Scheduling tweaks coming for 2016, beyond

It's only a matter of time before the Big Ten announces a move to a nine-game conference schedule starting in the 2016 season.

The official green light will allow athletic directors -- if they haven't done so already -- to begin crafting non-league schedules for 2016 and beyond. Games against FCS opponents are gradually going away, and nonconference schedules appear to be improving around the league, but ADs still have to secure enough home games to meet budgets and find the right balance with quality opponents.

Four Big Ten teams also will have to drop or reschedule games in 2016 as the league transitions to schedules that feature three non-league contests rather than four.

  • Minnesota's 2016 schedule already includes games against New Mexico State (home), Indiana State (home), Miami University (road) and Colorado State (home)

  • Nebraska's 2016 slate includes games against Fresno State (home), Tennessee (home), Wyoming (home) and Northern Illinois (in Chicago)

  • Northwestern's 2016 schedule includes games with Western Michigan (home), Illinois State (home), Duke (home) and Stanford (road)

  • Ohio State's 2016 schedule includes games against Bowling Green (home), Tulsa (home), Oklahoma (road) and Central Michigan (home).

Future Big Ten member Maryland also reportedly has four non-league games set for 2016: Florida International, Howard, UCF and West Virginia.

One easy solution for Minnesota, Northwestern and Maryland is to drop the FCS game on their schedules, although nothing is easy when it comes to scheduling contracts. It'll be interesting to see how Nebraska proceeds as the Huskers appear to have a solid 2016 slate.

Several other Big Ten programs have three non-league games set for 2016, but they crafted those schedules with an 8-4 model (eight league games, four non-league games) in mind. Purdue plays a potentially daunting non-league slate with Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Nevada on the docket.

Will there be tweaks around the league? Most likely.

Non-league scheduling eventually will get easier as ADs will be filling out fewer spots, but they have plenty of work to do in the coming weeks and months.