Joe Christensen covered Major League Baseball for 15 years, including three seasons at the Baltimore Sun and eight at the Star Tribune, before switching to the college football beat. He’s a Faribault, Minn., native who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He covered Jim Wacker’s Gophers for the Minnesota Daily and also wrote about USC, UCLA and the Rose Bowl for the Riverside Press-Enterprise before getting this chance to cover football again.

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New Big Ten football divisions could bring easier road for Gophers

Posted by: Joe Christensen under The Big 10 Updated: March 19, 2013 - 9:22 AM

The latest news on Big Ten division re-alignment bodes well for the Gophers. According to ESPN.com's Big Ten Blog, the league’s athletic directors plan to go with geographic divisions -- “East” and “West” -- for 2014, when Maryland and Rutgers join the conference, and the only lingering debate is whether Purdue or Indiana joins the West.

The divisions have yet to be named, but they would look like this:

“WEST”
Illinois
Iowa
Minnesota
Nebraska
Northwestern
Wisconsin
Indiana or Purdue

“EAST”
Maryland
Michigan
Michigan State
Ohio State
Penn State
Rutgers
Indiana or Purdue

By 2014, there will be eight teams in the Eastern time zone and six in the Central time zone, so one of those eastern teams needs to play in the West division. Previously, there had been talk of moving Michigan State to the "West" in order to help competitive balance.

Based on recent history, playing Purdue or Indiana every year should be a lot easier for the Gophers than Michigan State. And for the conference, this would allow the Michigan/Michigan State rivalry to continue right inside the same division.

Nothing has been made official yet, but the Big Ten Blog also reports that the league will likely move to a nine-game conference schedule starting in 2016. So that would mean six games within each team’s division and three crossovers.

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