The Big Ten is in a substantial bit of flux these days, far more than we usually see from the conference. As a result, we've got no truly elite teams this year, and whether or not there'll be a BCS title contender in the near future is certainly a valid question.
So let's take a look ahead at the future and try to figure out if the Big Ten is d-u-m-e-d doomed or just in a brief lull. And if we decide the conference is forever flawed, you have our permission to run screaming to the Pac-12 or SEC or wherever. Nobody would blame you.
First, a couple stipulations—ones that may not end up being true, but provide a necessary framework to operate under in order to make all this work:
1) Football as we know it will stay the same: 85 scholarships per team, helmet and pads, 100 yards between the goal lines, Ohio State fans still obnoxious. Maybe concussion research leads us to a different place by 2017, but we don't know what that place will be, so let's assume things stay the same for now.
2) The Big Ten's membership will remain static. Yes, conference realignment is an ever-escalating arms race, it seems, but as things stand right now, we have a playoff coming in 2014 and new bowl agreements coming in place, so let's just stick with the landscape as we understand it for now.
Got all that? Good.