How about a 10-game Big Ten football schedule?

How about a 10-game Big Ten football schedule?

You may have read recently about the Big Ten considering scheduling its own league schools as “non-conference” games as a way to fill out schedules in the future.

I don’t know about you, but I was a bit surprised to hear that. And, I don’t like the idea. Instead, why not just have a 10-game Big Ten schedule? It’s a notion I made reference to in a recent story.

The coaches may groan about it. But who else would? No one. Fans and TV would love it, because it results in an extra quality game every year and shortens the inevitable multi-year gap between several of the top programs meeting.

For now, a nine-game Big Ten schedule is coming in 2016. And, that’s a good thing.

“At this point, we’re committed to nine games,” Nebraska athletics director Shawn Eichorst said last week at the Big Ten’s spring meetings, “for all of the reasons we talked about, student-athlete experience, the fans, strength of schedule and television.”

[ MORE: Check out Tom Dienhart’s 2014 Big Ten schedule analysis ]

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany obviously loves the nine-league game format and said as much during a trip East earlier this month.

“We want our fans to come to games,” he said. “We’ve got to give them good games … What I really like is that every athlete in the Big Ten who plays football will play every opponent inside the four-year period. That’s what I like.”

But a nine-game league schedule poses some imbalance issues. Each season, one division will have five Big Ten home games, the other four. The Pac-12 has been doing this for a few seasons. Still, the imbalance is unfair and gives one division an edge when it comes to the schedule each season.

Patti Sapone/The Star-Ledger

Patti Sapone/The Star-Ledger

So, why doesn’t the Big Ten just play 10 conference games? That way, each school would get five league games at home and five on the road. Each school would play the other six in its division in addition to four of the seven from the opposite division. That would leave only three missed opponents each season for every school and create many more enticing matchups for TV and fans, enhancing the aforementioned benefits of a nine-game Big Ten schedule extolled by Eichorst and Delany even more.

This expanded league menu would mean we wouldn’t have marquee Big Ten teams having large gaps between meetings. Look at Nebraska. From 2014-17, it isn’t scheduled to play Michigan. The Huskers don’t play Ohio State in 2014 and 2015. Penn State is off the menu from 2014-16. Part of the excitement of the Cornhuskers’ arrival in the Big Ten was anticipated meetings with traditional Big Ten powers. With a 10-game league schedule, it would happen more often.

A 10-game Big Ten slate also would eliminate the headache schools face in having to schedule two non-conference home games for one season and three for the other. That can make scheduling a home-and-home series difficult.

With a 10-game Big Ten slate, each school easily could set up the magical seven home games it desires each season that are needed for budgetary concerns: five Big Ten games; two non-conference contests.

If it wants, the Big Ten could drop its mandate to schedule a marquee non-league foe from another “power five” conference to accommodate for the 10th Big Ten game. Better to keep as much money “in the family” as possible. Plus, a 10th Big Ten foe in many instances would be on par from a strength-of-schedule standpoint with a non-league “power five” foe.

But if a school still wants to schedule a big-time non-league foe along with one cupcake, that’s OK. And, I also would lift the Big Ten’s ban on scheduling FCS foes if a 10-game league slate is played. With 10 conference contests, the load has to be lightened somewhere.

A 10-game Big Ten schedule shouldn’t hurt the strength-of-schedule quotient for league teams as they compete for a playoff spot. I think any Big Ten team that goes 12-0 or even 11-1 playing a 10-game conference schedule still would earn a playoff spot.

Add it all up, and playing a 10-game Big Ten schedule has many benefits and makes sense.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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