The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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8 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW Four years ago, when the Big Ten in- troduced the Legends and Leaders divi- sions with the arrival of Nebraska, it split the league's 12 teams based off historical success. It made some sense, even if geo- graphically the divisions were scattered. This season, however, with the addition of Rutgers and Maryland, the Big Ten has remade its divisions, splitting the confer- ence into more appropriate East and West sides, with six of the seven teams in the West residing in the Central Time Zone (Purdue is the lone exception) and all seven teams in the East in the Eastern Time Zone. On paper, the East, which includes Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State, Maryland, Rutgers and Indiana, ap- pears to be loaded. Five of those seven teams have combined for 80 Big Ten cham- pionships, with the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights adding another 15 from their prior conferences. The seven teams comprising the West — Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Northwestern, Nebraska, Purdue and Wisconsin — have combined for 73 league titles, though the Cornhuskers claim 46 championships from previous conferences. Over the last 25 years, however, East teams have claimed 12 Big Ten crowns, the West teams have five, and teams from each division have split the conference champi- onship eight times. During the three years of Legends and Leaders from 2011-13, the Buckeyes en- joyed the most regular-season success, win- ning a Big Ten-high 79.2 percent of their 24 conference contests. MSU was second with a .750 winning percentage, followed by Nebraska (.708 winning percentage). Michigan ranked sixth, winning 62.5 per- cent of its games over that stretch. Wisconsin captured the 2011 and 2012 Big Ten titles, however, beating Michigan State and then Nebraska in the champion- ship game played in India- napolis. The Spartans are the reigning champion af- ter beating the Scarlet and Gray in 2013. Beginning this season, those two foes will be in the same division and will jockey, along with the Wol- verines, Nittany Lions and others, to represent the East in the Big Ten Championship. Michigan and Ohio State never wound up facing off in the title game, avoiding what many had feared when the rivals were sepa- rated in the Legends and Leaders and the possibility became real that the two could close out the regular season in late November and then meet again the very next week to decide the championship. Overall, most U-M fans were glad to see the end of the Legends and Leaders and have expressed satis- faction with the new East and West, creating a sce- nario in which the Maize and Blue will play Ohio State and Michigan State every year. The Battle for the Little Brown Jug, however, will not be preserved on an annual basis; U-M will play the Golden Go- phers in 2014, 2015 and 2017 but not 2016. "The big thing for me is keeping the tra- ditional rivalries that Michigan has alive," said former player and current radio play- by-play man Jim Brandstatter. "It was more important to me to play Ohio State the last Saturday of the season than it was playing them twice, and it was important to play Michigan State every year. "Basically, we have the same thing in the East and West that we had in the Legends and Leaders. In my judgment, Michigan's football traditions have been preserved. "Whether you played Ohio State twice or not on consecutive weekends doesn't mat- ter. What matters is that you play the game once at the end of the year, you beat them and you go on to compete for a Big Ten championship the next week." Legends And Leaders Division Winning Pct. 2011-13 Rk. School Record* Win Pct. 1. Ohio State 19-5 .792 2. Michigan State 18-6 .750 3. Nebraska 17-7 .708 4. Wisconsin 16-8 .667 5. Penn State 16-8 .667 6. Michigan 15-9 .625 7. Iowa 11-13 .458 8. Northwestern 9-15 .375 9. Minnesota 8-16 .333 10. Purdue 7-17 .292 11. Indiana 5-19 .208 12. Illinois 3-21 .125 *Conference games only Big Ten Ushers in new era Of easT-wesT DivisiOns MICHIGAN FOOTBALL Head coach Brady Hoke and the Wolverines are in the East Division of the Big Ten, along with Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State, Indiana, Rutgers and Maryland. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL 8,10-12,14-28,30-32.IMA.indd 8 6/19/14 4:57 PM

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