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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Show Comments (12 Comments)
12 Post Your Comment
Chris on 5/19/2014 @ 3:16pm EDT Said:

Put a ribbon on it and make it happen. A 10 game B1G Conference slate is the only logical answer.

Tony on 5/19/2014 @ 8:57pm EDT Said:

So you say that you don’t like the option of scheduling a B1G opponent in a non-con spot under a 9-game conference schedule, but you’re cool with scheduling a non-con opponent in a B1G spot under a 10-game conference schedule? These two scenarios are functionally equivalent.

Mitch Ryan on 5/19/2014 @ 9:11pm EDT Said:

Tom, each division schedule is fair, because all the teams in each division will have the same number of home games. It’s not like Wisconsin has 5 home games while Nebraska or Iowa will only have 4.

Chris on 5/19/2014 @ 9:23pm EDT Said:

I couldn’t agree more.

Ron Hillmann on 5/20/2014 @ 10:39am EDT Said:

I love it. GET IT DONE!!!!!!!!

Joshua on 5/20/2014 @ 10:45am EDT Said:

Please give us 10 BIG games… please…

Brad on 5/20/2014 @ 12:47pm EDT Said:

To get 7 home games with a 10 game league slate, all non-conference games would have to be home games at Big Ten stadiums. If the Big Ten did this, we likely would be alienating the other power leagues, as none of them would have the incentive to schedule us with no promised return date.

If such a scenario played out, the Big Ten would lose the ability to compare itself to the other power conferences, and fans nationally would have even fewer reasons to watch the Big Ten. Neither of those things is good for the Big Ten, and it is careless to think that those wouldn’t be consequences of such a decision.

Dan on 5/20/2014 @ 2:30pm EDT Said:

There’s a fatal flaw in the logic of this article and Brad spelled it out perfectly. While I am not a fan of the 5/4 home game split, and would love to see more Big Ten games, I don’t see how 10 Conference games could work because of the “7 Home Games” requirement. As Brad said, it would require ALL non-conference games to be home games, which would essentially eliminate non-con games against major conferences. The part of the article that really confuses me is when Tom states, “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.” Uhhhhh, how’s that now? So a 9 game conference schedule, in which we could theoretically schedule a non-con road game every other year makes home-and-home scheduling difficult, but a 10 game conference schedule, in which ALL non-con games have to be home games, makes scheduling a home-and-home easier? Cuz by your own reasoning, it makes them impossible. You do know that a home-and-home series means each team gets one game at home and not that one team gets both games at home, right?

Jeremy on 5/20/2014 @ 3:28pm EDT Said:

Brad,

There are 13 games in the season now. Out of 10 league games you have 5 home and out of 3 non-conference games you have 2 home to make 7 home games. This allows you to schedule a home/away series with a prominent school, on the years where the game is away schedule the other two con-cons as home buy outs.

Harmon on 5/20/2014 @ 8:03pm EDT Said:

Actually Jeremy, there are only 12 games in the season now (not counting conference title games or scheduling exemptions given to teams that play at Hawaii).

I agree with Brad above on this as it would eliminate prime non-conference match-ups. Would you really rather trade Ohio State against Oregon, Oklahoma or Texas for another game against Purdue? Nope. And scheduling home-and-homes in the 5/4 split really isn’t that difficult. The Pac12 has been doing it for years.

DON HASSIG on 6/1/2014 @ 3:04pm EDT Said:

—————————————- WHY DOESN’T THE BIG TEN DO A CHALLENGE IN
FOOTBALL WITH THE SEC SIMILAR TO THEIR BASKETBALL CHALLENGE WITH ACC?

Chris on 7/19/2014 @ 5:04pm EDT Said:

You could play 10 conference games – 5 home and 5 away. 6 division opponents, 3 teams from the other division and a crossover from the other division ie. Purdue-Indiana. You would play teams in your conference every other year and every 4 years at your stadium. You could play one non-conference game against a team from a power conference in a home and home and a team from the MAC at home. One year you would get 7 home games and the next year you would get 6 home games. A fair compromise.

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