Are Neutral-Site Games in Big Ten Country a Way to Level Playing Field with SEC?
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
What was perhaps the worst-kept secret of all time became a reality on Friday afternoon, as LSU vs. Wisconsin was announced for 2016 at Lambeau Field—and with it the Badgers became one of a select few Big Ten teams to host an SEC school in the footprint of the Big Ten for the foreseeable future.
For the Badgers, it will be the last of three straight season openers against SEC competition, and all three of those games are neutral-site games.
It all starts with a trip to Houston in 2014 against LSU and a trip to Arlington, Texas for a game with Alabama in 2015.
However, on the macro level it got me to thinking about what it could mean for the Big Ten in the future, especially with the lack of big-named SEC schools wandering north of the Mason-Dixon line over the next seven years or so.
Sure, there are a few home-and-home series on the docket over the next seven years, but does Michigan vs. Arkansas or Purdue vs. Missouri really get the blood flowing? Will the neutral fan really care about those games?
Looking into the future, there is but one potentially blockbuster matchup between the two powerhouse conferences (outside of the three Badger games), when Nebraska and Tennessee tussle twice.
However, the problem with that matchup is that both programs aren't exactly at the top of their games right now, and in reality, do we really think both of these two are going to be awesome when 2016 and 2017 come around?
Some of the issues in scheduling have been the SEC's uncertainty over its schedule and the Big Ten's long-standing relationship with the Pac-12.
As for the SEC, the main question seems to be whether or not to go to nine games like the Big Ten or stay at eight like it plays now.
That very issue already cost a home-and-home between Michigan State and Alabama.
But LSU had no problem taking a chance on this setup with the Badgers, and that's because a neutral-site game can offer a potential payday (rumored to be around $3 million for each "home" team in these games) that would offset any chances for a loss of a home game.
Could Neutral-Site Games be the Answer to Get SEC Teams to Come North?
It got me to thinking of some potential matchups that would please a whole lot of fans and get the neutral fan interested at the same time.
Who wouldn't love to see Ohio State taking on Florida in Cleveland or Cincinnati in exchange for a game in Orlando or Atlanta?
Why couldn't we see Texas A&M vs. Penn State in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh in exchange for a game at the Cotton Bowl or Reliant Stadium in Houston?
In a perfect world, there would be no need to play these games anywhere but at some of the best venues college football has to offer, but that's not the reality we are living in for the most part.
The point is, with money driving just about every decision in college football, perhaps the best and easiest way to get some bigger matchups to happen in Big Ten country could be to make SEC teams an offer they couldn't refuse.
Guaranteeing a $3 million payday sure would be close to that for just about every SEC school out there, and it may be the perfect way to level the playing field against a conference that has had home-field advantage over the Big Ten for decades now.
So while most SEC schools are content staying south for the fall, the Badgers' out-of-the-box thinking could serve as a blueprint to get top-notch SEC schools to come north.
*Andy Coppens is the Big Ten Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter: @andycoppens.
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