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Expansion is Here; Are We Ready?

June 10, 2010

Written by Jon Miller

Hawkeye Nation

When I ask, ‘Are we ready’, I guess I mean ‘are we ready for what this is going to mean for the Big Ten, and Iowa?’  What are some of the ramifications?

We have spent the better part of the last six months talking about different teams joining the league, and reveling in the possible new rivalries and matchups we could see Iowa playing in the future.  That has been fun to tinker around with, but I don’t think many of us have stopped long enough to ponder the ramifications of this seismic shift in the landscape of college athletics and what it could mean for Iowa.

First, one huge positive is that it gives Iowa’s athletic department a great deal of financial stability, which going forward will become more and more important.  It’s not like that hasn’t always been an important factor, especially when we reside in a state that has around 3 million people and a state that, for the time being, has two universities in BCS conferences.  Being a part of the Big Ten means you are going to get taken care of.

We have come to deal with battling Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, three enormous public schools with some of the largest living alumni bases and we’ve managed to smack Michigan in the nose often enough to wipe away the glass ceiling of invincibility and we pretty much own Penn State, having beaten them seven out of the last eight meetings and eight out of the last 10, to pull even with them in the all time series at 11 up and 11 down.  Ohio State?  Different story…they are still the mountain that Iowa has rarely climbed, having just four wins against them since 1963 and 14 all time in 59 meetings (compared to 11 wins vs PSU in 22 meetings!)

Wisconsin is a worthy adversary, and Northwestern has our number as of late.  Purdue has flashed, too, as has Illinois.  These are people we are familiar with, people we have known.  Like cousins, perhaps.

Nebraska seems to be a pretty solid stylistic and cultural fit for this league, too. It will be fun playing them each year in football, but give this a thought; the league is welcoming in a team that has one of the ten best bowl traveling reputations in all of college football.  So does Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State.  But this means that Nebraska is a new face that will be seen as very attractive by the Capital One and Outback Bowls, because they haven’t been there and they travel well.  For the next five or so years, the Huskers are going to ‘win’ many of these bowl coin flips.

If Wisconsin or Iowa is sitting there for the Cap One or Outback to pick at 10-2 or 9-3, and the Huskers have the same record or within one game in the win column, Nebraska is going to get the call for a bit.

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Now, if the Big Ten is able to lure Notre Dame to the league, that applies all the same, if not more.  They are a very bankable bowl draw.  Heaven forbid that Texas pulls off a Michael Corleone move and rids itself of political ties with Texas A&M and Texas Tech as they have with Baylor and comes the Big Ten, something that was gaining a lot of momentum on Thursday afternoon, you have another top ten traveling reputation program to add to your conference.

Think about that for a second…throw Nebraska, Notre Dame and Texas in with Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Penn State?  That’s seven of the ten best traveling fan bases in the sport, all in one league.

Now, the news isn’t all bad there, because after the Big 12 disbands, the Fiesta, Cotton, Alamo and Holiday are going to need to find new bowl tie ins.  I could see a couple of them angling for a Pac-whatever vs Big Ten tie in, such as the Fiesta.  The Cotton?  I could see that turning into a Big Ten vs at Large bid bowl played in Jerry Jones’ new Cowboys edifice.  That would only happen if Texas were in the Big Ten, however.  But maybe not, maybe those bowls look in a different direction.

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No matter, as the Big Ten expands to 12, 13, 14 or more teams, there will be additional bowl tie ins to go with it, and I am not talking about bowl games named after Pizza franchises played in Detroit.

Another thing to consider, in this day and age where people say 50 is the new 40; will 8-4 become the new 10-2?

Me and others have said in recent years that if a team navigated the SEC with just one loss, that should be good enough for an automatic slot in the BCS title game, as the league has been loaded.  Do we start to say that about 10-2 teams in the Big Ten?  The Pac-whatever? A reloaded SEC?  If an Iowa team goes 8-4 against a schedule that includes Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Texas looked upon in a different light?  Of course, we’ll have to see how this all shakes out and what teams join the Big Ten and how they line up the divisions, but I think you understand what I am saying.

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It’s going to be a bold new college football world where the old rules and standards might not apply, where the old measuring sticks no longer hold the same amount of water as they once did.  We just dont know for sure.

Whether we are ready or not, expansion is here, or will be on Friday when Nebraska is likely added to the league, the first new addition in nearly 20 years…Colorado’s addition to the Pac 10 on Thursday was their first addition since Jimmy Carter was in the White House.

Once the smoke clears, and after the fact, that’s when we’ll slow down and allow our minds to wonder if this is something that will be good for Iowa.  The check will clear, but will we be asking ten years down the road, ‘At what co$t, victory?’

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