game #4 Week 7 RIVALRY WEEK (primary non-division rival) Week 8 Division Game #5
|4||Michigan State||Ohio State|
|5||Penn State||Ohio State|
|7||Michigan State||Penn State|
Step 4: Fitting it into the Calender
Below is my proposed 2011 league calender. All out-of-conference games are preserved. the light green cells (two TBA's and Eastern Michigan for Penn State) reflect games that are not scheduled
League play is mostly concentrated in weeks 5-13, although a couple games are played in weeks 3-4. The "idealized" schedule was broken up quite a bit to create bye's midseason and fit around non-conference games that are already scheduled. For example, Illinois and Northwestern both have home league games on one day.
Unless I made a mistake (which i spent a freaking hour tweaking this) no school plays 3 games home or away in a row, although a couple schools do have a travel heavy stretch (which happens). Probably the biggest violation is that I moved Minnesota/Iowa and Indiana/Purdue to earlier in the season to make things fit. This is regrettable, although when schools have a better idea of what they are dealing with, "rivalry week' can be better protected( and in Iowa's case, they do finish against their new rivals Nebraska at home).
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