Alabama Canceling Series with Michigan State Means Big Ten Can't Prove Itself

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Alabama Canceling Series with Michigan State Means Big Ten Can't Prove Itself
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Alabama and the Big Ten were supposed to become familiar with each other in the next few years, but as of Thursday that no longer will be the case. 

The Crimson Tide have backed out of a scheduled home-and-home series with Nick Saban's old coaching home, Michigan State, for the 2016-17 seasons. 

Alabama canceled the series, citing "scheduling uncertainty" in the SEC's future, according to an article by Joe Rexrode of the Detroit Free Press.

It's a shame, because the series featured a true home-and-home and would've been a rare visit by an SEC school to Big Ten country since the addition of Penn State to the conference in 1993. 

But let's not shed a tear for the Spartans, as they've got plenty to worry about on their future schedules, including a two-game series with Oregon in 2014-15 and a two-game series with Miami (FL) in 2020-21—and that doesn't even include the regularly scheduled games with Notre Dame in the years those two series aren't going on. 

However, that type of schedule and the home-and-home nature of those series aren't the norm regarding the SEC.

Outside of a semiregular rivalry-type matchup between Kentucky and Indiana that was played for 12 years running from 1993-2005, there have been just six matchups between the two conferences since Penn State joined in 1993. (And, no, we aren't counting Illinois vs. Missouri because the Tigers were never an SEC school while that series was played.)

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Of those matchups, there have been just three marquee games—the Penn State vs. Alabama series and the neutral-site game between Bama and Michigan in 2012. Notice that Alabama was the only marquee SEC name to venture north.

Cancellation of the Bama vs. Spartans series doesn't just mean missing a potentially good matchup for two years in a row; it also means the Big Ten is once again relegated to playing neutral-site games to even get a shot at the big boys of the SEC.

The Big Ten is always behind the eight ball in these situations because of all the bowl matchups and neutral-site games that take place south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Getting a major SEC school out of their comfort zone in the regular season is a massive deal for the Big Ten, not only because it's a rarity, but also because it's the only chance to have a game in their favor.

Only a Wisconsin vs. LSU neutral-site game at Lambeau Field in 2016 stands a chance to get the big boys from down south to come up north for a change. 

According to FBSchedules.com, there are just eight matchups between the SEC and Big Ten scheduled out to 2021, with just three of those being matchups between top-level teams as of today.

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Those three games all involve the Wisconsin Badgers, and all three are neutral-site games. The Badgers face off with LSU as mentioned above and take on Alabama in Arlington, Texas, in 2015 as well.

Now, if the programs involved in two of the other matchups (Arkansas vs. Michigan in 2018-19 and Tennessee vs. Nebraska in 2016-17) can be top-level teams at the time of those matchups, you are looking at some blockbuster games. 

However, potential down the road does not a marquee matchup make in the here and now.

As the SEC figures out its scheduling future, it will be very interesting to watch and see just how frequent or infrequent these matchups become.

For today, however, losing the Alabama-Michigan State matchup doesn't help the standing of the Big Ten at all. 

 

Andy Coppens is the Big Ten Lead Writer here at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for coverage.

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