Noffke got me thinking recently about how messed up major college football scheduling has become. The Big Six conference teams try to schedule mostly puff cakes who will come play in their stadiums without requiring a home-and-home series.
It's a shame, because I think that as a college football fan the best games to watch are those random major conference matchups early in the season.
I have to give a lot of credit to Indiana University here for agreeing to a home-and-home with Virginia of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which starts this season. Hoosiers-Cavaliers isn't exactly a glorious matchup, but it should at least be more interesting than other early season games against the likes of Western Kentucky (ranked last by Athlon among FBS teams) or William and Mary for UVA (didn't my high school play them?).
So here's my solution. In college basketball, which already has a much better end of season setup than football, one popular scheduling idea over the last decade or so has been the conference 'Challenges,' most notably the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Granted, this series has not gone very well for the Midwesterners—only Michigan State has a winning record.
But take a look at the matchups we'd get if we brought the inter-conference challenge to football! Hey. It works for Major League Baseball and gets butts in seats. Cubs-Sox are six of the best (and most watched!) games of the season in Chicago. Why wouldn't interleague work just as well for college football?
Here's how the matchups would shake out for this coming year, roughly based on last year's records. Best plays best, Duke is out because they finished last in the ACC.
1. Virginia Tech vs. Penn State
A great matchup of perennial contenders and great coaches in Joe Paterno and Frank Beamer.
2. Ohio State vs. Georgia Tech
Up-and-coming program in GT gets the Big Ten's best team, according to preseason rankings.
3. Florida State vs. Michigan State
Both teams are expected to compete this year.
4. Northwestern vs. Boston College
Excellent academics, solid football teams. BC lost a lot (coach, star defensive tackle, star linebacker) in the offseason. NU looks much improved on defense since changing coordinators, but lost most of its veteran offensive skill position players.
5. North Carolina vs. Iowa
Another great coaching matchup featuring Kirk Ferentz of Iowa against Butch Davis of UNC.
6. Wisconsin vs. Clemson
It's like a late-December bowl, only you can afford the tickets and tailgate at a great stadium, whoever the home team happens to be. Death Valley and Camp Randall are both awesome facilities.
7. Maryland vs. Minnesota
8. Illinois vs. Wake Forest
Wake is a much better opponent than either Illinois State or Fresno State, both of whom are on the Illini's schedule this season. Not that that's saying much.
9. Purdue vs. Miami (FL)
Randy Shannon is on the hot seat, while Purdue is starting their first season without Joe "Orville Redenbacher" Tiller on the sidelines.
10. Michigan vs. NC State
The Wolfpack was decent last season, and Michigan has to be better in Rich Rodriguez's second season.
11. Indiana vs. Virginia
This matchup is actually happening, as they start a home and home this year.