YOU do the math...
Kevin over at Fanblogs is reporting, but *Ain't* exactly believing a radio station out of Kansas City's story that oral invitations to join the conference formerly known as the Big Ten have been extended ahead of formal ones to--drum roll, please: Nebraska, Missouri, Rutgers and Notre Dame. If you are underwhelmed like me, then remain standing and I'll get your questions one by one. Assuming all this is true, which is irrelevant at this point because I have a blog column to fill, the obvious question is why only four? Other than the like obvious answer--because the name Big 15 is just so awesome sounding, we'll speculate on a bit later. If the following song has sprung into your head, well, I just love the way your mind works, and you won't be the only one asking WTF on Rutgers being in the aforementioned equation--and it ain't to capture all those Jersey Shore fans.
The Big Ten has certainly played their hand well this off-season, building up much buzz and momentum with just the mere mention of expansion. I believe that once the final pieces do fall into place, it's going to be eerily reminiscent of the way Europe fell into World War I--with alliances, treaties and posturing all coming into play. Let me first say this: this is only the opening salvo of shots from commisioner Jim Delaney and company. Lay out your Risk board and follow with me.
It takes not a PhD in CFB to know that Notre Dame's invite is foremost because they are the lynchpin that the rest of the moves will be made around. A swift rebuke from the Irish will allow the Big Ten to quickly survey the rest of the battlefield and still have their options wide open. ND knows that their precious basketball conference may be at stake and a formal invite in front of God and country will mean that it's now or never on the whole football conference membership. With the other major conferences ready to move swiftly to acquire teams after the Big Ten's opening move, the Irish could be locked out for decades. They don't fit any other conference, other than the Big East, and dollars to doughnuts that's going away.
But a yes vote from the Golden Dome is a game changer. If no one else accepts, then the Big Ten has 12 teams and can participate in a conference championship game at last. Or there are other options: they can go to 14 teams or even 16. The second most important dynamic is the defectors from the Big 12, Nebraska and Missouri. While conventional wisdom has Mizzou eager to get out of their current abode, Nebraska isn't such a lock. While I've heard rumors that Tom Osborne is in favor of a switch, the Huskers could just be looking to improve their existing lot as the Big 12 North has been eclipsed in recent years by the south division, especially Texas and Oklahoma. Regardless, since both would be defecting, nothing is guaranteed. Their acceptance or declination probably wouldn't force Notre Dame's hand as the Irish not only could expect additional invites to be issued, but could practically demand them--perhaps that 16th team to be named later.
So does that make Rutgers mere cannon fodder in this scenario? Hardly. Although lacking a serious football pedigree, the Scarlet Knights would stretch the Big Ten's TV coverage all the way to the east coast, including the virtually untapped NYC market for CFB. It would be a ratings bonanza for the conference and their network, provided that Rutgers put on their big boy pants and start standing tall. Although there is a chance that Rutgers could be dropped from the equation if only the Irish got on board, I think it's safe to say that the only scenario is for more teams to be added, with the tally possible reaching the oft-rumored sweet sixteen.
And what's even money for the 16th team if everyone already invited shows up with their invitation in fist? I still say Pittsburgh is the logical choice, but everyone and everything is still on the table. I'd say that ND would certainly be giving their input, possibly, as I mentioned above, as a condition of their acceptance. If Rutgers is the only interested party? I'd say that the Big Ten cannibilizes the rest of the Big East , with particular attention to Pitt and West Virginia. And after Germany declares war on Serbia, the Russians (SEC) are now forced to make their move to secure their own borders. Then it's game on! Okay, I just compared the Southeastern conference to Imperial Russia. Bonus points for that. Anyone ever play Diplomacy?
I'll keep you posted on any developments the rest of the day. Maybe someone jumped the gun with this story, maybe not. But so much hangs in the balance. CFB could be turned on it's ear before the start of summer. Wow!