2010 Spring Preview - The Expanding Big Ten
Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
Posted Mar 23, 2010

The 20 Big Questions Going Into 2010 - No. 15. Why is now the right time for the Big Ten to expand? The league should be as strong as it has been in years, there's star power, and the season should be competitive. This and more in the Big 10 spring overview.

2010 Spring Preview - No. 15
Big Ten - Expanding The Base

2010 Spring Preview 
- 2010 Big Ten Spring Preview ... Part 1 (Illinois through Michigan State) 
- 2010 Big Ten Spring Preview - Part 2 (Northwestern through Wisconsin) 
- 2010 Big Ten Player You Must Know - Iowa S Tyler Sash 

- No. 20 Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 1-10) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 11-20) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 21-30) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 31-40) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 41-50)  
- No. 19 Is this it for the Big 12? 
- No. 18 Just how close the Big East has come to a BCS title?
- No. 17 Did ACC expansion work?
- No. 16 Why does the Pac 10 need USC to be good?

By Pete Fiutak

The Big Ten apparently isn't good enough as is.

Ever since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993 there has been talk about bringing aboard Notre Dame to expand the league to a more natural 12 teams, so the idea of expansion isn't exactly coming from out of left field. But now things are different as the conference big-wigs are looking out of the box and could set the tone for major, progressive change across the college football landscape.

The spring started off with the idea of adding Texas thrown out there just to get some media play, but there was no basis for it and the rumors were quickly squashed. But it was enough to get people talking and it was enough to show that the Big Ten was thinking really, really big and wasn't just going to take any old program just so it could get to two divisions and create a conference championship game.

More than anything else, the Texas discussion showed that the Big Ten can probably grab anyone it wants other than Notre Dame, one of the mega-SEC programs, or Texas, or at the very least it can become a major power-broker as everyone else will try to read and react to expand themselves (most notably the Pac 10). Being in the Big Ten brings prestige in athletics, TV exposure, and for many universities, in academics. Is the Big 12 known for being a bastion of higher education? Not on a worldwide scale compared to the Big Ten, and if there was any chance of getting Texas, that was going to be the pitch; athletics would've been a nice side item in the equation.

So as the spring sessions kick in across the Big Ten world, the idea of winning the conference, or showing well and getting one of the elite bowl bids, carries more weight than ever. For a league that was a punching bag after Ohio State lost two straight national title games and after USC had its way with anyone who dared come to Pasadena, suddenly, being in the Big Ten means something again. But part of that is because the Big 12 is coming off a dud year, the ACC isn't up to snuff, and the Pac 10 took it on the chin in the bowls. It doesn't matter much since perception usually equals reality in sports, and for those who were waiting for the cycle to come around for the Big Ten, this should be a high point.

Ohio State has the team and the schedule to be in the national title hunt, Wisconsin gets 11 starters back on offense and has a nice D, Iowa should be even better than last year, Northwestern has improved, and Michigan State and Penn State should be in the hunt for Pasadena all season long. Throw in a dangerous Purdue offense, an improved Indiana, and wild cards in Michigan and Illinois, and the Big Ten should be an every week showcase that could come just as the expansion discussion kicks in for real.

So while programs like Rutgers, Pitt, Syracuse, Missouri, and others are all going to be auditioning for a boost in status, the Big Ten is also going to be on display. If Penn State can somehow beat Alabama on the road, and if the rest of the league pulls its weight throughout the non-conference schedule and in the bowl games, then being in the Big Ten will mean more than ever.

And then maybe Texas really will be on the table.

The Top Five Big Ten Players Who Need A Big Spring

1. Kevin Newsome, QB Penn State
2. Kyle Haganman, OT Iowa
3. Jacob Charest, QB Illinois
4. Robert Marve, QB Purdue
5. Dan Persa, QB Northwestern

The Top 5 Position Concerns/Battles
1. Penn State quarterback
2. Iowa offensive tackle
3. Purdue secondary
4. Ohio State safeties
5. Minnesota quarterback

The 5 Biggest Big Ten Spring Storylines (besides expansion)
1. The quarterbacks. While most of the teams return with plenty of experience and high expectations, a lot will be riding on all the quarterback derbies. Illinois, Northwestern, Penn State, and Purdue will all be starting the season with question marks under center, while Michigan, Michigan State, and Minnesota all have established starters who could be knocked out of jobs by dynamic challengers.
2. Tenuous coaching situations. The potential mega-job opening could be a daily topic of discussion around Ann Arbor if Rich Rodriguez and Michigan don't get off to a hot start, while Ron Zook at Illinois, Bill Lynch at Indiana, and Tim Brewster at Minnesota must produce and show that their respective programs are taking big steps forward or else there could be a few very interesting storylines next year at this time.
3. Is Ohio State really national title-level good again? The recruiting classes have been fantastic and Terrelle Pryor is a talent who appears ready to live up to his potential, but this is a relatively anonymous team without any signature stars other than the quarterback. The Buckeyes will be everyone's preseason favorites to win the conference, but Iowa and Wisconsin aren't going to be far behind.
4. The sleepers. Northwestern went to a New Year's Day bowl game and is even better this year helped by a tremendous offensive line. The team and the schedule are in place to do big things. Indiana and Purdue aren't going to be in the Big Ten title chase, but they each have the potential to explode offensively and be a thorn in everyone's side.
5. Will Penn State and Wisconsin beat someone? Each won their bowl games by the skin of their teeth, with the Badgers getting by Miami and the Nittany Lions holding on against LSU, but they both lost to Iowa and Ohio State and neither had a splashy non-conference win before the bowls. If these two teams are strong, considering Ohio State and Iowa appear to be sure-things, the national perception of the league will tremendous.

The Spring Big Ten Team Rankings
1. Ohio State
2. Wisconsin
3. Iowa
4. Penn State
5. Michigan State
6. Michigan
7. Northwestern
8. Purdue
9. Indiana
10. Illinois
11. Minnesota

The Pre-Spring Call For Player Of the Year
1. Terrelle Pryor, QB Ohio State
2. John Clay, RB Wisconsin
3. Greg Jones, LB Michigan State
4. Evan Royster, RB Penn State
5. Adrian Clayborn, DE Iowa