This weekend will deliver to us some of the most entertaining games of the college football season. I will go more into my personal favorite Army v. Navy later this week. But the championship games offer some very compelling drama: It starts on Friday night in the MAC, with Ball State looking to stay undefeated by taking on upstart Buffalo. In the SEC you have Florida taking on Alabama for a BCS title game bid, in the Big 12 you have Missouri against Oklahoma, even the ACC offers a compelling championship game with Boston College and Virginia Tech.
Sadly, once again the Big Ten is sitting out and letting the rest of the college football universe thrive this weekend without making a peep. Penn State (and maybe Ohio State) are going to charge into their BCS bowl games facing a layoff of more than 50 days. We started this discussion in the infamous Chaos on the Sidelines post, but I wanted to throw it out there again with some structure.
My Statement: It is time for the Big Ten Conference to add a 12th team, divide the conference into two divisions, and set up a Championship Game. Doing so will enhance the national perception of the conference and allow us to better compete in the new world order of college football.
Who should get added ? There is obviously a lot of discussion and lobbying that would occur before any of this would happen, but I want to throw a couple of schools on the table and deliver a brief discussion about the teams. These options are presented in no particular order.
Cincinnati: Personally, I think it would be a very good idea to add the 12th team from the state of Ohio. The depth of the high school football talent from that state is the best in the conference and it would be nice to have Ohio State face some competition from inside the state. The Bearcats have built a solid football program and have traditionally had a strong basketball program. Academically they are ranked as a Tier III school. There are no Tier III schools currently in the B10.
Ohio: Again, focusing in on adding a school from Ohio. This obviously would be a long term project, looking to capitalize on a potentially strong brand name. Not likely to happen because the Bobcats don't have a very strong athletic program when they compete against MAC schools. Academically they are ranked 116th. Another downside is that Buckeye fans and the Best Damn Band in the Land would have to learn how to spell "State".
Miami of Ohio: In my opinion, Miami of Ohio is the best choice for the Big Ten from the state of Ohio. They have solid traditional history, a very nice campus, a decent academic ranking and have delivered MAC success across many sports. I believe that they would struggle with the larger schools much like Northwestern, but I think that if we are looking to add someone from the MAC, adding the Redhawks makes a lot of sense.
Syracuse: I never thought about Syracuse until 616goblue brought it up in our initial chaos thread. Despite their current football woes (hey, they beat Notre Dame) and they have a nice overall athletics program. Academically they rank 53rd, which would place them in the middle of the pack. Plus, I really like the idea of opening up the state of New York to the Big Ten. I have lived in western New York and there are a lot of Big Ten fans there already. Travel could be a problem, but so is getting to Penn State.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers have always made a lot of sense as the 12th team. If we are not going to add another team from Ohio, Pennsylvania is the next best choice. Academically they are ranked 58th, just behind Ohio State. They would deliver a strong football team and the other sports aren't bad either. The city and stadium are great. The real draw for adding Pitt would be re-ignition of their heated rivalry with our friends in Happy Valley. Before Penn State joined the conference the Pitt/Penn State rivalry was one of the best in the country.
West Virginia: Someone else brought up West Virginia as a potential 12th Big Ten team. Honestly, I don't consider them a viable option. Academically they are not ranked (they show up as a Tier III school). They have a created a strong athletic program, based primarily on their football success. Culturally I believe that their fan base would be a shock to the system of many in the conference, making Spartan fans look like Ivy Leaguers. Without the lingering animosity towards Rich Rodriguez, the Mountaineers would not even be in this discussion. It is already boring to me and nationally that storyline will die over time.
Notre Dame: I am only adding Notre Dame to provide an answer to those that want to say the Irish are the "natural choice". Yes, I consider Notre Dame a great choice. They have both the academics and athletics to fit into the higher echelons of the conference. But past history, economics, and reality tells me that the Irish are never going to join the Big Ten. There is no logical reason for them to do so. They already get to play all the B10 teams the want and don't have to share any revenue with anyone. It isn't going to happen.
Iowa State: So far each option I have discussed has been an eastern choice. There really isn't a decent choice if you want to look west. Iowa State offers a natural rival for Iowa, but that is about it. They are ranked 89th academically and near the bottom in the Big 12 in most sports. Since they already get to play Iowa in everything they want to play them in, I just don't see them being interested in leaving the Big 12 and heading to the Big 10. Missouri and Nebraska have also been listed as options, but I don't see them bolting from their current B12 situation.
How do you set up the divisions ? For simplicity sake, I will assume that a western school is not going to be the choice. The first issue to address is that of traditional rivalries, they need to and will be taken care of. The current power base obviously in the east with Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State and eventually (god willing) Michigan. I believe that is acceptable, if you look at the B12 and SEC model, obviously there are existing stronger divisions and it works. Over time the power will balance out.
East Division: Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Team #12
West Division: Purdue, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Northwestern
Shorty suggested this as an alternative to provide some balance in the current power structure.
Lakes Division: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Indiana, Northwestern
Plains Division: Penn State, Team #12, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois
Unbalanced schedule ? You should play each team in your division each and every year. You would play four teams from the other division each year, rotating teams on & off the calendar like we currently do.
Championship game weather concerns ? I really have no great desire to sit at Chicago's Soldier Field in December watching Michigan playing Wisconsin, but I will do it if necessary. I love Ford Field and think that Lucas Oil Stadium and the Metrodome offer some decent indoor options inside the conference territory.
Let me know what you think ?