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Marla Ridenour on Sports

'The Game' stays where it belongs

By Marla Published: September 1, 2010

Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon admitted Wednesday night on the Big Ten Network that he was concerned that the Ohio State-Michigan game would be moved from the final game of the regular season starting in 2011.

''At one point it seemed like that was in jeopardy,'' Brandon said.

''I was anxious for this phone call to see what things would emerge,'' Smith said.

The announcement on the network confirmed that the two teams will play annually in the final game of the regular season, even though they were slotted in separate divisions.

Brandon said he and Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith wanted ''The Game'' on the final week all along, but weren't sure conference officials would keep college football's greatest rivalry where they thought it belonged.

''The most common response I was was 'Keep it as the last game in November,''' Brandon said of the reaction from Michigan fans in recent weeks. ''There were very few people who didn't feel strongly that was an important principle. Gene and I knew that from the very beginning. Gene and I and the conference leadership, all the ADs and presidents, got together and worked it out.''

Ohio State and Michigan will play in separate divisions when Nebraska joins the conference in 2011, giving the Big Ten 12 teams. The conference championship will be played Dec. 3, the first at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Ohio State, Indiana, Illinois, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin will make up one division, with Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern in the other. Each school will have one cross-division matchup guaranteed on an annual basis, of which Ohio State-Michigan is one.

Neither Smith nor Brandon seemed worried that there could be a rematch in back-to-back weeks.

''If we do play back to back, over the history of time it's rare,'' Smith said. ''If it happens, it would be great for the conference and fans.''

Of the separate divisions, Brandon said, ''I have a good feeling about that. It provides us the opportunity to have that great cross-rival we wanted, but at the same time it gives us the opportunity to when we both earn it to play for everything, to play for the Big Ten championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl.

''We don't mind playing Ohio State twice in one year if that's what the end result could be.''

The championship could also determine the Big Ten's representative in the Bowl Championship series.

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