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Report: Big Ten allows independents, AAC teams to fill Power 5 requirement

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The Big Ten conference will allow its schools to schedule games against independents and American Athletic Conference teams to fill the one non-conference Power 5 conference game per season next season, reports ESPN's Brett McMurphy.

Next season, the Big Ten will require its league members to play at least one conference Power 5 team. It joins the SEC and ACC as the only Power 5 leagues that require their league members to play at least one conference Power 5 opponent, according to McMurphy. The ACC requirement starts in 2016; SEC in 2017.

The Pac-12 and Big 12 do not have a requirement about non-conference schedules, yet.

The Big Ten will allow games against independents Notre Dame, BYU and Army, as well as against teams like Cincinnati, Connecticut and Navy, to count toward the requirement.

Schedules have been in place before this rule was established. Illinois currently has North Carolina (ACC) has their only Power 5 conference opponent until a home-and-home series against Virginia kicks off in 2021. The Illini have South Florida (2017-18) and Connecticut (2019-20) scheduled, while Mid-American Conference and Conference USA teams fill out their conference schedule. There are two open dates for the 2019 and 2020 schedule.

McMurphy's report also includes that teams can ask for exemptions to the Power 5 requirement and the Big Ten can grant them depending on recent RPI rankings. So, if a non-Power 5 team has been as good as most Power 5 teams during the past few seasons, that team could qualify for the Power 5 requirement.

Illinois will likely ask for an exemption for the 2017-18 seasons.