Picture a buffet.
Given that this is a Nebraska site and most everyone reading this has some sort of strong Nebraska connection that led them here, picture Valentino’s Grand Italian Buffet.
Now Valentino’s stock and trade is technically pizza and pasta, but the buffet — which may be the restaurant’s real calling card at this point — has grown to include most of the major staples of the American fast-casual palate. Want tacos? You can get tacos. Wish your Italian buffet tasted a little more American? Not a problem, you can get fried chicken, pot roast, seafood, french fries, etc. Soups? Sure. Salad? Of course. Dessert pizza, brownies, bubble gum flavored soft-serve ice cream? Yes, yes and yes. The Grand Italian Buffet is barely Italian at all.
But when I go to Valentino’s, I always stick exclusively to the pizza/pasta bars. If I want fried chicken, I know where to get great fried chicken. The best tacos in town aren’t at Valentino’s, they’re on a taco truck somewhere where all of the best tacos have always been. That’s ok, some people are lured in by the bountiful array of options. I’m lured in because I want some pizza.
That’s a long way of saying that the Big Ten, when it comes to its new bowl tie-ins, understands me. Me and the oldest Division I athletic conference in America? We’re simpatico.
At least that’s my impression after the Pac-12 and Big Ten announced their new bowl agreements this afternoon. When the Big Ten goes bowling in 2014 and beyond, most of the time it just really wants to hang out with its friends in the Pac-12. Nothing fancy, just a place where good folks go.
Now, we spent some time discussing what these agreements might look like this morning and there’s still probably some more mundane quotes from the principals involved coming this afternoon at the official press conference, but we’ve pretty much got everything we need already.
Here’s the gist: The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, moving to the San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium next year, is getting bumped up the Pac-12 pecking order. It now has the fourth choice of the Pac-12 after the Playoff/Rose, Alamo and Holiday Bowls pick. The Holiday Bowl stays at No. 3 overall, but will get a Big Ten team instead of a Big 12 team starting in 2014. The Big Ten is not designating a selection order under its new bowl agreement because it’s the Big Ten.
That means that if you’re one of the top teams in the Big Ten — as things stand now and barring the conference getting two teams in the playoff — odds are good you’re playing a Pac-12 opponent in your bowl. (That’s not an official distinction, but the bowls aren’t going to pit the No. 3 team from Pac-12 against the No. 7 team from the Big Ten. They’re just not.) Considering that Nebraska almost never falls below fourth or fifth in the pecking order if it’s bowl eligible due to the traveling reputation of its fan base, expect to see a lot of the Pac-12 in your future if you’re a Huskers fan.
And here’s one more Nebraska-centric wrinkle: If you were hoping for some Big 12 match-ups just for old time’s sake, that doesn’t look very likely at this juncture. Under the current agreement, the Big Ten had two bowls — Meineke Car Care and Buffalo Wild Wings — that also had a Big 12 tie-in. Both appear to be gone under this new agreement, making it more unlikely any team from the Big Ten will face a Big 12 team in the postseason starting in 2014. That probably doesn’t matter to anyone in the Big Ten except for Nebraska.
Overall, is locking in the Pac-12 for most of the Big Ten’s marquee bowl teams a good move? I’m perfectly fine with it, but, as explained above, choice and variety don’t often mean a whole lot to me. Others might like having a few slices of pizza right next to a big mound of mashed potatoes.
That’s fine too, just don’t look to the Big Ten for that. Look to Valentino’s.