- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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While several Big Ten teams are beefing up their nonleague schedules in anticipation of the upcoming playoff, Minnesota appears to be going in the other direction.
The get-bowl-eligible plan.
Minnesota on Tuesday announced several changes to its future nonconference schedules. While Gophers fans will be pleased to know the team will open at home each of the next four seasons on Thursday nights -- Minnesota has opened on the road in each of the past four years -- there's not much else to get them excited.
Minnesota athletics reached an agreement with the Minnesota State Fair to move the next four season openers to the Thursday night before Labor Day. The Gophers will open against UNLV on Aug. 29, 2013, against Eastern Illinois on Aug. 28, 2014, against South Dakota State on Sept. 3, 2015, and against New Mexico State on Sept. 1, 2016.
Minnesota and North Carolina have canceled a home-and=home series for 2013 and 2014. Minnesota is looking to fill those dates on its schedule.
Minnesota added home games against Kent State in 2015 and South Dakota State in 2019
We'll see if Minnesota replaces North Carolina with another major-conference opponent, but it certainly looks like the Gophers are scheduling to get bowl eligible on a consistent basis. Former coach Glen Mason was criticized for this approach. Mason's successor, Tim Brewster, had a much more aggressive approach toward scheduling. It'll be interesting to see how fans receive Tuesday's news.
I like the Thursday night openers and don't mind that they're against weaker opponents. But Minnesota's overall scheduling approach -- cupcake city -- in the coming years is disappointing, given what's happening elsewhere around the league.
Here's what we know about Minnesota's nonleague schedules from 2013-16.
Aug. 29: UNLV
Sept. 7: TBA
Sept. 14: Western Illinois
Sept. 21: San Jose State
Aug. 28: Eastern Illinois
Sept. 6: Middle Tennessee
Sept. 13: TBA
Sept. 20: San Jose State
Sept. 3: South Dakota State
Sept. 12: at Colorado State
Sept. 19: Kent State
Sept. 26: Ohio
Sept. 1: New Mexico State
Sept. 10: Indiana State
Sept. 17: at Miami (Ohio)
Sept. 24: Colorado State