With the Big Ten expanding to 14 teams with the additions of the Maryland Terrapins and Rutgers Scarlet Knights, the conference will have to take a look at rearranging their current division format. With another shuffle inevitable, could the Michigan State Spartans get separated from some familiar conference rivals?
While nothing has been decided yet how to rearrange the conference divisions, one of the leading plans on the table is to split the teams based on the time zone they are in. That would mean, however, that one of the teams in the Eastern Time Zone (Maryland, Rutgers, Michigan State, Michigan Wolverines, Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn State Nittany Lions, Indiana Hoosiers, Purdue Boilermakers) would have to be flipped over to join the six teams in the Central Time Zone.
The leading candidates for the switch are the four teams that are closest to the time-zone border: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue. The conference has pretty adamantly ruled out Michigan getting separated from Ohio State to protect their division rivalry, which leaves the other three as the most likely candidates to be flipped.
Spartans’ athletic director Mark Hollis isn’t necessarily thrilled at the idea of getting pushed to the Western Division. With Michigan and Ohio State in the Eastern Division, Hollis says he would be “intrigued” by the opportunities of the East Coast affiliation would bring to Michigan State as a program and university.
Being separated from Michigan in divisions would also put their annual rivalry game in jeopardy. One of the provisions of their move would likely be to protect their annual game with Michigan, but as the conference continues to try and figure out how to expand the conference schedule, it’s no guarantee that their game would happen annually.
On the other hand, putting Michigan State in the Western Division would help to foster the young rivalry that the Spartans’ have enjoyed with the Wisconsin Badgers over the last several years. Being division rivals would guarantee that they would play annually and it would also give better balance between the two divisions.
No plans are in place right now, but if a time-zone realignment is the plan the conference ultimately goes with, could Michigan State stomach a move to the Western Division?