jim-delany-b1g

Big Ten’s new conference schedule likely to have ripple effect

Supposedly there’s some mnemonic device that you can use to remember who’s a Leader and who’s a Legend in the Big Ten.

If you took the time to learn it, Jim Delany has some disappointing news. According to a report from ESPN.com, the country’s haughtiest conference is dropping its division monikers in favor of the far less douchie East and West. (Narrow winners over “Dollars” and “Cents.”)

The B1G is losing Leaders and Legends in conjunction with the the arrival of Maryland and Rutgers in 2014. Coincidence?

Once the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights join up, the league also intends to realign based on geography. Under the new configuration, the conference’s balance of power will weigh heavily in favor of the East division, which will include traditional powers Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan.

Anyway, I’m burying the lede.

The biggest news coming out of the B1G Friday was that the conference will vote next week on a plan to move to a nine-game schedule in 2016, which we can assume is a mere formality. What would that mean, aside from even more uninspiring football getting beamed to your TV every fall Saturday at high noon?

For starters, more conference games will add more quality inventory to the league’s television package. That will up the ante when Delany heads to the table to negotiate the conference’s new national media rights deal. The same goes for the Big Ten Network as it angles for broader distribution among cable providers.

On a related note, expanding to a nine-game schedule might give the conference all the more reason to expand again – if they even need another reason.

From a national perspective, keep in mind that the shot-callers have made it clear that strength of schedule will be a key criterion in selecting the participants for the coming four-team playoff. Of the five power conferences, the B1G will join the Big 12 and Pac-12 in playing nine conference games.

Under the BCS system, a nine-game schedule has generally helped boost the strength of schedule ratings for those leagues with the computer polls. In 2012, for example, the worst schedule in the Big 12 belonged to Texas Tech, which Jeff Sagarin ranked No. 36 out of the 236 teams covered by his ratings system. Eight of 12 teams in the B1G, which only played eight conference games, had schedules ranked below the Red Raiders.

As such, when the selection committee members assemble at the end of every season to figure out who’s going to make college football’s Big Dance, only playing eight league games could weigh against teams from the ACC and SEC. Also, B1G, Pac-12 and Big 12 schools will only have three open non-conference slots to fill every year. Given that most will want at least seven home games per season, the window to schedule home-and-home non-conference contests with other major opponents will shrink.

The SEC might be able to get by staying at an eight-game schedule. (Remeber that now Mike Slive has his own network to think about, too, though.) For the ACC, moving to nine games, an idea that the league already dropped once, might become a necessity.

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