Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.
Last week, the Pac-12 and Big Ten announced that their scheduling agreement would not happen. So today's Take Two topic is this: What should the Big Ten do now as far as future scheduling policies?
Take 1: Brian Bennett
First, let's have a moment of silence for the Big Ten/Pac-12 series, which was born in December and died in July. Total number of games played: zero. While the idea of an annual series between the two leagues was intriguing and entertaining, I always wondered about the practicality of it. Turns out that some Pac-12 schools weren't thrilled about bashing their head in with nine conference games, plus a Big Ten opponent (and for some, Notre Dame) every single year. So now there will be renewed calls for the Big Ten to go to nine league games, a concept that -- like the Pac-12/Big Ten series -- was initially agreed upon and then summarily dismissed. I don't think a nine-game conference schedule is a good idea, at least not now. Yes, I love the idea of more conference games and more important Saturdays in the fall. But if other conferences like the SEC are only going to play eight-game schedules, playing nine league games will only put the Big Ten at a competitive disadvantage. Unless the new playoff format places an enormous reward on strength of schedule, then it's not worth it. Maybe the Big Ten should explore another partnership, this time with the ACC. The two conferences already have the Big Ten/ACC challenge in basketball and have much in common. While not every matchup would be a marquee one, such an alliance would still bring opponents like Florida State, Miami, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Pitt to Big Ten towns, along with giving Big Ten schools more exposure in recruiting rich areas. If the ACC isn't on board with such a plan, then the Big Ten should simply encourage its schools to try and schedule high-profile nonconference opponents as frequently as possible.
Take 2: Adam Rittenberg
Interesting idea about a Big Ten-ACC partnership, Brian. It definitely has worked well in basketball, although ACC football is incredibly meh. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is big on partnerships with other leagues, but he definitely doesn't want to get burned again. Don't be surprised if the Big Ten ADs bring back nine-game league schedules, as they were planning to before the Pac-12 alliance came about. But that would be the wrong move, despite some benefits (season-ticket sales). The ideal model in my mind -- brace yourselves -- is what the SEC does. Play eight conference games and spread them out a little more, having some league matchups in September rather than after all the nonleague games are played. Yes, this creates a few weak matchups in early November, but those can be overshadowed by the better games elsewhere, and it gives certain teams a breather before the stretch run. A schedule with nine league games and two or three tough nonleague games makes it incredibly difficult to qualify for a four-team playoff, which is what it's all about beginning in 2014. The Pac-12 hasn't benefited from the nine-game schedule, particularly when you factor in some of the tough nonleague games teams like USC and Oregon play. If the Pac-12 had an eight-game league schedule like the Big Ten, the scheduling alliance would have worked. The Big Ten's best approach is to keep eight league games, challenge itself with at least one tough nonleague game out of conference, and also start playing league games earlier in the season. A September Saturday with 1-2 Big Ten games would be very exciting. While I like to take shots at the SEC when warranted, they've got the schedule element down. The Big Ten needs to follow it.