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They are exactly what we thought they were, as announced by the Big Ten Network:

Division 1: Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Iowa, Northwestern and Minnesota

Division 2: Ohio State, Penn State, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Purdue.

Teams will play eight conference games, with games against all five other teams in their division, one protected cross-division rivalry (Ohio State for U-M, obviously), and two rotating cross-division games. Please note that these divisions only apply to football, and not to other sports. Michigan will play Ohio State at the end of the season.

The rest of the cross-divisional games are: Minnesota-Wisconsin, Penn State-Nebraska, Iowa-Purdue, Northwestern-Illinois, Michigan State-Indiana

Michigan’s 2011 and 2012 in-conference schedules were also released, and are as follows [you can find a pdf of the entire Big Ten schedule here]:

2011 (starting 10/1): Minnesota, at Northwestern, at Michigan State, bye, Purdue, at Iowa, at Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State

2012 (starting 9/29): bye, at Purdue, Illinois, Michigan State, at Nebraska, at Minnesota, Northwestern, Iowa, at Ohio State

The official statement from the Big Ten:

The winner of each Big Ten division will meet in the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game, to be played December 3, 2011, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The championship game will determine the Big Ten Champion and the conference’s participant in the Rose Bowl Game or Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game.

The Big Ten football division alignments will include a division featuring Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin, and a division featuring Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern. Each school will play the other five schools within its division and will also face three teams from the other division, including one cross-division matchup guaranteed on an annual basis. The guaranteed cross-division matchups are Illinois-Northwestern, Indiana-Michigan State, Ohio State-Michigan, Penn State-Nebraska, Purdue-Iowa and Wisconsin-Minnesota. Names for each Big Ten football division will be announced at a later date.

“Over the past several months, Big Ten staff and directors of athletics have met on several occasions to discuss and finalize division alignments,” said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany. “We focused on competitive equality, traditional rivalries and geography. We considered multiple models and countless permutations in an effort to achieve the most competitively balanced divisions while at the same time respecting our traditions, preserving existing rivalries, and creating opportunities for the establishment and growth of new rivalries. We have listened to the feedback from our institutions, alumni and fans, and while we understand that no final alignments could possibly satisfy all of our constituents, we believe that we have achieved a very exciting result.”

I will refer you to what I wrote earlier, since I am in the middle of an ill-timed fantasy football draft:

You know what? I’ll take it. I know there’s a lot of consternation out there about competitive balance and how this affects The Game (the possibility that the Michigan-Ohio State game in the regular season could be somewhat meaningless, especially if only intra-divisional games count in the Big Ten Standings). I think when it comes down to it, however, The Game will still be The Game, and with how up-and-down college football is from year-to-year, let alone how much things can change in the span of a mere decade, there will always be some imbalance in the divisions one way or the other. Does everyone really expect Northwestern to buck 130 years of tradition and become a perennially decent team, especially if a big-name school tries to lure Pat Fitzgerald away?

I’m just saying, take a step back and look big picture here. We have what should be a tremendous rivalry between two tradition-rich schools with great fanbases in Michigan-Nebraska. The Little Brown Jug will be played for each and every season, like it should be. The already-bitter rivalry with Michigan State should only intensify. The Wolverines will get to duck Penn State and Wisconsin every once in a while, which should ease some of the team’s schedule difficulty. There will be a Big Ten Championship Game at the end of the season, like there should be — who doesn’t love big-time conference title games? Most importantly, The Game is in its rightful place, at the end of the regular season. And finally, unless every other writer claiming to have the inside scoop is astoundingly incorrect, Dennis Dodd is wrong, which makes this all feel very, very right.

On Saturday, the Big House will be full again, and we’ll all be enjoying (and stressing about, of course) the thing we should all be focusing on anyway: The Team, The Team, The Team.

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From Larry Lage of the Associated Press, via Twitter:

We’ll see if that’s really how it plays out tonight, but it sounds like the rumors are true. You know what? I’ll take it. I know there’s a lot of consternation out there about competitive balance and how this affects The Game (the possibility that the Michigan-Ohio State game in the regular season could be somewhat meaningless, especially if only intra-divisional games count in the Big Ten Standings). I think when it comes down to it, however, The Game will still be The Game, and with how up-and-down college football is from year-to-year, let alone how much things can change in the span of a mere decade, there will always be some imbalance in the divisions one way or the other. Does everyone really expect Northwestern to buck 130 years of tradition and become a perennially decent team, especially if a big-name school tries to lure Pat Fitzgerald away?

I’m just saying, take a step back and look big picture here. We have what should be a tremendous rivalry between two tradition-rich schools with great fanbases in Michigan-Nebraska. The Little Brown Jug will be played for each and every season, like it should be. The already-bitter rivalry with Michigan State should only intensify. The Wolverines will get to duck Penn State and Wisconsin every once in a while, which should ease some of the team’s schedule difficulty. There will be a Big Ten Championship Game at the end of the season, like there should be — who doesn’t love big-time conference title games? Most importantly, The Game is in its rightful place, at the end of the regular season. And finally, unless every other writer claiming to have the inside scoop is astoundingly incorrect, Dennis Dodd is wrong, which makes this all feel very, very right.

On Saturday, the Big House will be full again, and we’ll all be enjoying (and stressing about, of course) the thing we should all be focusing on anyway: The Team, The Team, The Team.

The Associated Press is reporting that the Big Ten will announce the divisional alignment for the 2011 season and beyond tonight, and Jeff Rabjohns of the Indianapolis Star says the announcement will air at 7 pm on the Big Ten Network, and the schedules for the 2011 and 2012 seasons will also be revealed. Rumors are flying around about how the divisions will shake out, and they all say the same thing:

Division 1: Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Iowa, Northwestern and Minnesota

Division 2: Ohio State, Penn State, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Purdue.

As you can see, Michigan and Ohio State will be in opposite divisions, as expected, but there are conflicting rumors as to whether The Game will take place in its traditional place at the end of the schedule or earlier in the season. Franky, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Big Ten to put Michigan and OSU in opposite divisions and keep The Game where it is, as that really opens up the possibility of having a meaningless regular-season matchup before the conference title game, but we’ll have to wait and see. I’ll have much more on this when the official word comes down tonight.

With the teams in opposite divisions, Michigan and OSU wouldn't play in the last week of the season.

Michigan AD Dave Brandon made an appearance on Sam Webb’s WTKA radio show this morning, and he had some very interesting (and to traditionalists, very disappointing) things to say about conference realignment, and specifically the potential ramifications for “The Game” [link is to MVictors, which also has the audio and more quotes if you want more from Brandon]:

  • When asked if he were making the decision, would he put Michigan and Ohio State in the same conference division?  Brandon paused then answered. “No.”
  • Sam asked, “Why?”  Brandon:  “Because we’re in a situation where one of the best things that could happen, in my opinion in a given season, would be the opportunity to play Ohio State twice.  Once in the regular season and once for the championship of the Big Ten.

What does this mean? It certainly sounds like Michigan and Ohio State will end up in separate divisions, which means the teams likely could not meet in the final week of the regular season, as that would open up the possibility of a Big Ten championship game rematch within a week of the team’s playing each other for the first time. Since the Michigan-OSU rivalry would have to be played every season, this means the Buckeyes are locked in as one of Michigan’s cross-divisional games every season. This isn’t a good thing for the Wolverines’ schedule, as Brian Cook points out [from earlier this week, before Brandon’s comments]:

There’s a rumor out there that Michigan and Ohio State will be split into separate divisions, which I find abhorrent because it necessitates protected cross-division games, which are dumb, and guarantees that Michigan will be elaborately screwed by that cross-division game being Ohio State, guaranteeing them a brutal schedule year-in, year-out as Ohio State and Penn State go play with Purdue, Indiana, Northwestern, and Illinois.

Brian’s reaction to today’s news, obviously, is not a positive one. I agree with him — playing in the last week of the season is one of the best parts about The Game, and seeing Michigan line up against Michigan State or some other Big Ten opponent in late November would just feel… wrong. Also, pegging Michigan and Ohio State with likely the toughest schedules in the conference doesn’t make much sense — you’d think the Big Ten would want its flagship programs to have, if anything, a competitive advantage in chasing BCS titles, instead of having the odds stacked against them.

I’ve been strongly in support of practically everything Dave Brandon has done as athletic director since taking over for Bill Martin, but I can’t even find one reason to be excited about this possibility. It sounds like this is close to an inevitability, however, which just gives us one more thing to be pissed off/depressed about in what has become a complete circus of an offseason.

Tampa (FL) Plant offensive tackle Tony Posada announced his commitment to Michigan in a press conference this afternoon. The 6-6, 315 pound Posada is the tenth prospect to commit in the class of 2011 and the third offensive lineman, joining Toledo center Jack Miller and Traverse City tackle Jake Fisher.

Posada has earned a three-star rating from Scout and ESPN, but has yet to receive a rating from Rivals. He does have an solid list of offers, however, earning one from Tennessee, Duke, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Missouri, USF, and Texas Tech, among others, and both Florida and Florida State showed interest but had not yet extended a scholarship offer.

Posada certainly boasts the size to be a good offensive tackle, although it seems unlikely that the 320-or-so pounds he will enter Michigan carrying is all good weight — like most linemen, expect a redshirt year with a heavy dose of Mike Barwis conditioning before he sniffs the depth chart. Scouting reports say Posada moves well for a player his size, but like most high school linemen who are much larger than almost everyone they face, he’ll need to work on technique to be effective at the collegiate level.

This is another solid pickup for Rich Rodriguez, who is quietly putting together a very good recruiting class that has already filled several positional needs. Michigan has done well in addressing needs at offensive line, cornerback, defensive end, and linebacker, and the staff should now be able to turn much of their focus to adding some blue-chip prospects to round out the class.

Anyone who has tried to order anything from the awful MGOBLUESHOP — or supports local businesses — knows how awesome the following official press release is:

Michigan Renews Partnership with M Den as Official Merchandiser

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The University of Michigan Athletic Department announced a multi-year agreement with M Den, Inc. as its official retail partner beginning July 1, 2010. The university and M Den renewed a relationship to operate as the official team store of U-M Athletics. M Den will provide game-day retail services and manage the online sales of official team wear through MDen.com and MGoBlue.com.

“The M Den has shown incredible loyalty to the Michigan fan base and local community with incomparable customer service, and with the variety and quality of their products,” said U-M athletic director Dave Brandon. “I am confident our fans will continue to show that same loyalty to our new official retail partner.”

“We are proud to have been able to serve the university family throughout our history and we are so pleased and excited to be named the official merchandise retailer so that we can continue to expand upon that history,” said M Den owner Dave Hirth.

“The cornerstone of our business is offering the finest customer service possible to every University of Michigan fan,” Hirth continued. “We have always worked very hard to bring Michigan fans the widest selection and the best quality products available. Now we can do that in more ways than ever given our new partnership with the athletic department, and this is just the beginning.”

In addition to five physical M Den stores in the Ann Arbor area and southeast Michigan, there will be retail locations in and around Michigan Stadium on home game days. Fans can also shop at the online store via MGoBlue.com or by going directly to MDen.com. New products are also promoted on the M Den Twitter and Facebook pages.

Dave Hirth and Doug Horning have partnered in business since 1976, and opened the first M-Den store in Briarwood Mall in 1982. With the addition of the newest M Den location in March 2009, a 12,000-square foot flagship store on central campus, M Den has five physical stores southeast Michigan with three in Ann Arbor, one in 12 Oaks Mall in Novi, and another in Laurel Park Mall in Livonia.

Home run, Dave Brandon. This is great news for the athletic department, the M Den, and the fans. Go forth and support.

It’s been a while since I did a Wolverines on the Web post, but with so much going on this offseason it might be time to bring these back. First off, I’d like to welcome a new member to the Michigan blogosphere: Hail to the Blog is off and running with posts on potential divisions, an overview on expansion, and a recap of Michigan baseball players in the MLB draft. Make sure to head over there and welcome Cory, a fellow U-M student, to our happy Wolverine blogging family.

For the video-game heads out there, the NCAA Football ’11 demo dropped yesterday for both the Xbox 360 and the PS3, and although Michigan is not in the eight-team demo, EA Sports did release a trailer that includes footage of Michigan, and Sean Yuille of SB Nation Detroit (formerly of Michigan Sports Center) captured this great picture of Michigan playing Michigan State in the newly-renovated Big House:

Why yes, that is Martavious Odoms torching the entirety of the Michigan State defense. Let’s hope that reality will match virtual reality in this case (although snow in an early October game would be a bit alarming). Like last year, I’ll have all the team and player ratings for Michigan and the Big Ten broken down when that information is released — here’s hoping the game itself will be a little better this time around (and I’ll say that certainly looks to be the case after playing a few games of the demo).

MGoBlog breaks down possible divisional alignments, in light of this quote from Jim Delany on how the Big Ten will go about forming divisions:

“First priority’s competitive fairness to me,” Delany said last week. “Second priority is maintenance of rivalries, some of them are very important. They’re part of who we are and they’re not treated lightly. And then I think the third is what factor, if any, does geography play?”

Clearly, Delany took one look at the geographic divisions (with Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State all falling in the East) and decided that wasn’t the way to go, at least when it comes to football. Moving Penn State into a division with Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin makes the most sense, and maintains the most rivalries — what happens to the rest of the teams, frankly, I really don’t care about, as long as Michigan plays Ohio State and Michigan State every year. While it might rub some fans the wrong way if Michigan can’t play Penn State or traditional rival Minnesota every season, I think we can do without those games being on the slate every year if it means moving forward as a conference (and we weren’t playing Penn State yearly anyway, as they are slated to rotate off our schedule next season).

For more divisional alignment talk, Sean Yuille has a lengthy discussion over at SB Nation Detroit.

Finally, WolverineHistorian drops off a twopart YouTube highlight package from Michigan’s 27-23 victory over Nebraska in the 1986 Fiesta Bowl. Is there a tape that man doesn’t own?