Yes, we already talked about the Big Ten today. But we’re doing it again because this is the offsesaon.
This week, Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos hinted at Big Ten schools making College Football Playoff qualification a little easier in 2022. The league recently upgraded its conference schedule to nine games, matching the Big 12 and Pac-12. As you probably know, the ACC and SEC still have eight, and perhaps not coincidentally, those are also the only two conferences to make every College Football Playoff so far.
Playing eight doesn’t mean they’re scheduling four cupcakes either. Both conferences have requirements to play at least one fellow Power Five school each year — an obligation made even easier for the ACC schools given the Notre Dame arrangement (five games per year on average) and the annual series Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Louisville have with their respective in-state SEC rivals each season.
A Big Ten move has not been confirmed as of yet, but you can bet the Pac-12 follows suit to help their own cause. This doesn’t directly affect the Syracuse Orange right now. However, the extra P5 openings in 2022 could make for some future scheduling opportunities for SU.
This is not to say I’m in favor of adding P5 schools if we don’t have to -- I think I’ve made that very clear around here. But if Army doesn’t count (and we still aren’t certain if they do), Syracuse has openings to fill in 2023, 2024, 2027 and 2028 in the most immediate-term. Given the Orange’s proximity (and some could claim similarity) to Big Ten country, it only makes sense that we’d pick from that general area. Maryland is already on the schedule for 2019, and we see Rutgers in both 2020 and 2021. We’ve also had quite a few series with B1G foes like Northwestern, Minnesota, Penn State, Illinois and Iowa in the last decade or so (plus the Wisconsin series that got called off).
So if we’re looking at this solely from the standpoint of fulfilling a scheduling obligation, who are our newfound options for the years where we need another P5? (again, assuming the Big Ten is actually dropping back down to eight games a year)
Indiana, Penn State, Wisconsin
Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers, Wisconsin
Given the fact that 2028’s a decade away, it makes sense there are so many openings there already. Seeing 2024 largely accounted for on all 14 Big Ten schedules though should give us some worry.
I’ll note that every one of these teams will technically have openings in each of these years since there’s one more game for each to schedule. But for our purposes here — and the purposes of the league not over-scheduling itself -- I avoided listing any school that already has a P5 locked into any of these four years (or in the case of Iowa, likely does with ISU, even if it’s not set in stone yet). They could very well add a second just the same, however.
The single viable option in 2023 and nothing in 2024 (again, assuming Army doesn’t count) is tough to stomach just five years away when the list of potential foes has already dwindled all over the power conferences. Syracuse has done a nice job fixing the near-term issues around scheduling with 2018 and 2019 locked up and 2021 already with three of four. But further out, and without taking the (ACC-controlled) Notre Dame series into account, schedules are largely barren again in a couple years.
If I’m forced to pick from a Big Ten school — and history tells us that’s probably the case since LSU is the only non-B1G/Notre Dame P5 we’ve scheduled since joining the ACC -- Indiana is your best option for 2027 and 2028. The 2023 season gives us Michigan State or convincing another B1G team to double up on P5s (there’s potential here). Same goes for 2024, where everyone there already has one, but could be willing to accept another P5 as part of a home-and-home.
Assuming there’s a blank canvas, giving me Indiana, Rutgers, Purdue, Northwestern as the first four options, and then Illinois and Maryland as fallbacks if necessary (and really, avoid the Terps given the recruiting roll they’ve been on these past few cycles).
Would you all just rather play Ohio State and Michigan home-and-home every year and see how long it took us to win one? Share your own scheduling takes below.