The landscape of college football is shifting dramatically, and with that tidal wave of realignment has come a second look at the current structure to decide a conference champion.
Over the summer, the ACC announced they were getting rid of the division model entirely and having each team play three “protected” games and a revolving slate for the rest of the conference season. As the entrance of USC and UCLA to the Big Ten looms, there has been talk of adopting a similar model in order to ensure every team plays each other over a four-year span.
With the Michigan Wolverines fresh off securing their second East Division crown in as many years, players were asked on Tuesday whether they agreed with this proposed change. In his answer, quarterback J.J. McCarthy emphasized his desire to play the best teams as much as possible — but also acknowledged an appreciation to play opponents he hasn’t had the chance to play before.
“I would always like to have the top two teams face off,” McCarthy said. “I want the best competition. I wanna play the best and I believe we are the best. It’s just amazing to have this format for so long and be able to play other teams. I’ve never played Purdue before in my life so it’s awesome to get that opportunity, but definitely the top two teams would be a lot of fun.”
In contrast, linebacker Junior Colson expressed concern at potentially diminishing the significance of beating Ohio State to end the regular season.
“I think if we did that, it’d take away from The Game in a way,” Colson said. “So it wouldn’t be as important cause we’re just gonna play them again. It wouldn’t be as big since it’s a one-time thing every year, and whoever wins gets the bragging rights for the next year.”
Colson’s hesitations aren’t unfounded. In the past five seasons, a division-less Big Ten Championship would have been an immediate rematch of The Game in 2018, 2021 and 2022.
Though the introduction of the Bruins and Trojans may shake up the dynamic, it’s clear who the two top dogs in the conference are perceived to be. That perception will likely be on the minds of many as the conference decides how to move forward in an ever-changing era of college football.