I don’t want to preview the Purdue-Nebraska game. I think Purdue can win it, but I don’t have much to say about the matchup. This game just bores me, because it could turn out to be meaningless.
If Purdue wins, it still risks expulsion from a bowl by a loss to Wisconsin. If the Boilers lose, they’re out anyway. This is existentially boring. This is a game where success can only delay future suffering, which is simultaneously full of meaning and absolutely hollow.
In the face of such ennui, my only recourse is to veer off into a fantastically stupid, wonderfully far-fetched scenario. Why? Because it amuses me. It’s like “Calvin and Hobbes’” Calvinball. Every random idea can become a rule of the game, and the only point is to have fun with it.
I’d like to execute a thought experiment. Imagine, for a moment, that the Big Ten was wiped off the face of the earth. We don’t have to physically destroy the schools, but let’s say that all 14 were shut down for some reason. But 10 conferences in the Football Bowl Subdivision is still a nice round number, and we don’t want to figure out which Group of Five conference to draft into the Power Five. How do we fix the problem?
Let’s instead recast the Big Ten using teams from neighboring conferences, no matter if they’re Power Five or Group of Five. The same regionality rule still applies, the teams must be from the Midwest, but we can sneak the borders out a little just to let some of those debatably Midwestern teams in.
While we’re here, we’ll also make the conference’s name actually honest by reducing it to 10 teams, and then change the name anyway to reflect its region. Who will fill the ranks of the Broadly Midwestern Conference?
Three of our new teams come from the Power Five. Iowa State and Oklahoma have been drafted in from the Big 12 — ironically reducing that conference to eight teams — and Pitt has been brought in from the Atlantic Coast Conference. They just feel right for this experiment.
The Power Five has a surprisingly well-demarcated regionality. The Big Ten is Midwestern, the Southeastern Conference, ACC, and Pac-12 wear their regions right on their sleeves, and the Big 12 is in the Great Plains/Tornado Alley area. Pulling teams out of the Power Five that lie on the middle ground between these regions is tough.
We’ve also added independent Notre Dame, because we need an Indiana team, and also why not? All of our other teams come from the Group of Five. These are broadly the two or three best teams in the conferences closest to the Midwest.
From this net, we can add Cincinnati, Western Kentucky, Central Michigan and Memphis. Why Western Kentucky and not the SEC’s Kentucky? Because WKU is doing better right now. Same goes for Memphis vs. Tennessee.
The astute reader will note that this only comes to eight teams. Our final two teams constitute what I will dub the “cheat teams.” The current Big Ten contains two teams who really aren’t in the Midwest: Maryland and Rutgers.
These teams were added in 2014 and logically look better as ACC teams. But their presence lets us add two good teams who wouldn’t otherwise qualify. Welcome University of Central Florida and Appalachian State to the BMC.
Full disclosure, App State probably would have made it no matter what, but this gives us a reason to draft them other than “you beat Michigan in 2007 and we love that.”
Some people might ask why we wouldn’t just promote the MAC to a Power Five conference and draft the biggest DII conference into the Group of Five. It’s a prefab collection of Midwest teams, and we wouldn’t need to uproot fanbases from their conference.
This is the more logical choice, but it’s also boring. It’s more fun — at least personally — to make the dumb choice and almost completely reimagine the conference.
I recognize that this exercise is almost completely meaningless. I recognize that nothing close to this would be at all likely. I don’t care. The meaninglessness is the point. Let’s go climb a tree.