In a stunning development, the Big Ten (actually the Big Eleven, probably soon to be called the Big Twelve or Big Fourteen, and Big Sixteen is even a possibility) has decided “hey, let’s play some games in December!” Why not? Everyone else is doing it.
Although there’s usually a huge gap between the last game of the regular season or conference championship game and a BCS contest for those teams that make it, it’s always been much bigger for the Big Ten. For instance, in 2006, when Florida destroyed (yes, that’s right, it was an annihilation) Ohio State in the championship game, the Gators has played their previous game much closer to the title game than the Buckeyes. It was Ohio State’s first game in 51 days. For Florida, the layoff had only been 37 days. While both numbers seem high considering teams are off for over a month, 51 days is bordering on insane.
Part of the reason has to do with the SEC having a championship game (something the Big Ten is looking to remedy), but the other part has to do with the Big Ten and their wacky school scheduling. Teams are typically playing their final game in November and sometimes even before Thanksgiving. At least, the Pac-10 and Big East (also without championship games) extend their regular season into December. Of course, for schools in those conferences, weather isn’t as much of an issue.
Two Big Ten programs have taken note and are moving their matchup to the final month of the year. In 2011, Illinois will host Wisconsin on December 3. And in 2012, the Fighting Illini will travel to battle the Badgers on December 1. The goal is to prepare both teams for better for their upcoming bowl games. Okay, okay. The goal is to prepare non-Ron Zook-coached teams for their upcoming bowl games.
This is where I would typically say “follow suit other Big Ten schools,” but that probably isn’t needed. Expansion will solve this problem soon enough. But in the meantime, the longer layoff only hurts. Keep your players fresh and get those December games scheduled.