- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Snail mail is alive and well in college football, thanks to Vanderbilt.
Less than 11 months before the start of the 2013 season, Vanderbilt officials backed out of scheduled games against Northwestern and Ohio State, informing both Big Ten programs through letters sent through the U.S. Postal Service. No phone call. No email. No text message. Not even FedEx, which is actually based in Tennessee.
Vanderbilt also backed out of a 2014 game at Northwestern, the last of a four-game set between the schools. Northwestern beat Vanderbilt on Sept. 8 in Evanston and also in the 2010 season opener in Nashville. The Chicago Tribune first reported Vanderbilt's decision to back out of the Northwestern games.
Ohio State now must scramble to find an opponent to open the 2013 season, which could have the Buckeyes on the national championship radar. The team's remaining non-league schedule includes home games with both Florida A&M and Buffalo, and a road game at California. Tulane could be an option for the Buckeyes, as the Green Wave have an opening in Week 1.
Whether Vanderbilt would have helped Ohio State's schedule strength remains to be seen, but at least the Commodores are a decent program (not nearly as good as the national media would lead you to believe) from the nation's top conference (SEC).
Speaking of the SEC, the next time you complain about the lack of Big Ten-SEC matchups, remember this. Few SEC teams dare to venture into Big Ten territory, and you can scratch another off the list.
Vanderbilt's 2013 non-league schedule now features Austin Peay, Massachusetts, UAB and Wake Forest. That should be enough for James Franklin to keep convincing everyone Vanderbilt is the next Stanford.
Northwestern is actually put in a worse situation than Ohio State because of the cancellation. The Wildcats already had a hotel booked in Nashville for their road trip, and Vanderbilt paid a small buyout because Northwestern viewed Vanderbilt as a peer institution. That view has definitely changed because of this.
Northwestern plays California (road), Syracuse (home) and Maine (home) in 2013 and California (home), Notre Dame (road) and Western Illinois (home) in 2014. It'll be interesting to see if Northwestern adds a seventh home game in 2013 to replace the Vanderbilt road contest.
Maybe Northwestern picks up North Carolina, which Minnesota paid $800,000 not to play in 2013 and 2014, to fill the voids in its schedule. More than likely, however, Northwestern will add an opponent not as strong as Vanderbilt. Its options are limited, thanks to Vanderbilt's decision.