Does it look like Vader’s wearing a grill to anyone else?

I had a reprint of this poster in college (and still have) because The Empire Strikes Back will always be my favorite film.



Star Wars Surprise

I have an idea, which should be top secret, but I have no way to influence events at a major motion picture studio, so I will share my theory on how Disney should market Star Wars. 

As the whole world ought to know, Disney purchased Lucasfilm last October and they are going to produce a sequel Star Wars trilogy set 30 years after Return of the Jedi.  What is less well know is that there will be spinoff films released every other year in between the main Skywalker Episodes.  

Recently it has been theorized that because Disney also owns Marvel and they plan to release Avengers: The Age of Ultron in May of 2015, they may not release Episode VII in its traditional Memorial Day weekend slot to compete with their other blockbuster franchise.  Badass Digest has suggested that Disney is considering moving Star Wars to December.  As an unabashed Star Wars fanatic, I’m offended by the mere thought, so If had Disney’s considerable mouse ear, I’d not so politely suggest that they move the Avengers in deference to Star Wars, in fact I already did.

If, however, they insist on going through with this ill-conceived plan they have a tremendous opportunity to completely stun the movie world.  Harrison Ford recently lamented to the rag called the NY Times that today’s environment denies film-goers the surprise of seeing a picture uncluttered by the media machine.  In keeping with that sentiment, Lucasfilm could secretly be filming a completely separate movie at Pinewood Studios where they are currently building sets for Episode VII.  Then when VII premieres in December of 2015, they could stun fans when they attach a trailer for the spin-off film to be released a mere six months later in May 2016! 

The very best thing would be for that film to be the pre-rebellion adventures of Han Solo and Chewbacca, especially if Harrison Ford gets his Return of the Jedi wish fulfilled and Han Solo unfortunately meets his end.  While not welcome, it could set up the premise for a Solo offspring revenge tale in Episode VIII. 

Just some unsolicited advice, sure to go nowhere.  


2014 Big Ten Divisions

My beloved Big Ten conference has expanded again and this spring they will announce their new divisional alignment due to the additions of The University of Maryland and Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. 

As an Illini, I was pretty pleased with who we played annually in the Leaders/Legends alignment of the last two years.  Therefore, I always think of our rivalries games as being the most important in divisional alignment.  In order to protect these long-standing rivalries I propose a Charter Member Division of the original 6 founding members plus Ohio State.  Opposite them in the Expanded Division would be the other 7 member institutions added over time. 

Charter: Ohio State, Michigan, Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Expanded: Penn State, Michigan State, Indiana, Maryland, Rutgers, Nebraska and Iowa.

Each team would still have a dedicated cross-division rival so that Ohio State-Penn Stare, Michigan-Michigan State, Purdue-Indiana, Illinois-Maryland, Northwestern-Rutgers, Wisconsin-Nebraska, and the Minnesota-Iowa series would all remain uninterrupted or initiated in the case of the new members playing the Illinois schools.

The following trophy games would be played annually: Little Brown Jug, Paul Bunyan, Paul Bunyan’s Axe, The Old Brass Spittoon, The Old Oaken Bucket, The Cannon, The Land of Lincoln, Illibuck, Floyd of Rosedale, The Landgrant Trophy, and whatever they are calling the Nebraska-Iowa game presented by Hyvee.  Everybody Wins.


Final Answer on Big Ten Divisions

For the last year I have been preoccupied with the topic of Big Ten expansion and now divisional alignment.  Upon listening to the commissioner’s comments at the introductory news conference announcing Nebraska’s addition to the league and more recently Big Ten media day, I have finally arrived at an alignment that meets all of the Big Ten’s criteria.  They are insistent that competitive balance is the chief aim of divisions.  The next priority is the maintenance of long-standing rivalries and then achieving some geographic contiguity in order to reduce travel expenses for teams and fans.  The newest wrinkles revealed on Monday were that the metric being used to judge the relative strength of division is conference record for the last 17 seasons, which coincides with Penn State’s first year of Big Ten football.  Secondly, Mr. Delany was certain that once schedules could be cleared to eliminate the fourth non-conference game that the league would move back to a nine-game conference slate, which is long overdue in my book.  Nine games is the key to achieving the scheduling fairness while respecting continuous rivalries.  That means each member of a six team division would play the other five teams plus two protected cross-rivals and then rotate the other four teams so they would play twice in a four year span. 

The number of conference wins for each team since 1993 is as follows; tier one Ohio State-106, Nebraska-98, Michigan-94 and Penn State-86, tier two Wisconsin-79, Iowa-71, Michigan State -63 and Purdue-63, tier three Northwestern-59, Illinois-45, Minnesota-44 and Indiana-33.  The consensus though is that the historically strong powers should be divided up; so as Ohio State and Michigan must be in the same division., then Penn State and Nebraska must be in the other.  Next Wisconsin and Iowa would be divided, so Wisconsin and Minnesota go with OSU & UM, while Iowa would be paired with Nebraska.  Michigan State would remain Penn State’s rival (barring future expansion), so Illinois and Northwestern would join the northern contingent while Indiana and Purdue would head south.  The resulting division would be The Great Lakes with Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio State, totaling 427 wins and the Great Plains with Nebraska, Iowa Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State and Penn State totaling 414 wins.   

My assumption is that the current protected games would form the basis of the cross-divisional rivalries.
Wisconsin and Minnesota would always play Nebraska and Iowa, Illinois and Northwestern would square off against Purdue and Indiana, finally Michigan and Ohio State would maintain their association with Michigan Sate and Penn State.  Consequently the typical strength of schedule of the Great Lakes Division would be 2874 wins whereas the Great Plains teams would have a combined S.o.S. of 2924 wins. 

This divisional alignment provides for the continuous play of eleven of the twelve trophy games. 
The longest-lived rivalry in all of college football would still be awarded Paul Bunyan’s Axe to the winner of Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Minnesota would still play for the Little Brown Jug versus Michigan and Floyd of Rosedale versus Iowa.  Wisconsin still has a protected cross rival game with Iowa for the Heartland Trophy.  Michigan State would still continue the blood feud with Michigan for the Paul Bunyan trophy.  The Spartans would maintain the Land Grant game with Penn State and also get the Old Brass Spittoon with Indiana on a regular basis.  Indiana also maintains its finale with Purdue for the Old Oaken Bucket.  Most importantly, the Fighting Illini of Illinois get their three trophy games back annually, The Land of Lincoln (formerly the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk) versus Northwestern.  The Cannon game with Purdue and the incomparable wooden turtle Illibuck with Ohio State. 

In conclusion, we have achieved competitive balance by diving the traditional powers equally, maintained geographic integrity with protected cross-rivals and brought trophy games unique to the Big ten back into consideration. 


Parity based Big Ten Divisions

During Commissioner Jim Delany’s question & answer session at the conclusion of football media day in Chicago, he reiterated his comments from the June announcement in Lincoln, Nebraska, that divisions will be based on competitive fairness, geography and the maintenance of trophy games.  Today he commented that the league is working on models based on football records since 1993, when Penn State started conference play.    Below is the ranking of schools based on overall wins:

168 - Ohio State

165 - Nebraska

146 - Michigan

145 - Penn State

142 - Wisconsin

117 - Iowa

106 - Michigan State

103 - Purdue

95 - Northwestern

92 - Minnesota

75 - Illinois (I knew it was painful watching games, but this is just sad)

68 - Indiana

In total that is 1422 wins, which translates into two 711-win divisions as such:

Blue: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern, Indiana, Michigan & Ohio State

Black: Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Purdue, Michigan State & Penn State.

Although the commissioner strongly suggested that in order to play each other more often that the Big Ten will move towards a nine game schedule as soon as future schedules will allow with three non-conference games and nine home and away games in a two year span in league play. 

So in the near term, each university would play the other five teams in their division and three cross-division games.  Consequently the much ballyhooed East/West geography based divisions will still play each other.  The trio of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Northwestern would play home and home in 2011 & 2012 against Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois.  Whereas, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio State would face off against Purdue, Michigan State and Penn State. 

The only hiccup would be the finale weekend before the Championship game (sure to be in Indy’s Lucas Oil Stadium although I prefer Soldier Field)  The best format would be: MSU-Wisconsin, Iowa-Minnesota, Indiana-Purdue, Illinois-N’western, Michigan-Ohio State and the newly minted Nebraska-Penn State tilt.  However, in the Black & Blue line-ups they would likely be: Wisconsin-Minnesota (Paul Bunyan’s Axe), Iowa-Nebraska (for some corn implement)  Indiana-N’western (for the tallest midget)  Illinois-Purdue (the Cannon), Michigan State-Penn State (the Land Grant trophy) and of course ‘the game’ between Michigan and Ohio State. 

In the future, once we move to a nine-game schedule, the following pairs would always play each other: Nebraska & Iowa vs. Minnesota & Wisconsin, Indiana & Northwestern vs. Illinois & Purdue, plus Ohio State & Michigan vs. Michigan State and Penn State.  Teams would then play the other two pairs twice in four years. 

I really wanted to play for Illibuck every year.  I suppose not all rivalries are created equal. 


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