There is a meme going around that if the Big Ten were to adopt the obvious East-West geographic alignment that preserves all important annual rivalries,* the West division would be like the Big 12 North, yielding a meaningless, lopsided championship game each year while the dominant programs in the East beat up on each other, reducing their chances of making the BCS championship game. This, however, ignores a number of realities:
- The Big 12 North's performance has been monumentally bad, far beyond anything we can expect from a Big Ten West. Take a quick look at the Big 12's conference standings for the past eight years. The North's record, both overall and against ranked opponents, is truly abysmal.
- In addition, the Big 12 South has been profoundly unbalanced, with Texas and Oklahoma the only champions.
- The Big Ten West can produce a viable champion each year. This is especially true if Nebraska is out of the doldrums, but does not depend on it, unlike the Big 12 North.
- An undefeated or even one-loss champion coming out of the Big Ten East would always be in play for the BCS championship game, due to strength of schedule (computers) and human factors (voters).
The real difference between the new Big Ten and the old Big 12 is the latter had no consistent, ambitious middle-tier (i.e., consistently ranked, but rarely threatening for a national title) football programs like Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan State -- nobody to really pressure Texas and Oklahoma from within their division, or Nebraska if they hadn't lost their minds. Instead, the Big 12 had a few middle-tier programs dependent on individual coaches -- Kansas State under Snyder, Texas Tech under Leach, for example. Not a recipe for long-term success.
* [WEST: Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Illinois] [EAST: Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue]