Big Ten & Big 12 Football Challenge: Winner Chooses Conference Name
Standing tall with 12 teams, the Big Ten has some extra pep in it's step this summer.
Slumping down in the seat across is the now 10-team Big 12.
Sound confusing? Well, it is.
But here's a solution.
Instead of ignoring each other or showing animosity for other conferences poaching teams, the Big 12 and Big Ten should create a football challenge.
The foundation is already set with a conference pride rivalry and the addition of Nebraska to the Big Ten.
Each season, the conferences play 10 games against each other, with five home and five away games. The two could even split the games amongst their own television networks to reap even more benefits.
Because let's face it, in the end it's all about the money.
And if they really want to get crazy, how about playing for naming rights to the conference?
So what would a Big Ten/Big 12 football challenge look like?
Well first, because there are 12 Big Ten teams now, the two last place finishers will not get to compete the following year in the challenge. Simple enough. For these games, I used my last place projected Big Ten teams for 2010 to not be involved: Indiana and Illinois.
Now, onto the festivities...
Here are the 10 proposed games to kick off the 2011 Big 10/Big 12 challenge.
Game 1: Nebraska Cornhuskers at Missouri Tigers
Let's start with the former Big 12 rivalry featuring the Victory Bell.
Since 1892, Nebraska and Missouri have been doing battle on the gridiron.
A match-up like this may not seem great to Big Ten fans, but it would be a nice game to kick off the annual challenge.
Missouri would grab home field to keep in line with the rotating home and home between the two teams.
With the rivalry once again competitive over the past eight years, Missouri would have a chance to prove that if Nebraska leaves, they own the border now.
Side note: Missouri/Illinois could still play their game separate from the challenge. And with a rotating schedule, some seasons may match them up as part of the challenge.
Game 2: Kansas Jayhawks at Purdue Boilermakers
Okay, so it wouldn't be as great as a basketball game between Purdue and Kansas, but it could be a fun game in two years.
Turner Gill isn't inheriting a Jayhawks team as poor as their record last season, and should be able to straighten out some ref edges left by Mark Mangino. The team should be led by either Kale Pick or Jordan Webb at QB in their second year as starter.
For Purdue, Robert Marve should be ready to lead the Boilermakers in his senior season at QB. In addition, senior running back Ralph Bolden taking a shot at another 1,000 yard season could use this challenge game to launch himself early in the year.
The two squads could put up a high scoring battle and be a nice challenge game to early in 2011.
Plus, who knows? Maybe the basketball teams will agree to meet as an added incentive.
Game 3: Iowa Hawkeyes at Oklahoma State Cowboys
In the third game, the Iowa Hawkeyes will face the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
For the Hawkeyes it may quite possibly be a down year comparatively to the past few in 2011. But this would be a great early test for a team with a new quarterback and numerous changes along the offensive and defensive fronts. Their running game should have a leader after someone emerges in 2010, and their offense should still be good.
Oklahoma State should be setting up for a decent year in 2011. The team should have a veteran QB and many veteran offensive players. But their defense will have a young front seven leading them into the season.
Like the other teams with existing Big 12 rivals, Iowa would face Iowa State separately in year one. This would help establish different exciting match-ups early, while allowing the other rivalries to remain removed from this experiment.
Game 4: Kansas State Wildcats at Michigan State Spartans
The Michigan State Spartans and Kansas State Wildcats will be entering the season in different directions.
Michigan State will be led by senior QB Kirk Cousins and an explosive offense that should be hitting its peak. Running backs Edwin Baker and Larry Caper will be upperclassmen who should be a dominating running back duo.
On the defensive side William Gholston will have a year under his belt, and the defense should be an extremely physical machine.
As for Kansas State and their 2011 campaign, the team should be in a regrouping mode after a solid 2010. The team will be extremely young on both sides of the ball and probably looking for new starters at multiple positions, including QB.
The Spartans would need a victory to avoid the common let down theme that seems to haunt them year after year. K-State could use this early game to see what they have and gain momentum by stealing a victory.
Game 5: Northwestern Wildcats at Iowa State Cyclones
Game five finds another middle of the pack battle between the Northwestern Wildcats and Iowa State Cyclones.
Northwestern will have a very experienced offense by the time this game arrives, accompanied by a young, questionable defense.
For Iowa State, the team as a whole would be young, but talented heading into a game like this.
The Wildcats and Cyclones should be coming in off of solid 2010 campaigns, but this will be a rebuilding year for both. Look for a high scoring, but entertaining battle between these two squads.
Game 6: Texas Tech Red Raiders at Michigan Wolverines
There are a few possible scenarios for this game.
The Michigan Wolverines are entering off of a solid year where Rich Rodriguez finally establishes himself as coach or someone new is heading the program.
For the Texas Tech Red Raiders, new coach Tommy Tuberville will be leading the squad. But if he has established his identity or Texas Tech is recovering from massive changes since the Mike Leach era remains to be seemed.
Either way, plenty of intrigue would surround this game. Both squads should be filled with talent by the time this game rolls around. The question of how are they being used will be answered.
An early test in 2011, would be good for both squads and could be an exciting contest.
If I had to predict, expect Rodriguez to still be coaching the Wolverines and Texas Tech to have a surprisingly good defense in Tuberville's second year.
This could be the game that entertains the most in the Big Ten/Big 12 challenge.
Game 7: Minnesota Golden Gophers at Baylor Bears
This contest would be one of those true North vs. South games as the Minnesota Golden Gophers faced the Baylor Bears.
Unfortunately, it would probably be the worst contest of the challenge in 2011. Minnesota will be one of the bottom three teams in the Big Ten and Baylor should be the worst team again in the Big 12.
There isn't much to say about this game. Both teams could be starting fresh with brand new head coaches entering this year. They may also be two coaches still hanging on.
Whoever wins this game should see some confidence creep in their minds; the team that loses will have to curl up and hide.
Game 8: Texas A&M Aggies at Wisconsin Badgers
Texas A&M Aggies versus the Wisconsin Badgers may be a game of two rebuilding teams.
John Clay will most likely be gone, much of the veteran offensive line will be gone, and certainly Scott Tolzien will be gone. The Badgers will find themselves facing a mediocre year after a decent stretch of seasons. This game could be a confidence builder for a young team in 2011.
The Aggies should find themselves in slightly better shape and with a more veteran squad by the time the challenge rolls around. It would be a must win game to have any shot of a successful season.
The season may also be a must win for both coaches. Texas A&M's Mike Sherman has been borderline bad since his take over and his job may be dangling on a string. At Wisconsin, Bret Bielema may have to worry if he disappoints his fan base with a poor showing in 2010.
Look for a hard fought game as the challenge continues on into the two main event night caps.
Game 9: Penn State Nittany Lions at Texas Longhorns
Penn State and Texas last played in the Fiesta Bowl in 1997. That means this game would be the first meeting between Joe Paterno and Mack Brown in their coaching careers.
And it would force Penn State to actually face two good opponents in their non-conference schedule to start the season. The other, a home game against Alabama slated for 2011.
The Longhorns and Nittany Lions should be in bounce back mode after a 2010 that will have them testing for their quarterbacks of the future (and other positions).
The game would take place at good old Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium and would allow the Big 12 to feature their "prize" school at home for the first challenge.
The Big 12 could use this as their featured network night game and bring in over 100,000 to the stadium, including some PSU fans.
Game 10: Oklahoma Sooners at Ohio State Buckeyes
The final game of the 10-game Big Ten/Big 12 challenge could be a great one.
The Oklahoma Sooners or Ohio State Buckeyes may be in position to clinch the challenge for their conference, or leave it at a tie.
And most importantly, this game could have National Championship implications.
If Terrelle Pryor still remains at Ohio State, there is a distinct possibility they enter the season as national favorites. The team would feature a veteran offense and young, but stout defense. This game could determine early season fortunes and the way Big Ten teams are looked at for the rest of the season.
On the Oklahoma side, similar possibilities exist for 2011. The quarterback position will be settled and the defense should be well developed following a 2010 of growth. They may not have the same fire power entering the game as OSU would, but it would be a potential tone setter.
Expect a grueling battle that has fans mesmerized to end the evening.
Final Predictions and You choose!
For the first season of the challenge, I would have it like this:
Big Ten wins 6-4 and decides to keep their name until the next year.
Ohio State beats Oklahoma
Texas beats Penn State
Texas A&M beats Wisconsin
Minnesota beats Baylor
Michigan beats Texas Tech
Iowa State beats Northwestern
Michigan State beats Kansas State
Oklahoma State beats Iowa
Purdue beats Kansas
Nebraska beats Missouri
Of course, this is all a dream. But what games would you choose to start off the Big Ten/Big 12 football challenge in 2011 and like to see in the future?