- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Any Michigan man will tell you, there is nothing quite like beating Ohio State. Every Buckeye agrees, a win over that team from up North is priority No. 1.

Well, now Michigan and Ohio State could get two chances in a season to beat their fiercest rival.

What would Woody and Bo have thought of that? A rematch!

Two people familiar with the Big Ten’s decision said Wednesday that the conference has decided to put Ohio State and Michigan into separate divisions, starting next season when it expands to 12 teams.

One person also says Michigan and Ohio State will continue to play each other each year in the Big Ten regular-season finale, as they have since 1943, meaning they could wind up meeting again for the conference championship a week or two later. Not in the Big House or the Horseshoe but on a neutral field. Maybe even a domed stadium.

According to the two people, one six-team division will include Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern, while the other will have Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue and Indiana.

They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Big Ten had not yet disclosed its decision. An announcement was expected Wednesday evening. The breakdown was first reported by ESPN.com.

Nebraska will join the Big Ten as its 12th team next year, allowing the conference to split into two divisions and add a lucrative championship game. The expansion put the conference in a delicate balancing act, trying to add to its coffers without diminishing its rich traditions, none bigger than Michigan and Ohio State.

For years, the matchup known simply as “The Game” in Big Ten country has been the conference’s signature rivalry, one of the most storied and tradition-rich in all of sports. The Buckeyes and Wolverines have played 106 times since 1897.

Twenty-two times “The Game” has determined whether Ohio State or Michigan won the Big Ten championship.

Never was the rivalry more intense or more significant than from the late 1960s through the ‘70s, when Ohio State coach Woody Hayes and Michigan coach Bo Schembechler waged what has been dubbed “the Ten-Year War.”

While “The Game” will never be the same since the title won’t be at stake in the regular-season finale, the league is still banking on it to do big television ratings. And then there’s the tantalizing possibility that that the maize and blue could meet the scarlet and gray in the league championship less than a month later.

Michigan-Ohio State wasn’t the only tradition for Big Ten officials to consider.

Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther confirmed Wednesday, before the Big Ten’s announcement, that Northwestern and the Illini would be matched up and face each other every year for The Land of Lincoln Trophy.

Longtime rivals such as Iowa and Minnesota, Michigan and Michigan State, and Purdue and Indiana wound up in the same division, while Wisconsin and Minnesota were split.

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