Big Ten Makes East/West Official; Nine Game Football Schedules Being in 2016

More Husker football in the Big House? That's what the Big Ten wants, moving forward. - Gregory Shamus

The Big Ten is planning to use "Priority Scheduling", which means more Husker games against Michigan and Ohio State and fewer against Indiana and Maryland, in all likelihood.

The Big Ten officially announced that the conference will split East and West when Maryland and Rutgers join in 2014. Purdue will be the only eastern time zone school in the West division. The splits will be easy to understand; just drop a line down the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, and that'll pretty much show you how the schools will break out.

In 2016, the conference will adopt a nine game conference football schedule, thus ensuring that each school will play all of the other schools in the conference during a typical player's four year career. The only cross-division rivalry that will remain an annual game will be the cross-state Purdue-Indiana game.

The East division schools will have five conference home games in even numbered years, while West division schools will have five conference home games in odd numbered years. That means that Nebraska will play five conference games on the road in 2016 and only four conference home games. One non-conference game will have to be rescheduled or canceled: Fresno State, Tennessee, Wyoming, or Northern Illinois. Since the Northern Illinois game is scheduled to be played in Chicago, I suspect that this is the game that won't be played in 2016. If that game is removed, Nebraska will still play the traditional seven game home schedule that season.

Nebraska has already scheduled home-and-home non-conference games for all but one season through 2024. Perhaps that Northern Illinois game gets moved from 2016 to 2020 in order to sync non-conference road games with the five game conference home schedule.

The nine-game schedule will likely change Nebraska's non-conference scheduling philosophy going forward. Unless Nebraska is willing to play less than seven home games each season, Nebraska will be playing two games each season that do not demand Nebraska to ever play away from Lincoln. I do not forsee Nebraska ever embracing the neutral site game approach because there is far more money to be made playing in Lincoln than nearly every neutral site that would be available. Television revenue will fall far short of replacing the lost ticket revenue.

If the new College Football Playoff makes strength of schedule important enough to encourage more high quality non-conference opponents, I suspect that Nebraska would prefer home-and-home arrangements over neutral site games. If Nebraska is going to leave Lincoln to play a name opponent, it's to Nebraska's advantage to have that school return the trip and play a game in Lincoln. It's more money for Nebraska, and more money for the opponent. Perhaps it might be possible in 2020 if the Northern Illinois game is cancelled, not rescheduled.

ESPN's Adam Rittenberg talked to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney, who indicated that the league is going to implement "parity-based schedules". Teams traditionally at the top of each division's standings will play the top teams in the other division more often. So Nebraska will play Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State more often than they will play Maryland and Indiana. Combining that with the goal of each player playing a game against each opponent at least once during four years, it's clear that cross-division games will vary each year and not rotate on a two-year home-and-home arrangement.

In fact, I expect that Nebraska will probably play at least one game each year against Michigan and Ohio State. Maybe two of the three cross-division games will be between Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State. That, of course, means fewer games between Nebraska and Indiana, Maryland, and Rutgers. Not sure anybody is going to complain about that.

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