Penn State football coach Joe Paterno was in the process of welcoming Nebraska into the Big Ten Conference during a media conference call on Wednesday when he made a mistake that could be repeated by fans during the upcoming season.

"I think the addition of Nebraska to the Big Twel ... well, it's 12 teams now ... is a great asset, a great addition," Paterno said. "Nebraska's a great place to play and great people to compete against."

The 84-year-old Paterno could be forgiven for the verbal slip given all the changes to the Big Ten in the past year. A conference that often gets labeled as staid has finally embraced things that have become common in other corners of college football.

The Cornhuskers officially join the conference on July 1, the first time the Big Ten has added a team since Penn State came on board in 1993.

As a result, the league has split into two divisions, Leaders and Legends, and will hold a championship game for the first time.

"I'm really excited for the buildup and the race to the championship game, to be able to have that to look forward to at the end of the year," University of Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said.

Before then, some new rivalries will be established, while others will be trashed. The Badgers won't face Iowa the next two seasons. But neighboring Nebraska could replace UW as the school Hawkeyes fans love to loathe.

"They've already nicknamed it 'Farmageddon,' " Iowa linebacker Tyler Nielsen said of the Nebraska game. "I think that's pretty neat."

As soon as last season ended, Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini and his staff began the task of familiarizing themselves with their new opponents. Nebraska opens Big Ten play against UW at Camp Randall Stadium on Oct. 1.

"There are probably not a lot of kids that get the opportunity to do this," Nebraska linebacker Sean Fisher said of leaving the Big 12. "To be able to go to places like Texas and Oklahoma, then to be able to go places also like Ohio State and Penn State, it just gives you an opportunity to see some really cool places, as well as play some really good opponents."

Adding to the conference's fresh look will be three new head coaches — Michigan's Brady Hoke, Minnesota's Jerry Kill and Indian's Kevin Wilson. Hoke has the task of restoring the luster for the Wolverines, who have gone 4-12 in the conference the past two years.

Madison native Greg Mattison, who spent the past two years as the Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinator, was brought in to fix one of the nation's worst defenses.

"When you come in with a reputation like that, everything the guy says is gold to everybody on the team," defensive end Ryan Van Bergen said. "We just all bought in completely, just because where he's come from and what he's done."

While change is the operative word, one school hoping to cling to the status quo is Ohio State. It's an unusual spring for the Buckeyes, who are under NCAA investigation.

Coach Jim Tressel withheld information about his players' NCAA violations and will be suspended for the first five games, along with five players. More sanctions could come when the investigation is complete.

One of the suspended players, quarterback Terrell Pryor, is sitting out spring practices after foot surgery. The other suspended players have been practicing in their usual spots.

"We're not focusing on the first five games right now," center Mike Brewster said. "We'll handle that when it comes. We've been doing a really good job of just staying focused, keeping our eyes just on spring ball and blocking out all the rest of the attention."

While they have attempted to conduct business as usual, it has been anything but for the Buckeyes and the rest of the conference.

Even Paterno has managed to adapt with the times. Coming off a disappointing 7-6 season, players say Paterno has been more hands-on this spring.

"The good Lord has kept me healthy so I can run around a little bit out there and get involved in drills," Paterno said. "If it appears to the kids I'm working harder at it, good. I'm glad to hear that. ... I hope I'm doing a better job than I did last year, let's put it that way."

With so much change in the air, it has the makings for a compelling football season.

"It's only going to be a more positive thing and makes us all a part of what is special with college football," Bielema said. "Every week is a playoff, the way we do things. Nothing is going to showcase that more than this year."

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