The Big Ten’s decision for conference realignment upon the addition of the Nebraska Cornhuskers has created an emotional stir amongst fans of the entire conference. Traditionalists are irritated at the destruction of certain rivalries from realignment. Many folks are disenchanted about having Ohio State and Michigan in separate subdivisions.
There are different elements of the Big Ten expansion that I agree and disagree with. When looking at the whole picture, I do agree that adding the Nebraska Cornhuskers should only be beneficial as long as executives of the Big Ten and schools don’t get overly greedy.
There are 4 reasons that adding a twelfth institution to the Big Ten is beneficial for the entire conference: Prestige, December recognition, and exposure.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers are one of college football’s most storied programs. From 1970-1997, Nebraska won 5 championships. They’re one of seven teams to capture 3 or more national championships. Since 1970, they’re the third winningest college football program with 5 national championships.
Following the Frank Solich era, Nebraska has had to rebuild itself. They’ve reestablished their traditional option offense into a more conventional style. With Bo Pelini, Nebraska found themselves seconds away from a potential Big 12 championship appearance in 2009. With a vaunted defense, storied history, and Pelini still acquiring players into his scheme, the Cornhuskers should be a remarkable addition to the Big Ten.
The Big Ten is often perceived as one of the weakest Power-6 conferences. Some critics will argue that they’ve been weaker than some mid-major conferences in certain seasons, i.e. Mountain West Conference. Stealing Nebraska from the Big 12 doesn’t only give the Big Ten another championship contender in the conference with great accomplishments, but it also subtracts last year’s conference runner-up from the Big 12.
The SEC will be perceived as NCAA’s premiere conference as long as Florida, Alabama, and LSU win championships. However, rebuilding programs at Nebraska and Michigan along with solid institutions at Wisconsin, Penn State, and Ohio State makes the Big Ten more than credible.
Big Ten fans may be disappointed with Nebraska joining the Big Ten because of the realignment that has pursued. They should be happy with the positive outlook that voters will have when deciding the national championship participants at season’s end. Nebraska will give the conference more respect.
The Big 12 and SEC have played conference championship games for years. This gives them a thirteenth game against a high quality opponent from their subdivision. Sometimes, the teams can be undefeated like with the Florida Gators and Alabama Crimson Tide in 2009.
Without a conference championship, the Big Ten has only played 12 games. A 12-0 team from the Big Ten could be doomed of a national championship opportunity if there are 13-0 teams from the SEC or Big 12. Less likely, a 12-1 team from these conferences might upend a 12-0 Big Ten team if the loss was early enough, against a highly ranked opponent, and the Big Ten was perceived that much weaker than the SEC or Big 12 in that season.
A conference championship game against a high quality opponent will add unto the accolades of the most legitimate championship contenders and prevent them from being in this scenario.
Most Big Ten football is completed in the middle of November. Teams can wait up towards two weeks before bowl games are announced. During this time, major rivalry games and conference championships are still being played.
There are two critical problems with the layoff. In a “What have you done for me now society,” the Big Ten teams that have been idle for 2 weeks are at a disadvantage against the teams that played into December, especially those that play in a prestigious conference championship game. Voters and fans can forget and discredit teams from the Big Ten as they’re being impressed by programs playing into December. These programs, such as USC, may have taken extra bye weeks throughout the season and still played 12 games; voters may forget that, however.
The second problem is rust. Big Ten teams go nearly six weeks without playing meaningful football. Any chemistry that was sustained during the regular season can become rust for the bowl game. The Ohio State Buckeyes dismal national championship performances could have partially been credited to the layoff between their rivalry with Michigan and their games against Florida and LSU.
A conference championship game is an additional game that’ll create more money for the conferences and schools that qualify to participate.
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Mark Snyder, “Michigan and Ohio State to remain Big Ten Final.” Detroit Free Press. September 2, 2010. September 2, 2010.
Nebraska Cornhuskers Football History, Huskers Official Website. September 2, 2010.