Despite not being bowl eligible this season because of sanctions, the Ohio State Buckeyes and Penn State Nittany Lions are eligible to win the Leaders division title in the Big 10 for 2012. ESPN.com writer Adam Rittenberg indicated that the Big 10 confirmed both the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions could be officially named as division champions.
With the addition of the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 2011, the conference now had 12 teams and could split its into two divisions of six. The Leaders and Legends divisions were met by some dismay by the teams of the Big 10, but a conference championship game at the end of each season, as well as divisional championships on the line, gives everybody a little more on the line.
Although the Big 10 no longer recognizes Ohio State’s conference title from 2010, or Penn State’s championships from 2005 and 2008, it would recognize divisional titles for both teams going forward.
The Buckeyes are currently serving a one year postseason ban, as well as a reduction in scholarships and three years’ probation, after five players received improper benefits from a tattoo parlor. Former coach Jim Tressel was also forced to resign after he failed to report the violations and allowed the players to continue playing during the season.
The Nittany Lions, of course, are in the first year of a four year-postseason ban and have seen all their wins vacated dating back to 1998. With scholarships heavily reduced and many top players having transferred, it may be tough for Penn State to compete in the Leaders division this season.
Ohio State, on the other hand, dominated in an opening week win against the Miami-Ohio Redhawks and are currently ranked 14th in the nation, so they may still have a legitimate shot of capturing the trophy in 2012.