Badger Bits: What the 2014 football schedule really means

Reid Compton-US PRESSWIRE

The 2014 Big Ten conference schedule looks incredibly weak. Are we sure Jim Delany and Co. have the fans' best interests in mind?

Wisconsin's weak 2014 schedule was documented here last week. What wasn't documented was that the soft 2014/15 scheduling is a conference-wide epidemic. The 2015 schedule will be the 2014 schedule with home/away flipped. Wisconsin/Nebraska/Iowa will play Michigan/Ohio State/Penn State a total of zero times over that span.

Those two seasons also happen to be the first of the College Football Playoff, a.k.a., the supposed death knell of cupcake scheduling thanks to a nimble-minded selection committee not beholden to algorithms and less taken by weekly shifts in prevailing winds. They will have the difficult task of discerning between Boise State's 12-0 and Florida's 10-2, and when in doubt Florida is expected to win preference provided the SEC doesn't taken a sudden downturn.

The Big Ten has seemingly embraced beefier scheduling, making a gentleman's pact to avoid scheduling FCS teams and adding a ninth conference game beginning 2016. Jim Delany revealed perhaps his most significant gesture last month, announcing that future conference slates would be parity-based, pairing the best teams in the East against the best of the West. The lack of premiere cross-division matchups in upcoming seasons is all the more puzzling, then.

In his Friday mailbag, Adam Rittenberg points out that the league may be trying to put its newest members on a pedestal. Maryland and Rutgers will play their cross-division game against Iowa and Wisconsin, and Nebraska and Wisconsin, respectively. The other possibilities are that Delany is terrified of a Championship Game rematch, and/or hates fun. The first thing make more sense. Unfortunately, it means Michigan and Wisconsin will go at least five years without playing each other if they don't meet in Indianapolis.

More disturbingly, the 2014/2015 schedules call into question just how serious the league office is about making scheduling better. Ticket prices are rising, the on-field product hasn't risen to match, and fans are slowly responding by staying home. The conference feels it's important to put its biggest teams on TV in the D.C. and New York, but in the mean time they're creating a crap slate of home games that fans will rather watch in high def if at all. Even worse, if the conference truly believes that stronger strength of schedule is the key to earning a College Football Playoff spot, then it is doing a disservice to the league's potentially national championship-caliber teams.

Given that the conference doesn't appear to have fans' best interests in the short term, why should there be any faith that things will be better in 2016 and beyond?

LINKS:

Michael Bird is also upset.

How the Big Ten schedule came to be.

Tom Oates says it's great that the Badgers are picking up challenging non-conference foes. Unfortunately, few of them are coming to Camp Randall.

The Big Ten is making a heckuva ton of money. Still isn't cool enough.

More quotes from Ula Tolutau.

GoAUpher with a tremendous piece of Iowa hate.

Bret Bielema is possibly Satan.

OH GOD PAUL CHRSYT.

Georgia Tech is the absolute worst at Photoshop.

Wrapping up: Mike Gundy will stalk Wes Lunt to the end of this Earth

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