Big Ten on verge of making good choices

Four changes coming, all of them good

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Big Ten football is all over the place lately, trying to both move ahead and catch up.

1. Dropping FCS teams from future Big Ten schedules would be a good move. No other BCS conference has made such a move. They should. Teams from BCS conferences should not be playing FCS teams.

Last season, eight Big Ten teams played FCS foes. The Big Ten won all eight, outscoring the opponents by a total of 324-81. Northern Iowa, by the way, was one of just two competitive FCS teams in those games, losing at Wisconsin by 26-21 and at Iowa by 27-16. Maybe the Big Ten should have a UNI exemption.

ďThe nonconference schedule in our league is ridiculous,Ē said Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez, who leaked the story to a Madison radio station.

Which is interesting, since Wisconsin will mark its eighth-straight season of playing an FCS team this September when it welcomes Tennessee Tech. Who will ever forget where they were when the Badgers beat Austin Peay 70-3 in 2010?

The question is, will Big Ten teams just schedule more from the Mid-American Conference or Sun Belt or will it try to square off against more programs their own sizes? Which is tied into ...

2. Going to a 9-game conference schedule, or even 10. Well, letís say nine. No way will it be 10.

Iíd offer congratulations on the league stepping up and doing the right thing, but all these decisions are based on whether itís best for cash-flow. However, playing more conference games is a good thing.

The Big 12 and Pac-12 have 9-game league schedules. It works fine, although itís more bruising than playing one game less within the league and handpicking a nonconference pushover.

Of course, once the league does go to nine conference games, the nonconference schedules will be a MAC-fest.

The only way the Big Ten makes this work fairly, though, is to have each team in one division play five home games and four away, and have each team in the other division do the opposite. Speaking of divisions ...

3. Finally, an East-West split appears to be on the horizon. The Legends and Leaders, divided-geographic concept was a fun little experiment. Now it must go away.

The Big Ten pretends to have a deaf ear to criticism, but has finally listened to the drumbeats. There will be a geographic split. Or the next best thing, since Alvarez said Michigan State wants to be in the West.

The rest of the West, one could assume, would consist of Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern and ... Illinois? If so, Iowa could play Wisconsin and Illinois every season. What a concept. Much like ...

4. Playing night games in November. The Big Ten has had an unwritten rule that it doesnít do this. Other conferences do, and they get the same-sized crowds as they have for day games, as well as those cherished television slots in prime-time.

Until 2011, the Big Ten ceded the weekend after Thanksgiving to everyone else, and went out of sight, out of mind nationally. Plus, its teams had one more week of rust at bowl games.

The league is a slow-learner sometimes, but it eventually comes around. 

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