Pac-10 and Big Ten Expansion: A Look Back From WhatIfSports.com image

The Birth of the Mega-Conference

What-if the Pac-16 and Big 14 existed in 2009?
By Joel Beall, WhatIfSports.com
June 10th, 2010
Share Woodrow Wilson

"If you want to make enemies, try to change something."
- Woodrow Wilson

If we adhere to the advice of our 28th President, then the Universities of Nebraska and Missouri find themselves with many a foe. An announcement is expected soon from the two institutions proclaiming their intentions of staying in the Big 12 or bouncing to the Big Ten. Big East members Rutgers and Pittsburgh, along with Notre Dame, have been rumored to relocate to the Big Ten as well.

If the Cornhuskers and Tigers decide to depart, the landscape of college athletics will undergo a titanic transformation. The exodus of Nebraska and Missouri could lead to the disbandment of the entire Big 12, leaving the leftovers to look westward for Pac-10 initiation. The candidates for West Coast admission include Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Colorado. Meanwhile, the remaining Big 12 vagabonds - Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, and Iowa State- could be left out in the proverbial cold.

While this colossal conference conversion will affect all sports at the respective schools in question, football is the underlying force for this upheaval. Keeping this in mind, the engines at Whatifsports have replayed the 2009 season based on this altered alignment. For this reconstruction, Rutgers was included in the Big Ten due to the higher plausibility of induction over the Panthers and Fighting Irish. The simulations are based on each team playing its prospective conference member 101 times.

Big Ten

Although last-second heroics from Texas kicker Hunter Lawrence prevented Bo Pelini's squad from a league championship in the Big 12, the Cornhuskers are BCS-bound after defeating their Big Ten adversaries 84.2% of the time. Ndamukong Suh and the "Blackshirts" were an integral part of the team's success in the '09 campaign, but in our mock-up, it's the Nebraska offensive attack that's acting as the catalyst. Averaging 27 points a game, the Cornhuskers lit up the Lincoln scoreboard in the historically defensive-minded Big Ten. Finishing in second was the Buckeyes from Ohio State, winners of five-straight conference crowns, at an 80.6% rate. At least the Columbus faithful can find consolation that no SEC schools were added.

The 2009 Big-14 Power Rankings
TeamWin%Avg Score
2009 Nebraska Cornhuskers84.227.0
2009 Ohio State Buckeyes80.624.5
2009 Penn State Nittany Lions78.126.0
2009 Iowa Hawkeyes76.525.8
2009 Missouri Tigers63.329.2
2009 Michigan State Spartans58.029.3
2009 Rutgers Scarlet Knights47.022.2
2009 Wisconsin Badgers46.923.0
2009 Minn. Golden Gophers37.724.3
2009 Purdue Boilermakers36.227.0
2009 Indiana Hoosiers30.426.5
2009 Northwestern Wildcats29.321.9
2009 Michigan Wolverines23.823.9
2009 Illinois Fighting Illini7.921.1
Mizzou Football

As previously mentioned, Big Ten contests have a reputation of low scoring, defensive battles. Though the three new members bring offensive gallantry, the league DNA remains mostly intact. Michigan State leads the conference with 29.2 points a game, but hardly separates itself from the rest of the pack as the league averaged 25.1 ppg.

Fourteen teams would undoubtedly compel the Big Ten to divide the conference into divisions, paving the way for an extremely touted (and highly profitable) championship game. By our calculations, the Big Ten would be best served to partition into East and West segments, allowing established rivalries the chance to clash (OSU-MICH, MIZZ-ILL, WISC-MINN) while breeding new hostilities (NEB-IOWA). The divisional breakdown: East - Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Rutgers. West - Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Wisconsin.

Pac-16

Texas rolled their way through the competition in 2009 until Colt McCoy's ill-timed injury derailed their title hopes against Alabama. The theory of "history repeats itself" rings true for the Longhorns, as they duplicated their dominance with a 92.2% winning percentage against the newly formed Pac-16. The biggest revelation is Oklahoma, sans 2008 Heisman Sam Bradford, finishing second with an 85.5% success rate. Oregon, the 2009 Pac-10 champs, came in at third, winning 72.7% of the time.

The 2009 Pac-16 Power Rankings
TeamWin%Avg Score
2009 Texas Longhorns92.235.5
2009 Oklahoma Sooners85.535.2
2009 Oregon Ducks72.733.0
2009 USC Trojans69.134.0
2009 Texas Tech Red Raiders65.735.1
2009 Arizona Wildcats65.735.5
2009 Oregon State Beavers65.037.5
2009 California Golden Bears52.732.3
2009 Oklahoma State Cowboys49.525.2
2009 Arizona St. Sun Devils41.526.0
2009 Stanford Cardinal39.331.8
2009 UCLA Bruins38.828.1
2009 Washington Huskies25.730.4
2009 Texas A&M Aggies22.027.7
2009 Colorado Buffaloes13.826.1
2009 Washington St. Cougars8.431.1

The Pac-10 is known for their offensive explosions, and the addition of six new institutions did little to change that perception. Oregon State had no trouble finding the end zone, as the Beavers put up a robust 37.5 points a contest. Unfortunately, their defense couldn't hold up its end of the bargain, as OSU came in at 7th in the projections. As a whole, the league average came to 31.5 ppg.

Staying consistent with our Big Ten distribution, an East-West divisional split gives the Pac-16 a logical structure, as well as keeping rivalries (Texas-Oklahoma, Oregon-Oregon State, USC-UCLA) intact. The divisional breakdown: East - Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech. West - California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Washington, Washington State.

Nebraska Football

Ramifications

Oklahoma, Texas, and USC have played in five of the last seven National Championship games, with two of those appearances coming against one another (2005: USC over OU, 2006: UT over USC). Combine that firepower with sustained success from Oregon and California; recent rejuvenations from Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Stanford; and the slowly-but-surely progressions at Washington and UCLA. That, my friends, is what you call a conference.

In comparison, the Big Ten's growth seems minuscule. Rutgers and Missouri, while lately showing signs of life, will not be confused as football powerhouses. However, the added competition could suppress cries of subpar Big Ten schedule-strength, criticism that has mostly been validated during bowl season.

And then we come to the Big 12 refugees of Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Baylor. Under Bill Snyder, KSU has been consistently a Top 25 program, and Kansas just won the Orange Bowl in 2008. Much is made about the upcoming NBA free-agency, but these four universities will be just as sought after if the Big 12 dissolves.

Change may make enemies. But it also delivers a hell of an entertaining football schedule.

If you have any questions, comments or just want to talk sports, shoot us an email at BtB@whatifsports.com.

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