The Basics of Stasis
No, we haven’t forgotten the series, just needing to keep up with Basketball and the roaring start of baseball and softball seasons. If you need a refresher, check out the prior article on the SEC.
The Big 10 is the old prestige football conference from the nation’s 20th century Rust Belt and northern Prairie (Eastern Nebraska is considered a Plains State, but the area around Lincoln has ties to both regions). The Conference is the oldest continuous organization existing under several names but very much the same base membership since 1896.
The modern iteration stretches all the way to the mid-Atlantic coast with the additions of Maryland and Rutgers. Penn State is still considered very rusty. The end result is a league that encompasses most of the rural and industrial heart of the country sprinkled with major cities centered around the Great Lakes and rivers of the region.
The talent pool is an eclectic mix of potential players that does not require looking very far for first rate skills. Currently the B1G is reasonably stable. Since their last expansion (Nebraska joined in 2011, Maryland and Rutgers in 2014), there doesn’t seem to be a big impulse to push to the two division 14-team limit or push to the SEC’s 16 team configuration. That might change as the economics dictate but the league core 11 teams have been members for a century or more so that sort of explosive change is not taken lightly.
The Conference Now and for the Foreseeable Future
The B1G’s biggest issue, at present, is that four of its best programs are in the Eastern Division, and it really only has one team in the West that can routinely get close to challenging for the conference title. This has been really obvious of late, when the prospects of the championship game remain Wisconsin vs. either Michigan or Ohio state and having little change against either.
The B1G for 2022 and Beyond
|Indiana Hoosiers||D||Indiana has rarely been seen beyond the basketball court.|
|Maryland Terrapins||C||Maryland was rarely a consistently good football team in the ACC.|
|Michigan State Spartans||B+||Sparty has had serious flashes of brilliance|
|Michigan Wolverines||A||No matter how challenged Michigan will always be a B1G Threat|
|Ohio State Buckeyes||A||OSU is the other Cream of the B1G, and the Conference Championship is in the East|
|Penn State Nittany Lions||A-||The Program is wealthy, when coached well it is a serious threat|
|Rutgers Scarlet Knights||D||No. Just No, not now, not ever.|
|Illinois Fighting Illini||D||Once really good, Illinois is no longer for a long time.|
|Iowa Hawkeyes||B-||Iowa has some real potential. If they have a good coach their talent pool is good.|
|Minnesota Golden Gophers||B-||The rodents are in the same spot as the eyballs. They can be good if well coached.|
|Nebraska Cornhuskers||C||Once the cream of greatness, Nebraska has hit extended hard times.|
|Northwestern Wildcats||D||They rose to a C+ a decade ago, and have since sunk back.|
|Purdue Boilermakers||C||Another once viable program that is now struggling with mediocrity.|
|Wisconsin Badgers||B+||This is close to A-, Bucky's the best of the Division.|
Since there is no big set of guesses or announcements to make on the B1G’s lineup for post 2022 action, let’s talk about what is at issue. The conference was frozen out of the Championship this year with the SEC. There was a distinct drop off in on field strength as both Michigan (B1G Champion) and Cincinnati (Surprise AAC, G5 Champion chosen for a slot). The end result of the all-SEC Championship was a foreshadowing of the fate of the current phony playoff system and a stark illustration that not only college football needs a real championship series but conferences and conference configurations that actually lend itself to traditional “win on the field on the day” championship tracks. Suffice it to say that no team in any other conference than the SEC, Ohio State, and Michigan were even in real contention. That the Bearcats were invited might be testament to a due bit of grace from the committee rather than some ethereal notion of viability on the field. (They were undefeated but probably would not have been selected in any prior season.)
Why the Disinterest in Growth and Change?
So, here’s the rub. The current proposal on the table for a 12-team conference and small wild card playoff format was defeated (it won 8 – 3 in the last vote, but FBS is demanding unanimity.) The three holdouts were the ACC, B1G, and PAC 12 voted against the proposal. These conferences have forged a basically toothless anti-SEC alliance of sorts, and for now, have hung together to stifle the playoff expansion; the SEC and G5 conferences all voting in favor.
What really is the B1G’s game in the alliance and the vote if they voted against a real playoff that would be guaranteed at least one FBS playoff spot, high value bowl or more, and an opportunity to reorganize for more intra conference competition? Sports Illustrated’ s Mike McDaniel, CFP Expansion: ‘Alliance’ pushes back against critics - Sports Illustrated reported in a February 25h article that the tree alliance conferences pushed back against the notion/rumor that they had banded together in the vote. Frankly, I find that the push back feels a bit feeble and disingenuous but we’ll have to take them at their word. The ACC is working hard to get Notre Dame to fully join the conference, and seems to be exerting whatever leverage that it can to get the program to commit. The PAC-12 has yet to demonstrate an abiding interest in any sort of on field playoff since its marquee game is the Rose Bowl (along with the B1G) and that is some serious coin making championships of limited value.
What’s really difficult to understand, however. Even with five teams potentially in functional playoff contention, and a raft of NFL Draft talent being pulled in, it seems that the B1G is as happy with the status quo as they are with their current conference configuration and membership. There doesn’t seem to be the willingness to change much of anything, so the motivation for voting against a true playoff might just not be there. Remember, the B1G gets more than a few teams into big name big money bowls, owns half of the Rose Bowl franchise, and doesn’t seem to be interested in non-conference scheduling and play.
Who has a Clue as to Why?
This seems to all boils down to the conference’s desire to allow the current structure to unwind and end at the culmination of the 2025 season. There are going to be some negotiating advantages when the “old” money contracts evaporate. There is also the whiff of Name, Image, and Likeness money lurking in the background, here. It’s going to be a skunk-like vapor spoiling the Summer evening for quite a while. If you think about it, maybe the professionalization of big-time collegiate sports is one of the major reasons for any FBS conference to choose one route or the other.
The answer to the question regarding why the B1G is staying put and dragging its feet on change is an open issue. Let’s see what you might feel about it:
What do you think is causing the B1G log jam regarding the expansion of the CFB Championship Playoffs?
This poll is closed
The B1G only has 5 teams near the top. It’s comfortable with schedules, revenues, and bowls. There isn’t the need to participate in an expanded playoff series.
The B1G has always wanted the ACC flirting Notre Dame in the Rust Belt conference. The only way that they’d expand is with the addition of ND and another premium program to get to SEC levels.
The members don’t see much upside to the expansion because the level of competition goes up, which jeopardizes W/L records that influence voters and committees with formulas instead of on field results.
2026 looms. The longer the B1G waits the greater its leverage and the better the deal during the mass renegotiation of the championship situation. They can bide their time and wait for better.
That’s the B1G. It’s kind of boring to most of the world outside of the fan bases and the traditional rivalries buried within the conference. It’s not even a balanced competition between their East and West teams. This is one league that’s really difficult to read and might always be a roadblock on the way to a real playoff situation.