On the SEC coaches conference call on Wednesday, Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema stumped for a Big Ten/SEC Challenge in football.
Bielema was initially asked about the SEC discontinuing the scheduling of FCS teams by ESPN.com’s Edward Aschoff. Before saying there were “multiple layers” to that question, Bielema offered his thoughts.
“I do know this. As a head coach, I’d love to see more uniformity across all divisions, all conferences, as much as possible, just because as we get into this playoff thing…and obviously we’re (Arkansas) not in the hunt now but hope to be soon…you try to make that as even as possible.
“I tell you a fun one to think about. There’s 14 teams in the Big Ten and 14 in the SEC. You know kind of like the basketball one where there’s a challenge, maybe have a Big Ten/SEC challenge. Let some people rank ’em in the out-of-season and let the best-of-the-best play each other. Maybe the lower ones play each other year in and year out. You just reserve a week every year, it would be kind of a fun thing.”
Bielema capped off his Big Ten/SEC Challenge plan by getting back to the original question about playing FCS teams.
“If you could just reserve that (the challenge games), that might eliminate the whole need for an FCS. Schedule three other opponents that are FBS and go.”
Bielema’s plan sounds simple enough, but there are a lot of complexities to scheduling that would make an annual Big Ten/SEC Challenge a long-shot.
First, four SEC teams already play a non-conference game against a team from the ACC annually (Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Kentucky-Louisville, and South Carolina-Clemson). Those four schools would then have two FBS teams on their non-conference slate and it would be up to the other ten to schedule an additional one.
In addition, some of those schools have already scheduled future home-and-home series against other Power Fives in addition to their ACC rivalry game (i.e. Auburn vs. Cal and Oregon, Georgia vs. Notre Dame and UCLA, LSU vs. Texas and UCLA, etc.).
Second, the Big Ten plays a nine-game conference schedule beginning in 2016. That means each team will only have four home conference games every other season. With most Power Five teams needing six or even seven home games per season for revenue, that’s just another speed bump in the process.
A Big Ten/SEC Challenge in football could also get in the way of the rising number of neutral site games and future home-and-home football series between Power Five teams.
While there is an argument that many teams need to strengthen their non-conference schedules, it doesn’t seem like a conference challenge or similar will be possible unless or until there is more uniformity in scheduling.
And with 130 FBS teams (64 Power Five), that would be a challenge in and of itself.