We interrupt the latest round of back-pedaling at Wisconsin to peer three years into the Big Ten future, when its conference schedule finally follows the path of other Power Five leagues.
The Big Ten’s roster of games on Saturday includes of healthy dose of attractive matchups, featuring Michigan State at Oregon, Michigan at Notre Dame and Virginia Tech at Ohio State.
But wouldn’t you like to see Iowa-Northwestern? Bad example. How about Iowa-Minnesota?
You get the idea.
As the ACC, SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12 incorporate conference games into the early-season schedule -- just a tease for fans of the fun to come in October and November -- the Big Ten stands pat. In 2017, when the nine-game conference schedule takes hold, you’ll get Ohio State and Indiana on Labor Day weekend.
Others will follow, including Rutgers-Ohio State in Week 2 of 2018.
Until then, enjoy McNeese State-Nebraska. Really, that’s an unfair criticism. Every league’s composite schedules features dud games.
And as colleague Adam Rittenberg writes, plenty of excellent nonconference action is set to soon spice up the College Football Playoff era. The Big Ten is actively involved in this fantastic trend.
I can’t help but think, though, that the league is missing an opportunity right now.
A year after Florida State introduced the nation to Jameis Winston on Labor Day with an ACC visit to Pittsburgh, Texas A&M showcased freshman QB Kenny Hill last Thursday at South Carolina. And suddenly, Hill’s a Heisman candidate.
Auburn beat Arkansas last week. Louisville announced its presence in the ACC year in the league’s traditional first-Monday-of-September spot with a win over Miami. Stanford-USC, one of the Pac-12 marquee’s games, gets early-season placement on Saturday.
Kansas State visits Iowa State this week and Ole Miss plays at Vanderbilt.
Next week, the Big Ten’s got Penn State at Rutgers, an anomaly because it was scheduled before the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten. Still it counts for something alongside Louisville-Virginia, Arizona State-Colorado, Georgia-South Carolina and Florida-Kentucky.
What does Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz think about early league games?
“I really don’t have much reaction to that,” he said. “For us, it’s about playing whoever’s on our schedule, going out and playing to the best of our ability and improving each week. Typically, the good teams that we’ve had have been better in November than they were in September.”
Such logic, it seems, would also discourage the scheduling of elite nonconference foes. College football is headed in a different direction. Good teams are playing good teams in early September, even within their own leagues.
And in just three years, they’ll do it in the Big Ten, too.
Let’s go around the league . . .
Statistically speaking, Indiana is a complete team after its season-opening victory over Indiana State.
Four key offensive players hurt in Michigan State’s opener are expected to be ready on Saturday for Oregon.
Defining Iowa’s offense is no easy thing.
Someone is not a fan of Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald.
Illinois finds itself on the wrong end of these lists.
And finally, James Franklin can’t make a wrong move these days. Remember the volcano in Iceland that threatened the Nittany Lions’ transatlantic travel to face Central Florida in Ireland? Within hours after Penn State returned home with a win in Franklin’s debut, it erupted.