[What, like we're not going to bump this? Just from a fantasy standpoint alone, it's worth your attention. - RUTS]
Initial shout out to SlingStone, who is right decent guy for a Pitt fan, for pointing out this great article on Big Ten expansion. This is the key to the whole premise, which seems absurd until you’ve read it. So take a minute and come back, I’ll wait.
Okay, now that we’ve covered the suspension of disbelief part of the conversation we can get started. Texas, it seems, could be persuaded to join the Big Ten if the conditions were right. But would a 12 team league with Texas take over the world? No. And the conference wouldn’t align right, for one reason, Penn State and Texas would have to be in the same division for competitive balance, and that doesn’t make any sense. So crap, it doesn’t work.
The Big Ten has not ruled out any manner of expansion, including adding more than one team. So maybe we can jigger this a little. Suppose Oklahoma and Nebraska could be similarly convinced to find a new league? If we’re thinking like a University President, Nebraska and Oklahoma have more to gain from joining the Big Ten than Texas would. Nebraska is a member of the American Academy of Universities (AAU) which is said to be academic pre-requisite that Big Ten requires. Oklahoma is not, but on further investigation Oklahoma ranks 102 in the latest US News and World Report Rankings of colleges, but Nebraska is only 96th. I’d note two additional things;  By joining the Big Ten, and gaining entrance to the Committee for Institutional Cooperation, both schools would see significant jumps in their USNews rankings, and  I’m sure the influence of 13 other AAU members might speed along Oklahoma’s acceptance into that organization. In short, both Nebraska and Oklahoma are reaches academically, but like Daryl Clark, I think they are a good risk.
So where does that leave us?
East: Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern
West: Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois
Umm…wow. It actually takes a while for that line up to sink in. Let it.
My unofficial research has the distance between Austin and Minneapolis at 1173 miles. Presently, the furthest distance between two points is State College and Minneapolis, a distance of 974 miles. So the distances are reasonably similar. Penn State would actually play in a more compact geographical area, and would only travel farther than they do now to play either Texas, Oklahoma or Nebraska. Which I think we could live with.
The conference as a whole would be far-flung, but the divisions are managable. The east is substantially more compact than the current Big Ten footprint. While the west is larger, it is aided by the fact that it’s furthest outlier, Texas, is the richest public school in the country. The balance of the west, is also more compact that the current Big Ten footprint.
But enough about logistics, lets talk a little bit about what football season might look like. College football kick off weekend could feature cross-division Big Ten games. In my mind they are scheduled by the league shortly after the prior season concludes to maximize the match-ups.
Imagine a world where the first week of the college football season looks like this…
12:00 – Penn State versus Nebraska
3:30 – Michigan versus Oklahoma
8:00 – Ohio State versus Texas
So were out of the gate with three National Title contenders, and nobody watched an SEC game all weekend.
We then do the standard patsy blow-out schedule, and play the first in division game. Which brings us to the Texas State Fair, and Oklahoma versus Texas at 11:45. Which is nice, but then you follow it with Penn State versus Ohio State, and Michigan versus Michigan State, and you’ve just had a second weekend that nobody, anywhere, watched anything but Big Ten football.
Thanksgiving? How about a little Nebraska/Oklahoma and Ohio State/Michigan? You like that? I thought you might.
Getting to the Championship game in this league would be an accomplishment akin to winning the Big Ten right now. Under normal circumstances, I don’t see how this is not a 2 BCS bid league every single season. Obviously, you run the risk of a rematch in the Championship game, but to the extent it’s a rematch between two of the top ten winningest football programs in history, it’s just not that big of a disappointment. Plus, I have to think the Big Ten champ is playing for the National Title 3 out of 4 years at least with this set up.
Somebody else can figure out how it works for basketball, but however it works it will be worth it.