Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Illibuck Trophy goes on a mini-hiatus after Saturday's Ohio State-Illinois game

Money talks, everything else walks.

The term applies with conference realignment and while most of the Power Five schools have reaped the rewards of the expanded conferences/divisions, one common thread has been lurking in the forefront in the last several seasons— the stoppage of rivalry games, whether permanent or temporary.

Add the Illibuck Trophy game as the latest to take a mini-break from playing.

Ohio State and Illinois will take a one-year break from its regular-season rivalry series next season due to being split into the Big Ten East and West, respectively and an expansion from eight to nine games being played within the conference, which ensures a team would play each opponent at least once within a four-year span.

Sure, most college football fans might see the Illibuck Trophy as a laughing matter, but it should never be looked down upon. Rivalry trophy games are the foundation of how this sport has been built on for decades.

Yes, the Buckeyes have made this game into a one-sided affair winning nine of the last ten meetings (NOTE: OSU's 24-13 win at Illinois in 2010 was vacated by the Buckeyes to NCAA violations.)

Ahead of Saturday's meeting at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill., Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and Illinois interim coach Bill Cubit shared different perspectives on the series being halted for a season and its effects on scheduling.

"[Realignment] makes it more difficult for teams like ourselves who are looking to be bowl-eligible because sometimes you will play a team that you might think you can get a win off of, but also I think it is a better indication of a true champion," Cubit said in Tuesday's Big Ten teleconference.  

"Sometimes you cross over and no one can figure out the future in terms of scheduling and you might have a harder schedule as a result." 

Even with the series not resuming until 2017, Cubit sees the benefit of Big Ten teams getting more of an opportunity to play one another and help expand its landscape in the process.

"I think it will generate a lot of interest in the league and the national landscape helps for the Big Ten and it will make it a bit harder for teams like us at this present time in the program."

Meyer sees rivalry games as an important tool, but values winning before anything else on the gridiron.

"Even though we are not playing [Illinois] next year, one of the things I pride myself on that stands out is focusing on the task at hand and that is getting ready for Illinois," Meyer said. "I have not thought much of the realignments and trophy games for this year and we don't spend that much time worrying about those things."

Sure, the Illibuck Trophy is not on the same level of rivalries such as Ohio State-Michigan, the Red River Rivalry (Oklahoma-Texas) and the Iron Bowl (Alabama-Auburn), but the beauty of any rivalry game is the mystery of not knowing when the next great moment will come.

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