There has been a lot of news about the future of the Big Ten lately, starting with the fact that the conference schedule will be expanding. We also know that once Maryland and Rutgers join the divisions are going to realign geographically, which is awesome for Illinois.
The latest news, however, is awesome for all college football fans, but maybe not football coaches. According to Barry Alvarez Big Ten football schedules will be missing something in the near future: FCS cupcakes.
"The nonconference schedule in our league is ridiculous," Alvarez said during his monthly radio show on Madison's WIBA-AM. "It's not very appealing ...
"So we've made an agreement that our future games will all be Division I schools. It will not be FCS schools."
Now, it's important to point out that this has not been approved by the Big Ten itself. There is no new rule in place barring Big Ten schools from playing FCS schools. Instead it's more of a gentlemen's agreement.
It's not a surprising development, either. You might think that having the conference schedule expand to nine or ten games would lead to teams finding easier non-conference opponents, and if the entire landscape of college football wasn't changing, that would likely be the case. However, in the coming age of a four-team playoff, in which a selection committee just like the one in basketball will be choosing the participants, it's better to play major programs.
If Ohio State and Oregon are both 11-1 and in the running for that fourth spot in the playoff, a theoretical Oregon win over Fresno State will be more impressive than Ohio State's theoretical win over North Dakota State.
As for what this means for Illinois, well, we're no stranger to scheduling FCS opponents. The last time the Illini went an entire season without playing an FCS school was in 2005.
In 2013 we'll play Southern Illinois, in 2014 we're scheduled to play Youngstown State and in 2015 we have Western Illinois. Whether these games will be cancelled or not, I can't say for sure. I'd say the 2014 and 2015 games are in jeopardy with the changes to the Big Ten schedule, but that will be more because of extra Big Ten games than this new agreement.