What the Deuce: What the Deuce Took You So Long?!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What the Deuce Took You So Long?!

On December 2nd the Presidents of the Big Ten Universities approved extending the conference's football schedule by one week, ensuring that teams will be playing on the weekend after Thanksgiving. The change will take place in 2009 and presumably put Big Ten teams on equal footing with teams from the other major conferences.

First, extending the schedule by a week assures that any Big Ten team with National Championship hopes will not be "out of sight, out of mind" like Michigan during the 2006 season. Quick reminder: After losing to Ohio State, most of media and fans, me included, believed that Michigan was still the second best team in the country and deserved to play in the National Championship game, rematch be damned. Benefiting from playing 2 games after Michigan had completed its season,
Florida was able to convince voters it was the second best team in the country. Michigan had its hands tied, could only watch from the sidelines, leaving the voters with a memory of a loss. Arguably, had Michigan had the opportunity to play another game, the Wolverines may have been able to maintain the #2 ranking and a berth in the National Championship game.

Oddly enough, this year Ohio State benefited from not playing after Thanksgiving. During the two weeks after the Big Ten season ended, LSU lost to Arkansas at home, West Virginia lost to Pittsburgh at home, and Mizzou lost to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game. With the shakeup, Ohio State was able to move up to #2, securing a trip to New Orleans.

In the long run, the added week should help Big Ten teams, like it helped Florida last year and LSU this year. Remember, LSU was able to regain the #1 ranking even though it suffered a late season loss. A win in the SEC Championship Game coupled with other teams losing propelled LSU to the top spot. Although LSU needed other teams to lose, it had the opportunity to make one last argument and leave the voters with a good impression rather than an OT loss to an underdog Arkansas team at Death Valley. Yes, ultimately LSU needed to win its last game but at least it had the opportunity to do so unlike Michigan last year.

The second problem solved by adding an extra week directly targets rest. After the NCAA approved a 12 game regular season, Big Ten teams were forced to play an entire season without a bye. No time to rest and recover during the season. No time just to stay at home for one week and do nothing. Any Michigan fan will tell you that he is in favor of the change after the midseason injuries to Chad Henne and Mike Hart. Although the bye would not have allowed either to completely heal, it would have lessened the impact of their injuries. Who knows what would have happened against Ohio State if Henne and Hart had a week to rest sometime before the game.

It took long enough for the Presidents to approve the change, but its a signal that the Big Ten is slowly plodding into the 21st century of college football. Hopefully, more positive changes like this are to come.


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