Scheduling of Troy May Provide Clues About Future Under Eichorst
In the waning days of Tom Osborne's tenure as Athletic Director for Nebraska, a number of future scheduling decisions were made. Since that time, we've seen a handful from incoming AD Shawn Eichorst. Is a pattern developing for what we can expect for nonconference schedules in the future?
Within two months at the helm, NU had a pair of home and home contests slated with Colorado. While the Buffaloes are both a major conference school and have a meaningful history with Nebraska, they are not an A-list program. On paper, you have to like the Huskers' chances of winning three if not all four of the future games with CU.
Once the nine-game schedule was established for the Big Ten, Nebraska dropped a "neutral site" game in Chicago with Northern Illinois and added two more home games with the Huskies for a total of four - all in Memorial Stadium. While Northern Illinois has been good lately, you'd have to like NU's chances against a small conference school at home. A Husker sweep doesn't seem all that unlikely, at this point.
At the same time, Nebraska added a home and home pairing with Cincinnati. While the Bearcats have been among the better Big East teams in recent years, they're watching their conference become downgraded to mid-major status. They are part of a group of five conferences where only one major bowl bid is guaranteed across the entire set of leagues under the new college football playoff structure. You certainly give an edge to the Huskers there in both resources and ability to recruit, especially for games that take place in 2020 and 2025.
Now a single game has been added against Troy in Lincoln in 2018. With the Big Ten moving away from scheduling FCS schools, the Sun Belt is kind of the next best thing when you're looking for a non-competitive tune-up.
The Wisconsin Model?
That's 11 games where the Huskers would appear to have a good shot of going undefeated, with 8 played at home. Not too different from the non-conference schedules seen for Wisconsin in recent years. Schedules that may have been assembled in Eichorst's time in Madison.
That's not a criticism. Schools need to adapt to the changing landscape for college football. With a four-team playoff, going undefeated in the Big Ten would seem to all but guarantee a playoff spot. Whereas a single loss could push the Huskers behind a number of SEC teams, even if NU went out of their way to build a tough nonconference schedule. The nine game conference schedule may also make it necessary from a financial perspective to lock in extra home games to cope with years where five league games are played on the road.
It may not be as exciting as seeing USC, Virginia Tech, Miami, Tennessee, or Oklahoma on the schedule. In the long run, it might just help keep the Big Red machine running as it's appeared to in Madison.