The news of possible Big Ten Expansion with the addition of UCLA and USC raises new questions about the Big Ten’s options for realignment and planning. There were rumors that the Big Ten is considering a 3-5-5 option, similar to what the ACC recently announced. Other options include rearranging the divisions for competitive balance, similar to the original leaders and legends.
Bringing the conference to 16 teams creates new opportunities and issues regarding the balance of the conferences. Some suggested the Big Ten go back to scheduling eight conference games with other cross conference games against power fives teams added to the schedule.
Curious what this news means for the handshake alliance between the conferences today?
I’ve created three possible options based on resources, logic, and what makes the Big Ten the most money.
Easy Division Reshuffling
Big Ten Conference with Divisions
This breakdown of the distribution is one that is heavily considered and appears most likely, according to one source. It’s the easiest solution as the two new teams, UCLA and USC, join the West while Purdue moves to the East. It creates a perfect geographic balance and maintains the rivalry between Purdue and Indiana. On paper, this alignment also seems to bring a competitive balance to the conference.
As for the schedule, you would imagine the Big Ten to keep the nine-game schedule. Seven matches in the division, two crossover matches that rotate every four years. The nine-game schedule makes the most sense in many ways, except maybe for that new huge TV deal the Big Ten is getting. I’m sure Fox will use USC/UCLA vs. Michigan/Ohio State/MSU/PSU games.
4 team pods based on geography
Big Ten Geographic Pod Conference
The rumored format that the SEC will use with the addition of Texas and Oklahoma is Pods. Pods would essentially create four divisions of four teams, allowing the conference to protect regionality and rivalry while allowing more rotation between other groups. So while in the two-team format of eight teams, Michigan would only play USC once every four years, but play against Rutgers every season, pods would allow Michigan to play both teams more every two or three years.
In this format, I chose to use geography to divide the pods. This format balances each pod and maintains significant rivalry. The glaring problem is that Michigan and the state of Ohio are in different groups, and there’s no way The Game doesn’t take place annually. So with geographic pods there would probably be secure crossovers between the pods that each program still plays every year.
4 team pods based on rivalry
Big Ten Conference with Rivalry Pods
This one makes the least sense for competitive equilibrium, but makes the most sense for TV ratings. The Big Ten would have room to work with the crossover games, what’s protected and what isn’t, to create a more balanced schedule, but this guarantees the biggest matchups every season.
In this recast, the best of the east are together in one pod. Michigan, the state of Michigan, the state of Ohio and the state of Penn. Fans of these programs would probably cry as they play the historically toughest teams each year, while another group includes Indiana, Maryland, Purdue, and Rutgers. USC and UCLA remain in the same pod with Iowa and Nebraska, both major annual rivalry games, while Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Northwestern round out.
Again, fairness is out the window on this one, but with the kind of money Fox is throwing around for the conference broadcast rights, they’re sure to put their finger on a reshuffle that guarantees the biggest games are played every year.
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