According to a report by ESPN, the Big Ten will dissolve the Legends and Leaders divisions within their conference in favor of a new format.
Coinciding with the arrival of the Maryland Terrapins and Rutgers Scarlet Knights in 2014, the B1G will be divided into an East-West format based almost entirely on geographic location. Six of the seven teams in the West division, for example, are within the Central time zone; the lone exception is Purdue, as Indiana runs on the Eastern time zone.
Both new arrivals, Maryland and Rutgers, will be lumped into a division featuring Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State. The only debate was whether Purdue or Indiana would be in the West division, and that basically came down to geography as well since Purdue is technically west of Indiana. In 2016, B1G teams will switch to a 9-game conference play format, and the only protected game under this new realignment is actually Purdue vs Indiana.
So what does this mean for the Maryland Terrapins in 2014? A whole lot.
The Terrapins are about to be placed in a division where, as of now, they are realistically the second worst team. Five of the other six teams in the division finished with a record above .500 and played in a bowl game in 2012 – 2013. The lone exception to that rule is Indiana, who has had about as much bad luck as the Terrapins in recent seasons; they’ve only won 14 games over the past four years, narrowly edging out the Derps (17 wins).
Maryland will need to seriously step it’s game up to compete with the tradition surrounding a lot of these programs like Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. Each one of these teams tends to come with a lot of firepower every season, and have coaching staffs that consist of SEC and BCS Championship winner (Urban Meyer), an NFL coach (Bill O’Brien), and a Big Ten Coach of the Year (Brady Hoke). These guys know football, and know how to win at a very competitive level. They all recruit well and tend to be tough outs every time on the gridiron.
Speaking of coming to town, playing in the tradition-heavy East division means another thing: their fan bases travel. So not only will the football team have to step their game up, so will the Terrapins fan base. You’d better believe that Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan fans travel in throngs. Whenever the Terrapins play these guys, there is a very good chance the Terps will have a relatively packed stadium (something that rarely happens in College Park.) Byrd will be full of red, unfortunately it’ll be Buckeye red. Leaving the ACC was all about money, and this is going to be one example of that fact. More fans equals more money, but it also might mean less home field advantage.
Either way, this move is going to benefit the Terrapins by allowing them to face stiffer competition week in and week out. Sure, they might have some very rough bumps along the way, but it’s going to be exciting seeing such high caliber football come to College Park. When I think about a B1G schedule based on these divisions, there’s basically no game I can honestly say “No shot I’m going to that.” That’s a good thing. Hopefully some of that tradition rubs off on the Terps. No matter what, it beats playing Duke ever again.