There have only been three Big Ten championship games in conference history, beginning in 2011 when Nebraska became the 12th member. The Wisconsin Badgers have played in two of those games. 2014 could possibly be the third time in four years that Bucky finds itself in Lucas Oil Stadium for shot at a Big Ten championship.
With the addition of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten in 2014, the conference had to do some shuffling. The two divisions are now named East and West, eliminating the horrid Leaders and Legends names.
Big Ten EAST
Big Ten WEST
|Indiana Hoosiers||Illinois Fighting Illini|
|Maryland Terrapins||Iowa Hawkeyes|
|Michigan Wolverines||Minnesota Golden Gophers|
|Michigan State Spartans||Nebraska Cornhuskers|
|Ohio State Buckeyes||Northwestern Wildcats|
|Penn State Nittany Lions||Purdue Boilermakers|
|Rutgers Scarlet Knights||Wisconsin Badgers|
I’d have to say the big winner in this realignment would have to be Wisconsin. They don’t have to contend with the likes of Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State on a regular basis. The real competition for the Badgers would be Iowa, with Minnesota adding a hiccup every now and then.
The Badgers enter the 2014 with the easiest Big Ten conference schedule. The combined record of Wisconsin’s opponents this year went a dreadful 22-42 last year. This season also brings the absence of the Wolverines, Spartans and Buckeyes on the schedule. Not a bad way to bring in the new-look Big Ten.
Badgers 2014 Schedule
|9/6||vs W. Illinois|
|9/20||vs Bowling Green|
|9/27||vs South Florida|
I’m not saying this is going to be automatic this year and to just give the Badgers the West crown right now. Head coach Gary Andersen lost some good talent from last year’s squad, but will look to fill those holes nicely with the incoming crop of talent.
A Big Ten conference championship is not a sure thing, but realignment and an easy schedule sure does help the cause.