Just a couple days ago, the big news hit regarding the Big Ten's decision to increase the number of conference games each season. The conference had previously discussed bumping schedules up to nine games per season, but that fell through. A lot has changed since that time with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers to the conference, so when discussions began this time around, the Big Ten had zero support for an eight-game format. Instead, the conference will make a decision on whether to play nine or 10 conference games.
Let the debate begin.
There are many factors that come into play, and who better to outline them than the ESPN.com Big Ten bloggers. Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett know Big Ten football better than anybody and yesterday they debated how many conference games should be played:
Take 1: Brian Bennett
Moving to nine conference games is the easiest and safest choice. The Pac-12 and Big 12 already do that. But the more I think about it, the more I'm intrigued by the idea of 10 conference games per year, with some key caveats. It would be a radical plan, as no other conference plays that many league contests. That could potentially make it tougher for Big Ten contenders to qualify for the four-team playoff, as a 10-team league schedule, plus a conference title game, would likely create more losses for even the top teams. And I'd hate to see teams do away with high-profile nonconference games, which some schools would choose to do because of the added difficulty of playing 10 Big Ten games. Programs like Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska could still play one elite out-of-conference game per year, but teams like Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue -- who all would have to win at least four Big Ten games every year to get bowl eligible -- might shy away from testing themselves.
Take 2: Adam Rittenberg
I'm open-minded about the 10-game plan, but I need to see how it can work and still preserve all the great home-and-home nonconference series we've seen added. I have my doubts that it can, and if I had to vote now, I'd advocate a nine-game league schedule. The chance for programs like Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin to play one marquee non-league opponent per year seems to be higher when those teams are playing only nine conference games, not 10. And as you mentioned, a 10-game league schedule likely would steer some of the second-tier Big Ten programs to avoid anything resembling a non-league test. I recognize the inherent inequity of the format, which would need to be addressed through creative scheduling, but it wouldn't compromise non-league scheduling as much as 10 games would.
My vote is for nine games, although I reserve the right to change my mind. The other thing we don't know is how much strength of schedule -- both within the league and outside of it -- will sway selection committee members as they determine the teams for the playoff. Not taking anything away from the Big Ten championship, but the playoff and the national title is what it's all about. And even you admit that a 10-game league schedule likely would hurt the Big Ten's postseason prospects. That in itself might be a reason to only go to nine.
Both make great points and I'm pretty much on the same page as them. I'd love to see a 10-game conference schedule -- if we still get great non-conference matchups. It's probably going to be difficult to persuade teams to schedule difficult non-conference games if there's only two a season, but it seems nine conference games would bring about so much controversy given its competitive imbalance.
What do you think? Should the Big Ten change its scheduling format to nine or 10 games?
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