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Big Ten Friday mailbag

As promised, I'm here to take Adam's usual Friday spot with an all-schedule edition of the mailbag. Fire away:

Andy from Oakland, Calif., writes: I think you missed one important reveal in the new schedules: PSU, MSU, Rutgers and Maryland have different opponents for the end of season games in 2016 and 2017, implying that there will be a rotation of opponents for their end of season games. Personally I think that it would be better for all four teams to have a consistent end of season foe to allow rivalries to develop. What do you think?

Brian Bennett: Great catch there, Andy. I think the reason for that is none of those four teams have a clear rival they can play on the final weekend (Michigan State is not playing Michigan in the finale, for obvious reasons). Michigan State-Penn State is not much of a rivalry, and though Penn State, Rutgers and Maryland should all build rivalries against one another, it hasn't happened yet. If at least one of those can grow organically into a true rivalry, then it could become a more permanent fixture on the final weekend.


Eli from New York City writes: A big to do has been made about Wisconsin's @Michigan, @Michigan State, Ohio State start to the 2016 season, but what about Penn State? Not only do they play Ohio State and Michigan back-to-back both years, but they have a stretch of @Northwestern, @Iowa, Michigan, @Ohio State, @Michigan State in 2017. That's four away games in five weeks, folks (and the same Ohio State/Michigan/Michigan State stretch as Wisconsin). The argument is Wisconsin got the short end of the stick, but I'm sure Penn State's stick is shorter.

Brian Bennett: No doubt that stretch is very tough, Eli -- and remember that Penn State will be eligible for the Big Ten title game in 2016. But the difference between Wisconsin's schedule and Penn State's is that the Badgers open with those three games that are all outside of their division. They will play three of the toughest possible crossover division opponents (we think; these games are three years away) in a row, with two on the road, before ever entering division play. Penn State is going to play Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State every year in the East. The road games at Iowa and Northwestern could end up being very difficult too, however.


Eric from Denver writes: From the 16/17 Schedules they say: "Our philosophy is we're trying to make sure every player who stays for four years will have an opportunity to play everybody," I have to say that they failed pretty epically. Michigan will go from 2010 to 2016 without playing Wisconsin (they will go eight years without playing at Camp Randall). Then as you pointed out Michigan doesn't play Nebraska for 4 years. Good job, B1G. And thanks for switching MSU/OSU to being on the road in the same year so season ticket holders get crap home games every other year.

Brian Bennett: The large gaps in between some series are unfortunate, but also mostly unavoidable when you expand to 14 teams. Keep in mind that the Big Ten's philosophy of having every player be able to play every team in four years begins in the 2016 season when nine-game schedules begin. So for that issue, nothing before 2016 is relevant. Still, it is sad that there could be two entire four-year classes of Michigan players who never play in Madison, for example, or that a Nebraska player can go his whole career without seeing Michigan.


Andrew from Fort Wayne, Ind., writes: Is it naïve to think that Purdue is the team that will benefit the most from a 9-game conference schedule? The reason I ask is with always having Indiana as one of the three East crossovers, who is historically not a strong football team, and at most only getting two of the big eastern schools (UM, MSU, OSU, PSU) while the other western teams have the potential of getting three of the four with the parity-based scheduling, Purdue has the potential to be a perennial contender to win the West. Granted, Purdue will still need to beat the other western schools, mainly Nebraska and Wisconsin. As a Purdue fan it gives me a slight glimmer of hope.

Brian Bennett: It's not naïve, Andrew (and great use of the umlaut by you). The Boilermakers probably caught a break by going to the West Division, and they will not play Ohio State or Michigan State in 2016 or 2017. They draw Penn State in '16 and Michigan in '17, but both games are at home. That's a pretty advantageous schedule, and it might allow Purdue to make a run in those years, especially once Darrell Hazell gets the program up and running to his liking. Of course, the Boilers are still planning on playing Notre Dame every year, so they will have 10 Big Ten-level games. That won't be easy, but you've got to like their conference path as much as anybody else's.


Matt from Cleveland writes: These extreme gap years being created of teams not playing is kind of ridiculous. Will feel weird for Nebraska and Michigan to think they are in the same conference when they don't see each other for almost 5 years.

Brian Bennett: It is a shame, Matt. But I do think that if you are to look at the schedules beginning in 2016 and going forward, the gaps won't be quite as long. With only one protected crossover, every team will have new crossover opponents each year. That should help avoid those four-year gaps, especially between marquee programs. But remember how so many people were excited about superconferences? This is what you get with them.


Ted from St Petersburg, Fla., writes: Hawkeye fan here, so drawn to Iowa's crossover schedule. Certainly there is parity throughout the league, but 2016 and 2017 seems like a major challenge for Iowa, as facing Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State in East Lansing seems like a daunting task. (A road game to Rutgers doesn't seem "easy" either.) I am sure that the Hawks are not backing down from these powerhouses, but does the future promise a rotation that includes the others in the East, like Indiana or Maryland?

Brian Bennett: Ted, you'll definitely see different opponents from the East on the schedule, but right now the Hawkeyes should be flattered. That's because with parity-based scheduling, the league is basically rating Iowa as strong enough to play some of those opponents you mentioned. Want an easier schedule? Keep going 4-8. Don't think you want that, though.


Mark from Minneapolis writes: The last time Minnesota & Indiana played was 2008. They play one game this year and are now confirmed to miss each other for 2014, 15, 16.

Brian Bennett: Yep, and that's another unfortunate gap. But again, parity-based scheduling. And is anyone really clamoring for more Minnesota-Indiana games? I'm just asking.


Dan from Baltimore writes: In response to your post about B1G conference games earlier in the year: The league should be very particular about this. Only lower-tier games (not top matchups) should be early. The two schools should both be on-board with the game -- or put another way -- give them both veto power to prevent it. And the mid-season nonconference games, an obvious consequence, should not be later in the year than week 7 or so. No week 10 matchup with UMass.

Brian Bennett: I'm mostly in agreement with you, Dan. Look at how the SEC has handled it. Some of their season openers have included South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt and those same Gamecocks against Mississippi State. Not marquee matchups by any stretch of the imagination, but still interesting enough to create some buzz. When talking to Big Ten senior associate commissioner Mark Rudner about the opener between Ohio State and Indiana in 2017, he kept stressing the word "fit" and talked about who would be available. Obviously, it doesn't work for every game, and maybe not every school wants to do it (South Carolina, obviously, is quite amenable to it). But I still think having one game that first weekend -- especially one that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle in October or November -- is a great idea. And with only three nonconference games, schools can still finish their out-of-league play by the end of September, although a breather in the midst of Big Ten action might not be the worst thing in the world for some teams.


Lance S. from Greensboro, N.C., writes: I have to disagree with your support of week 1 B1G games. You argue that the current slate is not "compelling", but I consider week 1 to be the equivalent of the exhibition games played by all pro sports and even college basketball -- a chance to work out the kinks and for new players to get their feet wet. I dislike the idea of a game that counts in the standings to be played by teams that aren't really ready to play. So, conference games in weeks 2-4? Absolutely! But let's keep week 1 as a "warm-up" week. Living in ACC country I've seen far to many excruciating week 1 Miami-FSU games to ever think it's a good idea!

Brian Bennett: Lance, I will ask you this: You're not getting exhibition prices for those Week 1 games, are you? Every game is supposed to count, so why do we need "warm-ups?" Fans only get maybe six to eight home games to see their teams, and they wait nearly nine months for the season to start. You really want to waste a weekend with a junk game to start?


Jeremy from South Carolina Cornfields writes: It would seem that SOS should be strengthened overall all with the top tier programs benefitting the most. I am interested to see how the 9-game schedule will shake out. I suppose that I am in the minority that would prefer an 8-game conference schedule, but only so that marquee power conference schools can be scheduled. I would rather see Nebraska-Oklahoma, Ohio St-Texas, or Penn St-Alabama than an extra game against the Indianas, Rutgers, and Marylands.

Brian Bennett: I've got good news for you, Jeremy. You'll still get those games, thanks to the Big Ten's emphasis on improving schedules. Nebraska is going to play Oklahoma. Ohio State is going to play Texas and Oregon. Wisconsin is going to play Alabama and LSU. And on and on and on. Most major Big Ten programs seem committed to playing one blockbuster nonconference matchup in addition to the nine league games. And the ultimate winner in that is you, the fan. (Well, and TV executives, of course).


Aaron from Washington, DC, writes: While I'm pleased that they're rotating PSU, MSU, Rutgers, and Maryland for end of the season opponents, I just really want you guys to post a picture of the Land Grant Trophy on a hand cart. (I can't find it, but I swear it moves the LGT from the ridiculous to the sublime.)

Brian Bennett: Ask and ye shall receive, Aaron. Have a great weekend, everybody.