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Block ‘M’ Blog: Big Ten football recap Nov. 19

By Ben Estes, Daily Sports Editor
Published November 18, 2012

It’s Monday.

Visions of turkey, family, friends, the Lions losing and plenty of other things we all associate with Thanksgiving are probably dancing through your heads. (By the way, University, holding classes on Wednesday? What’s wrong with you?)

But before we all head home for break, it’s time to recap the week in Big Ten football.

This week, the biggest news comes from off the field. In the hours after the noon games were wrapping up on Saturday, news broke that Maryland and Rutgers were involved in serious discussions to leave the ACC and Big East, respectively, and become the 13th and 14th members of the Big Ten (whose name grows more ridiculous by the day).

On Monday, it was announced thatMaryland’s Board of Regents vote to accept the invitation to the Big Ten, and that Rutgers could follow as soon as Tuesday.

In other words, the Big Ten has already launched the next salvo in the conference realignment wars.

The big question here is why the Big Ten would want to expand. After the conference added Nebraska before last year, the Big Ten’s word — even publicly — was that it was content to stick with 12 members.

According to that ESPN report, the conference decided to change its stance in the wake of Notre Dame’s move to the ACC two months ago in all sports but football — apparently the Big Ten wants to stay ahead of the curve in the race to secure conference primacy, even though it appeared things had stabilized.

Adding Maryland and Rutgers makes a lot of sense for the Big Ten for one main reason, and it’s the most important of reasons: money.

The addition of that pair would extend the reach of the conference and its television network into the Beltway and New York regions, allowing the Big Ten to establish more of a foothold in the critical Eastern markets.

And it makes sense for the two schools, which would shift from two conferences whose futures are in question to one of the conferences with the best staying power. They also will be happy to be a part of the Big Ten’s lucrative revenue sharing.

Meanwhile, I could not hate Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany any more.

Let me ask you something, hypothetical reader: what in the preceding four paragraphs makes what I’m writing about sound anything like a supposedly amateur sport?

I know college football has become like a pro sport with its commercialism, and any spirit of amateurism is nothing but a faint whisper at this point. (I can tell you from researching this for my senior thesis that this has really been the case since the 1890s, so it’s not some new development.)

But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I know money is important, but in my humble, irrelevant opinion, it shouldn’t be so all-important that it trumps whatever tradition college football still has.

With the Big Ten’s new division system, Michigan plays name schools like Wisconsin and Penn State only a few times a decade; with two more schools added to the mix, it will only get more diluted. With every addition to the Big Ten, the conference becomes less of the vehicle for history and passion that it has always been, and more of a loose association of increasingly random schools that play each other mostly for their mutual economic benefit.

It’s disheartening, at least to me. And it doesn’t help that the schools potentially being added here aren’t exactly needle-movers. Maryland has some basketball tradition, but that’s about it. And Rutgers? I … I have no words.

The other big off-field news was Minnesota’s A.J. Barker, the team’s best receiver, deciding to quit the Golden Gophers, and doing so by releasing a 3000-word open letter to coach Jerry Kill explaining why he decided to do so.

The blog post accuses Kill of manipulation and the team’s training staff of being deceitful about an injury Barker has dealt with this season. There hasn’t yet been a response from Minnesota, but this surely will be a story worth following.

On the field, the only notable development was Ohio State preserving its undefeated season thanks to an overtime road win at Wisconsin. The Badgers tied the game on a last-minute fourth-quarter drive (even though Bret Bielema called a running play with half a minute left and no timeouts in Buckeye territory), but couldn’t pull it out in the extra period.

Wisconsin had already clinched a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game (though postseason-ineligible Ohio State is technically the Leaders Division champion). If Nebraska defeats Iowa this Friday, the Cornhuskers would win the Legends Division and also go to Indianapolis. If Nebraska loses, Michigan would take the division only if the Wolverines beat Ohio State.