Maybe this should be listed as an alternate universe post a la the Paul Johnson Wolverines, since the likelihood of Big Ten expansion seems to be very slim and the discussion now somewhat nauseating. I've been wondering how the Big Ten would divide were it to add a twelfth team, making a division and a conference championship game necessary. If the new team was either of the top few choices discussed in recent months (Pitt and Syracuse), then it would seem to follow that the Big Ten would split East/West, like the SEC, with Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois, and either Indiana or Purdue (technically Purdue is further west but only marginally) in the West division and Michigan, MSU, tOSU, PSU, Indiana, and the new team in the east division.
However, I'm wondering whether a more compelling split would be if the conference divided along North/South lines, a la the Big 12. In this scenario, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, MSU, Wisconsin, and Iowa would comprise the Big Ten North, and (possibly) the new team along with tOSU, Indiana, Purdue, Penn State, and Illinois would make up the south. This would probably require the Big Ten expansion to involve a team that was more definitively south (like remember when we thought Texas might be interested? or Notre Dame if they ever come to their senses...). Rutgers would in this instance become a more desirable scenario as well, and Syracuse less so.
In the Big Ten's current state this split seems to carry the more intriguing power structure: Michigan, if and when it returns to its expected strength, would be the flagship program of the Big Ten North. Battling with UM for Big Ten North titles would be any one of Iowa/Wisconsin/MSU/Northwestern/Minnesota (all of whom appear to be, if not competitive, then on the verge of being competitive post-2008). In the south, Penn State and Ohio State would be like the Texas/Oklahoma tandem in the Big 12 South, routinely sparring for supremacy (possibly with the new school), occasionally with Illinois as a legitimate challenger and Purdue and Indiana bringing up the rear.
It seems to me that it is in Michigan's interest to have the Big Ten divide North/South. What do all of you think?
Thanks to http://statsheet.com/cfb/conferences/big-ten/map
for providing a good visual of where the Big Ten teams are situated geographically.