Minnesota is getting with the Big Ten's scheduling program. Hallelujah.
After buying its way out of a series against North Carolina and revealing a wholly uninspiring slate of future non-conference games last fall, Minnesota took a big step in the right direction Tuesday by announcing a home-and-home series against TCU for 2014 and 2015. The Gophers will visit TCU on Sept. 13, 2014, and play host to the Horned Frogs on Sept. 3, 2015.
The 2014 game fills a vacancy on Minnesota's schedule, and the 2015 game replaces FCS opponent South Dakota State on the Gophers' slate. As you know, the Big Ten wants to remove all games with FCS opponents by the 2016 season or shortly thereafter, and Minnesota had been one of the worst at piling up games against lower-division foes.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told ESPN.com that he wants every team playing one marquee non-league game per season against a team from another major conference. TCU makes perfect sense for Minnesota, which recruits a lot in Texas. Gophers coach Jerry Kill and Frogs coach Gary Patterson are very close friends.
The teams have met just once previously, in 1974, when Minnesota beat TCU in a 9-7 thriller (cough, cough).
Kudos to Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague for getting this done, and to Kill for understanding the need to beef up the schedule and give fans an appealing series to watch.
Minnesota's 2014 and 2015 non-league schedules are complete. The Gophers play TCU (road), Eastern Illinois (home), Middle Tennessee (home), and San Jose State (home) in 2014; and TCU (home), Colorado State (road), Kent State (home), and Ohio (home) in 2015.
The Big Ten moves to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016.
Here's hoping Minnesota makes similar schedule upgrades for 2016 and beyond.