The 2021 college football season will mark the ten-year anniversary of the Big Ten conference splitting into two different divisions. For the first 3 years of the split (2011-13), divisions were dubbed the “Legends” (IA, MI, MIST, MN, NEB, NW) and “Leaders” (OHST, WI, IL, IN, PUR, PST).
Then before the 2014 season, after Maryland and Rutgers were bought into the conference, the powers that be decided a more traditional “West” and “East” setup was the better route moving forward. Seven seasons later, that remains how the Big Ten football conference is aligned.
East vs West
In the Big Ten East, you have current/former Big Ten power houses like Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. The division is completed with Indiana, Michigan State, Maryland and Rutgers.
The West division has been dominated by Wisconsin since its inception. They hold four of the seven division titles. Northwestern is the defending West champ, however, just one season removed from winning in 2018. Iowa has the other divisional banner (2015). Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois and Nebraska bring up the rear.
How much better has the East been, since the conference split by geography in 2014? Well, the Big Ten West is yet to win a Big Ten Championship game. That’s right, all seven have gone in favor of the East.
The West division is 0-7 in Big Ten Championship bouts. If the CFP expands to 12 teams, losing that game won't (necessarily) kill a team's chances. pic.twitter.com/2QsisHMeUz— Minnesota Sports Fan (@realmnsportsfan) June 10, 2021
College Football Playoff Expansion
Today, it’s being reported that the College Football Playoff is on the brink of expansion. Currently a 4-team tournament, a committee off in some secret NCAA headquarters, is set to vote on an expansion to a 12-team format on June 17-18. If that secret committee decides to move the plan forward, they’ll present it to presidents and chancellors on June 22. All of this is via Heather Dinich (ESPN). This is a big deal. Here are some more details directly from her story.
The proposal calls for the bracket to include the six highest-ranked conference champions and the six remaining highest-ranked teams as determined by the CFP selection committee.
Under the proposal for a 12-team format, the four highest-ranked conference champions would be seeded 1-4 and receive a first-round bye. Teams 5-12 would play each other in the first round on the home field of the higher-ranked team. The quarterfinals and semifinals would be played in bowl games, and the national championship game would remain at a neutral site.Heather Dinich (ESPN)
Things we don't know: If everyone will agree on it next week; if presidents and chancellors will approve it June 22; how bowls will factor in; when it will actually be implemented.— Heather Dinich (@CFBHeather) June 10, 2021
Minnesota to the CFP?
To get an automatic bid, the Gophers would still have to break the West’s losing streak in B1G Championship games. But under this newly proposed format, the best power-five conferences are expected to receive a total of two or three invites per season.
That makes competing for a College Football National Championship at the end of a Minnesota Gophers season feels much more doable. Every year, the CFP committee will have to give a serious look at the Big Ten West champions, whether they beat the East champ that season or not.
No longer do the Gophers need to dethrone Ohio State for a spot in the CFP. If this twelve-team format were to be adopted, climbing to the top of the West would make anything is possible.
When would this take place?
The tournament’s expansion could be set in stone by September but wouldn’t be implemented for the 2021 postseason or 2022. The next two College Football Playoffs will continue with the four-team format.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan