On Wednesday afternoon, Ohio State announced that it was setting a two-game series with Texas for the 2022 and 2023 seasons. The series will kick off at Texas on the third week of the 2022 season, then come to Columbus the following year, also in the third week of the year.
The two teams met in the 2005 and 2006 non-conference seasons, plus in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl. And make no mistake: This is a big deal. Texas is arguably the most high-profile football program in the nation with its massive fanbase and visibility. Ohio State's right up there, too. The ratings on these games will be enormous—and they should be pretty good games to boot.
It's a major step forward for the Buckeyes in terms of beefing up schedule strength. Granted, the games don't start for another 10 years, but in the intervening decade Ohio State has games set up against the likes of Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and TCU (among others).
That's a good start—and with the Big Ten now effectively mandating two BCS-level non-conference games, there are more announcements to come. But even more than being a good start, it's the best that anyone in the Big Ten has done in locking up premium non-conference opponents up to this point.
Here's a look at the big names everyone in the Big Ten has locked in for future dates at this point (the team names are linked to their future schedule pages):
Illinois: Washington (2013-14)
Indiana: Missouri (2013-14), Wake Forest (2015-16)
Iowa: Pitt (2014-15), ongoing series with Iowa State
Michigan: Notre Dame (2013-14), Utah (2014-15), Oregon State (2015)
Michigan State: Oregon (2014-15), Alabama (2016-17), Notre Dame (2016-19), Miami (2020-21), Boise State (2022-23)
Minnesota: UNC (2013-14), Oregon State (2017-18)
Nebraska: UCLA (2013), Miami (2014-15), BYU (2015), Tennessee (2016-17)
Northwestern: Syracuse (2013), California (2013-14), Vanderbilt (2013-14), Notre Dame (2014), Stanford (2015-16, 2019-22)
Ohio State: Vanderbilt (2013), California (2013), Cincinnati (2014, 2018), Virginia Tech (2013-14), North Carolina (2015, 2017), Oklahoma (2016-17), TCU (2018-19), Texas (2022-23)
Penn State: Pitt (2016-17), Syracuse (2020-21)
Purdue: Notre Dame (2013-21)
Wisconsin: Arizona State (2013), BYU (2013), Washington State (2014-15), Virginia Tech (2016-17), Washington (2018-19)
We'll give Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota a break since those teams aren't going to need strength of schedule as much as they'll need easy wins for the foreseeable future; likewise, Penn State's not a postseason participant for the next few years so it can and should take it easy until 2017 or so.
Past that, Michigan State has scheduled very aggressively in terms of top-flight opponents, but the rest of their schedules are mainly directional Michigan schools and other dreck, which won't thrill Jim Delany.
And speaking of in-state albatrosses, Iowa's rivalry with Iowa State puts the Hawkeyes in an awkward spot when it comes to trying to balance schedule strength with home games (see: revenue). Of course, Iowa needs to start winning again for that to even matter.
Also, you see Northwestern continuing its pattern of "hey, this counts as a BCS opponent," which isn't nearly as impressive as anyone in Evanston would like. Technicalities don't get the blood pumping, guys.
You've got to admit: It's exciting to watch the future non-conference opponents roll in with the new emphasis on schedule strength, even if it'll be 10 years before some of them come to fruition. And the best part is that even Ohio State, with 14 BCS-level games scheduled for the next 11 years, has a lot of improvement still to go. Michigan's not going to be left flat-footed in the scheduling rush for much longer either—especially with Notre Dame's departure opening up prime spot in 2015 and beyond.
So how do you feel about your team's non-conference scheduling so far? Who would you like to see on your team's docket in the future? Do you like this trend or do you want the usual three guaranteed wins of the current era? Let us know in the comments.