The Big Ten plays unquestionably the nation's toughest bowl lineup. The league also plays quite possibly the nation's least diverse bowl lineup.
One of those things should change when a new lineup is unveiled for the 2014 season and beyond.
The Big Ten's current rundown includes three matchups against SEC foes in Florida (Capital One, Outback, TaxSlayer.com Gator). It also includes at least two matchups against the Big 12 (Buffalo Wild Wings, Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas) and often a third (Heart of Dallas, which sometimes features Conference USA teams). Although the Big Ten faces the Pac-12 most years in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio, the two leagues that have the most in common aren't tied into any other bowl matchups.
The lineup is very SEC- and Big 12-heavy. It's also very New Year's Day-heavy, with five of the eight tie-ins on Jan. 1.
"We want to play the best," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "I don't think you'll see any radical changes in those areas, but you'll probably see us having more interactions with more conferences. I'm not exactly sure how that'll play out, but the sites will be national and the quality of opponents will be national."
Delany said the Big Ten met with officials from 10-12 bowl games in November at league headquarters in Park Ridge, Ill. Although Delany's top priorities are figuring out the new division alignment -- with Maryland and Rutgers set to join the league -- and revising the 2014 football schedule, but he hopes to have the bowl lineup, which likely will span the 2014-17 seasons, finalized before the summer.
The Big Ten won't compromise degree of difficulty in the lineup, but Delany understands that a lack of variety can turn off fans interested in traveling to different areas. He attributes part of the bowls' recent attendance/interest problems to a lack of diversity in participating teams.
"We're going to try and be national and try to have relationships on both coasts and maybe in areas we haven't been before," Delany said. "There will be more diversity in teams that get to go, so no one goes to Florida five times in six years or even three years in a row. I hope we would put together a slate of games where our alums live, where we recruit and against opponents that will test us every year. Those are the elements.
"It's a puzzle. Some of the outlines are falling into place, but it's a long way from the particulars of it being filled out."
Delany said at the Big Ten's spring meetings in May that the league has interest in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at New York's Yankee Stadium. That was before the league added Rutgers and Maryland as new members and spoke extensively about its new East Coast presence. Nothing is official yet, but I would be stunned if the Big Ten's new lineup doesn't include the Pinstripe Bowl.
We know the Big Ten will have a more frequent presence in the Discover Orange Bowl against an ACC opponent.
Another California bowl also is possible (Bridgeport Education Holiday, Kraft Fight Hunger). It would be surprising if the Big Ten's next bowl lineup doesn't include another Pac-12 matchup besides the Rose, and maybe an ACC matchup on the East Coast.
"We'll still have significant competition with the SEC in Florida," Delany said.
Whether that includes keeping all three matchups or maybe just two remains to be seen.
But variety will be a bigger element of the Big Ten's next bowl lineup, which will be welcomed by most fans.