With the benefit of hindsight, we all evaluate several arbitrary NCAA rules that reshaped collegiate sports in a negative way. Among the many that stand out, let’s imagine a different world with division-less conference championship games.
What if the NCAA allowed conferences to set up championship games no matter the number of conference members, instead of using 12 as the absolute minimum? What if no divisions were required? We now live in that world, but the hypotheticals would be incredible. Perhaps in this alternative universe, the Big Ten never would have expanded beyond 11 members in 2011. Or, if after Nebraska joined the conference, what if the Big Ten could line up its best two teams instead of pitting divisional champs against one another?
During the past 25 years, which spans the Bowl Championship Series and the College Football Playoff eras, about half of the Big Ten seasons would have ended with only cosmetic changes. But there were several years when a championship game could have altered the league winner and perhaps the national championship participant. With that in mind, let’s spotlight seven of the Big Ten’s most interesting seasons that featured a division-less title game and offer a synopsis of the other 18 seasons.