clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Weekend wrap-up: Farewell, Big Ten West

Also, Michigan alumni continue to clean up in NHL free agency.

Purdue v Minnesota Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

After just eight seasons in their current state, Big Ten divisions are going away in football. While the East and West setup made a ton more sense than the ill-fated Leaders and Legends, what looked good on paper never really had a chance to play itself out completely thanks to an ever-changing college football landscape.

2023 will be the final season of the 14-school version of the Big Ten, and the Michigan Wolverines get a semi-generous schedule. After six years of cross-division matchups with Wisconsin, the rotation blessed them with a struggling Nebraska for the following six years (though only two of those games will end up being played). Even though Ohio State and Penn State are among the country’s toughest opponents, Michigan’s schedule on the whole is very manageable.

That is because the Huskers are joined by Minnesota and Purdue in the West division portion of the slate this fall. Per the latest SP+ rankings, these schools sit third, fifth, and sixth in the division right now, with none landing in the top 30 nationally. After some tougher draws in the past, this seems like a fair way to say goodbye to divisions.

Furthermore, the Wolverines’ top competitors are slightly less fortunate. Ohio State draws Wisconsin (first) and also sees Minnesota and Purdue, while Penn State gets Iowa (second) and Illinois (fourth) to go with lowly Northwestern. While all three Big Ten East giants will be favored in their cross-division contests, Michigan looks to get the easiest path by far.

There is one downside, however. Conference tiebreakers do consider opponents’ win percentages, meaning the Wolverines’ apparent weaker draw could knock them out of the Big Ten Championship Game if multiple teams go 8-1, for example. This could be a blessing in disguise, though, as last year saw the Buckeyes still get into the College Football Playoff despite sitting at home thanks to their lone loss — this is a very realistic path for Michigan should it go 11-1 and lose out on tiebreakers, so no real reason to sweat here.

Success on and off the ice

The Michigan hockey program continues to be one of the nation’s best after back-to-back Frozen Four appearances (as well as Big Ten Tournament championships). These results are naturally correlated with tons of NHL Draft success as well; the Wolverines have had a first-round selection in six straight years, including five (!) top-five picks in the past three drafts.

It is not just the recent Michigan players who are enjoying good fortune. The latest round of NHL free agency saw a handful of alumni secure new contracts, which is no surprise given both the volume and impact of many former Wolverines in the NHL after leaving Ann Arbor.

One of the biggest deals across the league was handed to J.T. Compher by the Detroit Red Wings, who joins fellow college teammate Andrew Copp in the Motor City (and Dylan Larkin, of course). Some might criticize Steve Yzerman’s willingness to dole out a $25.5-million contract to a player like Compher (or Copp), but regardless, this is a nice reward for the former Wolverine.

Compher was not the only one to get in on the free agency rush, with Max Pacioretty signing a one-year deal with Washington, Luke Glendening heading to Tampa on a two-year contract, and Will Lockwood joining the Florida organization on a two-way deal. Additionally, both Jack Johnson and Andrew Cogliano will continue their long NHL careers in Colorado this upcoming season.