As we inch closer to the start of the College Football season, it generally means one thing and one thing only in Big Ten country: guaranteed Big Ten vs. MAC matchups.
Doesn't that just get your blood pumping and excited for the season to start?
No? Me neither, and it points out a fact that most Big Ten teams won't admit. It's time for the Big Ten to stop feasting on MAC opponents to open the season like it's an all-you-can-eat buffet and start replacing it with more steak and caviar type matchups.
Of course there's nothing that can be done in the near term, as most schedules are locked in up until 2016 when the Big Ten goes to nine conference games and there are less opportunities to pad schedules out of conference to stay competitive on the national scale.
Thankfully, some schools are starting to realize the weakness of their opening schedules and, beginning in 2016, we are likely to see a massive increase in better games. But this is 2013 and, in the here and now, fans of Big Ten teams can expect the annual feast on MAC teams to continue.
Five teams face MAC opponents this weekend as Iowa hosts Northern Illinois, Ohio State takes on Buffalo, Central Michigan visits Michigan, Western Michigan goes to Michigan State and UMass visits Wisconsin.
That's a pathetic excuse for opening day games right there. The only real intriguing matchup happens to be Iowa vs. Northern Illinois and that's thanks to the Huskies' trip to the Orange Bowl last season more than anything Iowa brings to the game.
Over the summer, we heard a lot of lip service about the Big Ten wanting to up its strength of schedule for the new college football playoff, but only time will tell if words match actions on the whole as a conference.
One thing that is immediately true is that despite the increase in competition with names like Oregon, Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma and TCU on conference teams' schedules, virtually none of these games come on opening weekend.
If looking forward is bleak, you should try looking back. That picture is more gloomy to the hopes of changing things up.
Over the past decade of action, the Big Ten took on 40 foes from the MAC from 2003 to 2012, going an impressive, yet uninspiring 36-4, as a conference against their Midwestern neighbors. Only one of those opening weekend games came against a ranked MAC opponent and it was a Purdue loss back in 2003.
In total the Big Ten has taken on the MAC more than any other conference or group of opponents to open the season and it's not even close. FCS foes have been the sacrificial lambs just 29 times to come in second, while matchups against fellow BCS conference schools have happened just 25 times.
Lets put it another way. Big Ten teams have taken on fellow BCS conference schools just 20.8 percent of the time in the past decade.
That's exactly what needs to change. Why not open the season more often with a game that will grab fan interest right away and put your conference in the spot light instead of on the back burner while everyone else is at the party? Is it too much to ask that they play closer to 35 or 40 percent against fellow BCS conference schools?
I'm not suggesting that every school go out there and find a BCS school to schedule week one of the season, that's simply unrealistic given the differing nature of what teams across the conference need in their scheduling, along with realistic expectations of a limited amount of available dates for these games to happen in.
However, it sure wouldn't hurt for the likes of Wisconsin vs. LSU, or Alabama vs. Penn State to be more of the norm, rather than a special treat for Big Ten fans. In fact, one could say the Big Ten could really take a lesson from the Bayou Bengals in how to set the tone for a season.
While those are nice dreams it's also time to face a cold, hard fact. That fact? Big Ten vs. MAC games are never going away. The geographic footprints of the conferences overlap way too much for those games to not take place.
But, what should be taking place is making sure the match ups that do happen opening week are good ones and not just space fillers on the schedule as often as possible.
The fans, the student sections, television audiences and most importantly these days, the athletic department coffers, would all be thankful for some changes on opening weekend in the future.