That would be a huge deal - no major football conference plays with more than 12 teams (SEC, Big 12 are at that number). The Big East plays with 16 teams in basketball, and they have trouble with that system.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say I like 14. It's not unwieldy, but it would allow the Big Ten to add three high-quality schools that would improve the conference's standing nationwide. The general assumption, by the way, is that Notre Dame is still not interested.
So who's a good fit? TOSSS has long advocated adding Pittsburgh, and we stick by that. Others in the mix seem to be Missouri, Iowa State, Rutgers and Syracuse - adding all five gets the Big Ten to 16 teams.
The question then turns to conference alignment - and at bigger numbers it gets easier. Consider these Big Ten East and West alignments:
- East: MSU, Michigan, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Rutgers, Syracuse, Indiana, Purdue
- West: Ohio State, Missouri, Iowa, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern
If we go to 14 schools, just drop Syracuse and Iowa State, and the alignments still work great. And if it's 12, then just keep Pitt as the only newbie and the numbers still work fine. But looking at these potential alignments, one can see how 14 or 16 might be a better number than 12.