The Big Ten is already moving to a nine-game conference schedule. Logically, the next step would be jumping up to 10, and one league coach is already anticipating that change as college football moves into the playoff era.
Kirk Ferentz said he could see the Big Ten going to 10 conference games. "If we're going to nine, I don't see why not," he said
— Brian Bennett (@BennettESPN) July 31, 2014
But is that the right move for the Big Ten, particularly with a certain high-profile conference in the south stubbornly sticking at eight games? In the latest Take Two, we tackle that topic and weigh the pros and cons.
Take 1: Austin Ward
There is no downside of significance, and really there's nothing that should hold the Big Ten back from tacking on one more league game.
If the conference wants to crown a truly unquestioned champion every year in a league with 14 teams that can’t possibly face each other each season, it would be wise to at least eliminate as many scheduling discrepancies as it possibly can. There may still be inequities between teams in this model, but bumping up to four games against the opposite division is clearly an improvement in that regard and cuts down on the number of teams that a potential champion "dodged" during the year.
If the Big Ten is as serious about beefing up its strength of schedule as it appears to be recently, wouldn't cutting down on non-conference filler in September be a benefit? Maybe this is obvious, but that would guarantee another Power Five conference member on every schedule and make less room for the McNeese States and James Madisons of the world.
Aren’t athletic directors worried about declining attendance? Add another meaningful matchup, with the added benefit of ensuring the same number of home and road conference games every season.
Don't the television partners want more valuable inventory? Problem solved.
It's understandable that teams at the bottom of the league might be wary of a slightly more difficult path to bowl eligibility by removing a surefire victory from the schedule. But if that’s the only trade-off of any consequence, get ready for a little extra Big Ten football.
Take 2: Adam Rittenberg
This might appear to be an internal decision, but the Big Ten has to pay attention to the national landscape before making such a move. While I agree that more league games would be great for fans, TV partners and those of us who cover the sport, there absolutely is a potential downside.
It's all about getting into the playoff and the Big Ten, like the other four power conferences, must schedule accordingly. There are schedule discrepancies entering the playoff era: the Big 12 plays a round-robin slate but no championship game, the Pac-12 plays nine league games and a title game, the SEC and ACC are staying with eight league games, while the Big Ten is headed to nine in 2016. If the power conferences don't separate and these schedule differences remain, the Big Ten would be doing itself a disservice by increasing the number of league games.
How many Big Ten teams would get into the playoff with a 10-game league schedule if the higher-regarded SEC plays only eight conference contests? It's all about the playoff and it doesn't matter how you get there as long as you get there. That's how the Big Ten must approach scheduling.
Nine games isn't ideal and creates inequities. It's a lot easier to have an even 5-5 split. But what I don't want is 10-game league schedules without marquee nonconference matchups. I love the effect the playoff already is having on nonleague schedules. We're seeing more exciting intersectional matchups, whether they're home-and-home series or neutral-site blockbusters. With five guaranteed road games per season, Big Ten teams likely would be less inclined to schedule other major-conference foes.
So instead of a "filler" game, we might be losing games everyone wants to see.
If you can guarantee me equal schedule models across all the major conferences and more marquee nonleague games, not less, I'm OK with a 10-game league slate. I've always felt teams in a league should play one another more, not less (cough, SEC, cough). But if the Big Ten is simply making it tougher to make the playoff, stick with nine league games.