This installment and the next are the most predictable entries in this series. You know exactly what you're going to see here. However, for completeness, we've got to, so here goes...
When Penn State and the other eastern members of the 16-team Big Ten left to resurrect the Big East and Notre Dame returned to its traditional independence, Big Ten officials could see which way the wind was blowing. The resolution allowing conference championship games was going to be revoked, and with that the rationale for having even twelve members in the Big Ten would be gone. Nebraska and the other western members of the conference were not happy about being "asked" to leave, but the lawsuits surrounding the demise of the Big 12 and the old Big East had made it clear that the Big Ten could force them to leave.
League Name: This collection of schools was known as the Big Ten for almost 40 years between Michigan State replacing Chicago and Penn State joining the conference. And it kept that name even when it no longer accurately reflected the count of members. When reverting to its ten long-term members, it certainly would keep the Big Ten name.
Members: The Big Ten has always been mostly about the large, state flagship schools of the Great Lakes states. Its members, as was the case from the 1950s to the 1990s, are Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin.
Advantages: This conference used the collapse of the super-conference alignment to return to a very old and long-standing alignment. As such there are deep, long-standing rivalries and any number of unique traditions among these schools. Also, only the Big East has a larger population in its home states, and the Big Ten's population is far more passionate about college football. Ohio State and Michigan are elite football powers; most other Big Ten schools have had some extended periods of football success (excepting Indiana). Michigan State is an elite basketball power; Indiana has a tradition of being one, and most of the Big Ten has had some success in basketball at one time or another (excepting Northwestern). Two top-10 TV markets in Chicago and Detroit, and a lot of second-tier markets as well.
Disadvantages: Returning to the traditional ten schools did nothing to discourage the notion that the Big Ten was more than a little stodgy. Although Big Ten schools have recruited well out of state, only Ohio is generally considered a recruiting hotbed.
Summary: There's not a lot to dislike about this conference. It's a bit boring, but that's because it was put together pretty well to start with, and stayed that way (before getting swept up in the expansion mania and crashing back to its current state).