Jumping from the Big Ten to SEC: The fits for Jim Harbaugh, Mel Tucker and ... Rutgers?

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While the college football world waits to see how and when Texas and Oklahoma are integrated into the Southeastern Conference and what happens to the rest of the Big 12, the other Power Five conferences are taking stock of their own fortunes.

Will the Big Ten swoop in to pick up Kansas — somebody’s gotta be a football laughingstock now that Rutgers isn’t bad — or Iowa State? (Who let Kirk Ferentz in here, anyway?)

WHAT'S NEXT?: How will the Power Five conferences respond after SEC expansion?

But what if things go the other way, and the SEC starts raiding other major conferences? Are there any Big Ten teams that could be swept up in the SEC’s nigh-unstoppable land grab?

It seems like a situation rife with misery, as longtime Midwestern football rivals are torn apart in the fight to keep college football’s cash flowing. (Y’know, like when Colorado and Nebraska bailed from the Big 12 for the Pac-12 and Big Ten, respectively, but with a good TV deal.)

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Alabama head coach Nick Saban pose with the Citrus Bowl trophy Tuesday, December 31, 2019 at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando, Fl.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Alabama head coach Nick Saban pose with the Citrus Bowl trophy Tuesday, December 31, 2019 at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando, Fl.

Did someone say “misery?” After watching Michigan and Michigan State combine to go 4-9 (and one of those wins came against the other) in 2020, no one knows misery like the Freep’s Big Ten Misery Index. And so we thought we’d take a look at the potential odds (that we made up) of a Big Ten team deciding “It (getting paid) Just Means More” and jumping to the land of Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban and making fun of Tennessee football. (We were going to go in alphabetical order for fairness’ sake, but we know you’re already scrolling down to one certain team…)

POWER RANKINGS: SEC football from first to worst if Oklahoma and Texas played in 2021

Rutgers: 14,000-to-1

Hahahahahahahahaha… oh, you’re serious. OK, well, the SEC has Paul Finebaum. The Scarlet Knights have Paulie Walnuts.

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Purdue: 13,000-to-1

How you gonna have “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” in Jacksonville without a few Boilermakers?

Minnesota: 12,000-to-1

Let's see P.J. Fleck Row The Boat against the Vol Navy...

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez fumbles the ball against Michigan State safety David Dowell in the first half at Memorial Stadium.
Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez fumbles the ball against Michigan State safety David Dowell in the first half at Memorial Stadium.

Nebraska: 11,000-to-1

Has actively tried to leave its current conference in search of a better deal. Has a football team beloved by an entire state (more or less) despite not winning anything major in more than a decade. Also has a basketball team it claims to care about despite no evidence that it does. Eh, worked for Texas...

Wisconsin: 10,000-to-1

Didn’t Arkansas already try this when they hired Bret Bielema away from the Badgers in 2013? (In favor? The basketball squad, which has thrived for two decades on white dudes with buzzcuts taking a shady approach to things like fairness, decency and “non-basketball plays.” Sounds like SEC material to us.)

Illinois: 9,999-to-1

Seriously, hasn’t Bielema already suffered enough? More to the point, haven't the Illini suffered enough?

Mar 7, 2015; Bloomington, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosier fans hold up newspapers before the game as Michigan State Spartans players are introduced at Assembly Hall.
Mar 7, 2015; Bloomington, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosier fans hold up newspapers before the game as Michigan State Spartans players are introduced at Assembly Hall.

Indiana: 8,000-to-1

Hoosier fans already have their (striped) overalls, and Bloomington isn’t much farther north than Mizzou in Columbia. Pro: Possible yearly Indiana/Kentucky basketball games. Con: Possible yearly Indiana/Kentucky football games (especially once Michael Penix Jr. and Tom Allen depart).

Maryland: 7,000-to-1

They already hired an ex-Saban assistant, just like what, half the SEC? OK, OK, turns out the SEC is down to three Sabin-ites. (Though that’ll be four when/if Steve Sarkisian and Texas make it a 16-team conference.)

Northwestern: 6,005.2222(repeating)-to-1

Pat Fitzgerald is a hometown guy, loves smash-mouth football and is never, ever, ever leaving his current job. He’s Ed Orgeron with a more-understandable (but not better) accent.

Michigan State: 5,000-to-1

Speaking of former Saban assistants, hiiii Mel Tucker. … What’s the appeal for the Spartans? A chance for revenge on Nick Saban once a decade and every conference game feeling like the Capital One Bowl?

Jim Harbaugh as close to the Big Ten trophy as he's every been... physically, that is.
Jim Harbaugh as close to the Big Ten trophy as he's every been... physically, that is.

Michigan: 4,000-to-1

A tradition-bound football franchise that has struggled to adapt to the modern era while looking to a flashy, NFL-tested head coach to turn things around? You say Michigan, we say Ole Miss. (Feed Harbaugh vs. Finebaum on a weekly basis into our veins, please…)

Penn State: 3,000-to-1

James Franklin won 24 games at Vanderbilt — still eighth-best among Vandy coaches all-time — and made three made three bowl games (No. 1 in Vandy history) in just three seasons. You think the SEC wants to face him armed with the Nittany Lions’ Pennsylvania/Ohio recruiting base? (And seriously, we know it’s tough to compare postseason performances — but Franklin’s two bowl wins with the Commodores is as many as every other Vanderbilt coach combined. A miracleworker in Nashville.)

Oct 6, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes offensive lineman Ross Reynolds (59) and offensive lineman Keegan Render (69) lift up the Floyd of Rosedale trophy at TCF Bank Stadium.
Oct 6, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes offensive lineman Ross Reynolds (59) and offensive lineman Keegan Render (69) lift up the Floyd of Rosedale trophy at TCF Bank Stadium.

Iowa: 2,000-to-1

Put the Hawkeyes in whatever SEC division is weakest and watch them go 8-4 every year while making the championship game every three seasons. We dare you. (Spurrier coming out of quip-retirement to diss Texas’ SEC move — “they can’t win the Big 12 anyway” — is right up there with Ferentz’s explanation of his timeout use against Minnesota last year: ““Figured we’d take Floyd with us and leave the timeouts here.”)

Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith catches a 42-yard touchdown behind Ohio State linebacker Tuf Borland during the second quarter of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Jan. 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith catches a 42-yard touchdown behind Ohio State linebacker Tuf Borland during the second quarter of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Jan. 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Ohio State: 1,000-to-1

But the Buckeyes dominate like an SEC team! Only if everyone in the SEC turned off January’s CFP championship game after the first quarter. (Also, OSU’s women’s basketball program got a postseason ban and probation in an investigation that snowballed when a member of its fencing program snitched. That might be the least SEC thing possible.)

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford. Oh, and the Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here's how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: An SEC spot for Jim Harbaugh, Mel Tucker and ... Iowa?