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Big Ten Commissioner Reveals Conference Is Considering Significant Change

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren

As usual, it's been a wild and dramatic season in college football. But conference championship week is looking like a bit of an anticlimax.

That's especially true in the Big Ten, where No. 2 Michigan is currently favored by more than two touchdowns against unranked Purdue. There's not much on the line in the matchup, either, aside from hanging a "Big Ten Champions" banner; the Wolverines can almost certainly lose and still make the College Football Playoff, while the 8-4 Boilermakers have no shot at climbing into the four-team field.

That has led to renewed questions about the divisional structure in the Big Ten and elsewhere in college football, a popular topic of late. 

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said this week that the issue is already on the docket for the league's spring meetings, according to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.

"We have a list of very important items and the future of our divisions is one of those important items," Warren said. "It's already been teed up."

It seems likely that the Big Ten will transition to a single division, as there's been a growing movement away from two divisions across college football in recent months.

The ACC voted last summer to move away from its division structure starting in 2023. 

Meanwhile, the Pac-12 already did away with its divisions, as this marked the first season that the title game participants represented the top two teams in the league standings rather than the two division champions. Had the league still had its division system intact, USC would be facing Washington in Friday's conference championship game rather than Utah (which Trojan fans might have preferred).

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey announced on Nov. 17 that his league is "leaning heavily" toward having a single division once Texas and Oklahoma join the new league in 2025.

The appeal of going to one division is obvious. Doing so would ensure a more competitive and more marketable conference championship game, which could also bolster the College Football Playoff resume of the league champion.

However, there are some drawbacks to doing so. Division titles give teams without a legitimate shot at the playoff something to play for — as was the case for Purdue, Illinois, Iowa and others in the Big Ten West this season. Plus, if the Big Ten simply pits the league's top two teams against one another in the conference championship game, we would likely see a lot of Michigan-Ohio State rematches the week after the two teams play in the regular season, which might dampen the importance of The Game.

It has not been reported when the Big Ten would move to a single-division structure, should it opt to do so. But with USC and UCLA set to join the conference in 2024, it would make sense to make the switch then.