In part I of this post, I delved into the expansion of both the Mountain West Conference and the Pac-10, with Utah being a key figure in both. The MWC conference gained Boise St just to lose Utah to its west coast rival. The Pac-10 also picked up Colorado; however, it was not the only conference to look towards to Big XII for expansion.
The Big Ten (which actually has 11 members) has been looking to expand for some time and finally found a taker in Nebraska. Since Nebraska makes the required minimum of 12 teams to have divisions within a conference, the Big Ten is now exploring the possibilities for evenly matched divisions. I suggest creating a division down the
Possible Big Ten division
Illinois-Indiana border creating a Big Ten East and West. This will ensure that most Big Ten rivalries and permanent matches, such as Michigan-Ohio St, will stay intact. Only four existing rivalries would be divided. However, teams would only have 5 in-division games with three or four games against opponents from the other division, making it possible to keep those rivalries. Very doable. Furthermore, dividing the conference like so would be balanced. The teams I placed in the East finished last season 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 1o in the conference, while the teams in the West ended 2, 4, 8, 9, and 11. And based on its record, Nebraska would have likely ended in the top 5. Much more straight forward than the divisions in the ACC, but there are other options.
For some time now, Penn St coach, Joe Paterno, has been vocal about expanding the Big Ten eastward. If the conference manages to pluck top teams from the Big East (which would definitely improve the conference in basketball), then division boundaries become more difficult to draw. If they do go that route, I suggest choosing out of Pitt, Cincy, and West Virginia. Along with the addition of divisions, the Big Ten (or is it Twelve now?) is also planning to begin a conference championship in Indy starting 2011. It appears the Big Ten is making big plans to pull itself out of its recent slump in mediocrity.
I hope to see a lot more of this in up coming seasons.
It appears that the Big XII is content for now because they lost their weakest links in basketball in Colorado and Nebraska (although, the Corn Huskers football team is currently ranked 9th in USA Today Poll). Diminishing its numbers means the money the conference makes will now only be split ten ways. (I’m not sure how the Pac-10 benefits from its acquisitions.) If the Big XII does decide to replenish, its best bet may be to look into TCU and Houston, both of which are consistently in the bowl busting talk, at the expense of smaller conferences.
After the loss of Utah, the MWC would be devistated if TCU decided to head out as well. Of course, they could always make acquisitions of their own. If they could add three more teams (probably Houston, Nevada, and Fresno St) they could have two divisions. This would facilitate two teams from the MWC to make BCS bowl appearances in the same year. But they may decide to play it safe and not disrupt the progress they have made the last two years. As of now, the MWC is ahead of the Big East and tied with the ACC in the measurements we are aware of. According to one ESPN blog, “We know that the BCS measures the strength of the best teams as well as the conference as a whole. It also looks at BCS bowl berths and Top 25 rankings. But the rest of the measuring stick — if more even exists — is broken off and kept in a vault somewhere.” I guess we’ll see in two years.
Now that the Big Ten and Pac-10 are up to twelve and the Big XII is down to ten, I expect to see a chain reaction of conference changes across the nation over the next few years. One theory is the creation of 4 mega conferences. As for me, I believe the changes will be more subtle. But one thing is for sure, NCAA Division I conferences are in flux. What changes do you see coming in college football? (Hint: please comment)