A few days following the termination of the Big Ten/Pac 12 conference pact, that guaranteed 12 interconference games each season, it's time for Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and the rest of the conference to begin exploring other options. The most obvious alternative is extending the conference schedule to nine games a season, which was the original plan last year before the Pac 12 idea emerged. With the current setup featuring just eight conference games and four non-conference (and typically non-competitive for UW) showdowns, it's easy to see why fans would be eager to add another Big Ten foe to the schedules.
I love the idea of seeing the Badgers face more conference opponents. The majority of Wisconsin fans are not pleased with the lack of upcoming contests with Iowa and Michigan State, so this would certainly help the issue. But despite these positive aspects, the change may not be in the best interest of the Big Ten.
Now when I say Big Ten, I'm referring to its universities' ability to contend for a playoff and national championship. Strength of schedule will be a major factor in evaluating which four teams will qualify for the playoff, which begins in the 2014 season, so championship caliber teams are looking to bolster their non-conference schedules. While a matchup with a Big Ten team is better than one from the MAC, it may deter some teams from scheduling tougher non-conference opponents since it will only leave three open game dates each season. The Pac 12 has shown it's possible to still face top caliber competition with a nine-game conference schedule, as USC and Stanford have done, but teams may be less likely to seek better non-conference matchups with an already loaded Big Ten schedule.
More importantly, ESPN.com's Big Ten blog points out the Big Ten should shift from its usual ways (in this tweet, and this tweet), take a page out of the SEC's book (I know, it's frowned upon) and schedule conference games in September. Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema has already pushed for this in the past. It's an interesting proposition, setting up marquee Big Ten matchups right out of the gates. It would attract more attention to September conference games, as seen in the SEC, at a time where most FBS teams breeze through easy competition. It may not be a better option to adding another conference game, but it's certainly an alternative that should be explored.
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