Big Ten should keep four non-conference games
Word is circulating that the Big Ten, once it adds Maryland and Rutgers in 2014, may look to a 10-game conference schedule. It’s always tough to gauge the validity of these reports, but from this corner, I would advise against that move.
If there are seven-team divisions starting in 2014, a 12-game schedule allows for each team to play its division rivals (six games), an annual rival from the other division (PSU-Nebraska), and a rotating opponent from the other division, for eight conference games. This leaves four non-conference contests.
To me this is preferable to playing four other-division games, and just two non-con games.
I like the idea of a cross-division annual rival, and to me, Nebraska is the obvious choice, whether PSU ends up with Maryland and Rutgers in their division or not. By rotating through the other teams in the other division, you would play everybody once every six years. Adds a little mystery.
But, most of all, I think it’s important to keep the four non-conference games. All Big Ten teams need to have as many home games as possible to bring in the revenue to run a top tier football program. Under this setup, there would be, as there is now, four conference home games. This would mean many Big Ten teams would schedule three non-conference home games, and one on the road. With the conference moving to require all opponents be FBS teams, there will be no more Coastal Carolinas on the schedule, though there will be plenty of MAC schools–not automatic wins in many cases anymore.
While there will have to be a lesser light or two on every Penn State home schedule under this scenario, that has been the case since the school joined the Big Ten, and before. But four non-conference games would, or should, anyway, allow one big name school from another conference to visit Beaver Stadium each year, and for Penn State to play a big time school away annually.
There is great attraction to having a Miami, Texas, Southern Cal, or Notre Dame visit. Some years there could even be a second name school on the docket–maybe a Colorado or a Boise State.
It’s even more important to have a decent non-conference slate, given the conference’s recent lack of standing nationally. Having the chance to beat a couple of top notch out of conference opponents may be the only way a Big Ten school has of getting into the four-team playoff in years the conference is deemed to be down. If a Big Ten school goes unbeaten in conference play and wins the conference championship, but a Pac-12, Big 12, and ACC schools also do this, along with a once-beaten team from the deemed stronger SEC, which of the four other conference winners gets left out? Maybe the one with the weakest non-conference schedule?
Playing ten conference games means five home and away, and the temptation to schedule two lesser lights most years to bring in the dough with home games that don’t have to be reciprocated.
A bad idea, if you ask me.