With the Big Ten scheduling news coming out in mass over the last few weeks, there is a lot to process not only for the teams and media, but also for the fans. Tickets need to be bought, travel plans set up, and most importantly, hype needs to be created for some of the key matchups. There is plenty of preseason excitement surrounding the Big Ten and with that, the schedule will be even more scrutinized this season.
As such, BTPowerhouse Managers Thomas Beindit and Bryan Steedman got together to chat about the Big Ten schedule, expectations, and what fans should be most excited about heading into this season.
1. The Big Ten recently released its conference schedule for the 2015-16 season. What were your first reactions to the release?
BEINDIT: There was one major thing that popped out to me about this year's Big Ten schedule on first glance and that is that we're probably going back to a 2012-13 or 2013-14 type of conference season. By that, I mean that fans are going to be blessed with a lot of fantastic matchups on a nightly basis. In fact, I did the math and of the 51 days where Big Ten regular season games will be played, 48 of them will feature a team that appeared in Athlon Sports' preseason Top 25 rankings. Even if you don't buy into their rankings, that's over 94% of days with a ranked team playing. Virtually every day of regular season play will have at least one significant game.
STEEDMAN: The conference really is getting on the Maryland bandwagon with their Saturday slate. Other than that it is what it is. We already knew what teams were playing, just not the order, and it's no surprise the conference is trying to push it's more marquee programs. Oh, and apparently Penn State pissed someone off in the Big Ten because their first five games (at Maryland, at Michigan, Minnesota, Michigan State, at Purdue) is a brutal stretch. Then they get Northwestern, followed by another tough five game stretch involving Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa and Indiana...that could be rough for Nittany Lion fans.
2. One of the top issues that is often brought up with the Big Ten's current scheduling model is that many rivalries are not guaranteed on the schedule. Should this change?
BEINDIT: This is something I rant about every single year and will continue ranting about. I've actually gotten to the point where people are just expecting it now, so I try to avoid ranting too much. Nonetheless, the Big Ten needs to do something to address this issue. Whether it's adopting a model like the SEC uses, moving to divisions, or recognizing a set group of rivalries, something needs to be done. Everyone understands protecting rivalries will create some unbalance, but to me, the benefits far outweigh the costs and that's more enticing matchups for fans and season ticket holders for moderately more unbalanced schedules.
STEEDMAN: Main rivalries probably should be. It's definitely weird when you have a schedule that has teams like Purdue and Indiana only play once in the regular season, but everyone plays each other so often that the more minor rivalries aren't that big of a deal in my opinion. So I'd say there should be at least some emphasis to keep series like Purdue/Indiana, Michigan/Ohio State, Michigan/Michigan State, etc., at two games per season.
3. What changes would you like to see to the Big Ten's current scheduling model?
BEINDIT: Well, the biggest one to me is cited above and that's guaranteeing the rivalry games. What I would like to see is a committee created by the Big Ten of Big Ten officials, school officials, past players, past coaches, and media members that will vote every 5-10 years on the designated rivalry games. Those games will be guaranteed for double-plays each year and the remaining games will rotate through normally. I prefer this approach because it protects the games fans want to see, but also allows flexibility to adjust to the changing college landscape and avoids having to use an SEC type model, which guarantees 3 rivalry games for every conference team, even though a good hunk of them probably aren't rivalries. This would give fans the games they want while minimizing the impact on unbalanced schedules.
STEEDMAN: Honestly? Nothing. With 14 teams and 18 games you're going to have a number of single plays and you could complain about how some teams get an easier (or harder) conference schedule, but that's more or less an inevitability regardless of if the Big Ten tries to maintain a fair schedule or not. Even more so when you consider how quickly things can change...remember when heading into last season people saw Nebraska as one of the top Big Ten teams? And Purdue a bottom dweller?
4. What are the top games on the schedule?
BEINDIT: I mean, take your pick. With so many teams in the national conversation, there are going to be a plethora of great games. Of course, much of the attention will be on the Maryland games considering that the Terps will likely be a top five team, but there is plenty of excitement to go around. Indiana should be an exciting team and it's nice to see both the Hoosiers and Boilermakers set to be relevant in the same year again. The mitten state should also have some great games with Michigan and Michigan State. Finding good games this year won't be hard.
STEEDMAN: With every team playing everyone at least once, it's hard to pinpoint what the ‘top games' will be this far out. But Maryland does have plenty of marquee Saturday games set and really anything involving two of the following teams should be a great game: Maryland, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio State.
5. If ESPN's College Gameday does visit a Big Ten campus during conference play, where do you think is the most likely?
BEINDIT: The last few years, there have really only been a few great Saturday matchups that would warrant a College Gameday appearance, but this year, there's actually quite a few that I could see happening. The ones that look the most appealing to me are Maryland at Indiana, Purdue at Indiana, and Maryland at Michigan State. Though the Maryland at Indiana game has not officially been set for a Saturday yet, if so, that would look like a lock considering that both could be top 10 teams next season. Another wildcard that might be interesting is when Michigan State travels to face Michigan in Ann Arbor as well. Nonetheless, it's hard not to see at least one Big Ten team getting a College Gameday visit this year.
STEEDMAN: It really depends on how the season pans out, but unless something major happens it'll likely involve Maryland. Taking that into consideration, it means their road trip to East Lansing in January would be a solid bet for a Gameday appearance. If not the Terps will host Purdue and Wisconsin on Saturdays this winter, as well as travel to both West Lafayette and Madison on Saturday (which is when Gameday would take place). Actually looking at the Terps schedule, their Saturday games this season are pretty much all marquee matchups as they have a streak where they'll face Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin, Purdue and Indiana (flex for either Saturday or Sunday) after their first Saturday Big Ten game (which is Northwestern). That's definitely the Big Ten trying to position the conference frontrunner for plenty of national attention.
You can check out all the Big Ten scheduling news and game information in BTPowerhouse's Big Ten scheduling feed located here.