Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Nebraska's 2011 Schedule Is "Made For TV"

Here's the question for Husker fans... did the Big Ten conference set the 2011 conference schedule, or did ESPN do it? My goodness, but the Huskers got set up with every heavyweight that the Big Ten conference has to offer.  Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, and Iowa in one season? This is somewhat akin to what happens to Iowa State two out of every four years, where they have to play both Oklahoma AND Texas in the same season.

Let's compare the original Big XII schedule and the revised Big Ten schedules for 2011.
Big XII 2011 ScheduleBig Ten 2011 ScheduleAdvantage
Kansas Stateat WisconsinBig Ten
at TexasOhio StatePush
Oklahoma Stateat MinnesotaBig XII
at MissouriMichigan StateBig XII
Iowa StateNorthwesternBig Ten
at Kansasat Penn StateBig Ten
Texas A&Mat MichiganPush for now
at ColoradoIowaBig Ten
I see the Texas/Ohio State swap as essentially a wash, though the Texas game would have been in Austin. Both squads have competed for a national championship in recent years, though admittedly Ohio State didn't deserve to be there in 2008.Maybe that should be a slight edge in strength to the Big XII.  Swapping Wisconsin for Kansas State is clearly a major increase in schedule strength. Oklahoma State and Missouri are clearly stronger programs than Minnesota and Michigan State, so those two are the main advantages of the Big XII schedule.  Penn State is clearly a stronger program than Kansas in football, so that's a huge increase in schedule strength. Iowa/Colorado is not even a fair comparison.  A&M/Michigan is one of those comparisons that's tough to make; neither school is playing all that well right now, but each is hoping. Historically, Michigan is a much tougher team than Texas A&M.

Another way of looking at it is that Nebraska's Big Ten schedule has four teams in the AP Top 20 this season, compared to only one Top 20 team on the old Big XII schedule.  With that in mind, plus non-conference games against Washington, Fresno State, and Wyoming, nobody will criticize if the Huskers schedule a 1-AA team to come to Lincoln for Labor Day weekend.

One thing is clear to me is that the Big Ten wanted to match Nebraska up against the big names of the Big Ten for television early on, if only to improve their bargaining position as they renegotiate the contract with ABC/ESPN.  You have to figure that at least half of Nebraska's games are likely to be televised on ABC next season (Washington, at Wisconsin, Ohio State [ABC PrimeTime], at Penn State, at Michigan, Iowa).

You might think that Nebraska's schedule would ease up in 2013 when Ohio State and Wisconsin drop off, replaced by Purdue, Illinois, or Indiana...except that further Big Ten expansion is likely. (Maybe Missouri gets invited when the Big XII inevitably collapses.)  So it could be a while before we see the Hoosiers in Lincoln for a football game, and that's why this schedule was set.  Get these new marquee matchups on TV now, rather than take a chance that these matchups might be further delayed down the line.

1 comment:

Husker Mike said...

The flip on the 2011 schedule is that 2012 home schedule: Southern Miss, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Penn State.

Oh, and the potential return of Kevin Cosgrove to Lincoln with Minnesota... :-)