Back in November I mentioned that we sure were scheduling a lot of Big Ten teams these days for football. In recent years we've played Iowa, Illinois, Northwestern and Penn State. This year however we kick things up a notch when we play three Big Ten teams in one go (Minnesota, Northwestern & Penn State).
That's three-fifths of our out-of-conference schedule for you English majors out there. It seems weird, right? Well it should. It's the first time a BCS Conference team is scheduling three teams from another BCS Confernece since 1980, Notre Dame not withstanding.
Big Ten teams make up three-fifths of Syracuse's non-league rundown, as the Orange host Minnesota and Northwestern and travel to Penn State. In an era when BCS teams rarely play more than two non-league games against foes from other BCS conferences, Syracuse's scheduling approach is rare.
I checked the schedules of several common Big Ten nonconference opponents from BCS leagues -- Syracuse, Iowa State, Pitt, UCLA, USC -- and found that UCLA faced Purdue, Wisconsin and Ohio State in consecutive weeks during the 1980 season. UCLA's run through the Big Ten nearly three decades ago appears to be the last time that this has happened.
Imagine if you will Syracuse making a bowl game this year and playing a Big Ten team there as well. That's be four games against Big Ten teams, more than half of the amount of times they'll play a Big East squad.
Ball State also did a similar thing in 2006, but as a Mid-Major, that's a different story. So what's the deal? Is this all just a coincidence based on renewed rivalries, favorable schedules and geography? Or is Syracuse slyly auditioning for the Big Ten as conspiracy theorists would attest?
It's not entirely unheardof. Syracuse would have gladly jumped to the ACC when the Great Pilfering Of 2003 went down. And Syracuse has been mentioned often in the Big Ten shortlist for expansion. There's a lot of money on the line for the Big Ten to grow and start playing a championship game, it's probably going to happen sooner or later.
If you ask me, I think it's probably just coincidental. We've been dying to get Penn State back on the schedule for years, Northwestern has been on the schedule for a while now and Minnesota was a recent addition likely based on availability. That said, I'm sure it has occurred to the good DOCTOR that if and when the Big Ten comes calling, for better or worse, Syracuse is top of mind.