Big Ten Tuesday mailbag

Adam is tied up today, so I'm stealing his regular Tuesday mailbag slot. Don't worry -- he'll be back to answer your emails to him later in the week. I'll also have my usual 'bag on Thursday, so make sure to send in fresh questions here.

Meanwhile ... you rang?

Jeremy from Columbus writes: The big problem with a 10-game conference schedule seems to be that it would force teams to play only weak teams out of conference to guarantee 7 home games, which is apparently necessary to make enough money to break even. But I feel like OSU playing Texas in Columbus once should be worth as much as playing Florida A&M in Columbus twice. Obviously they lose some ticket revenue, as a team like OSU will sell out no matter who they play. But OSU recently announced that tickets for "premier" games will cost much more in the future. Additionally, the TV has to be much better. An OSU vs. Texas type game is guaranteed to be nationally televised, and probably shown on BTN as a rerun many times. But when OSU plays some scrub, the game isn't even guaranteed to make it onto BTN live. Where's the money in that? I was hoping you could give some numbers, is playing a patsy at home twice really worth that much more than a big time program at home once?

Brian Bennett: Most Big Ten teams say they need seven home games to make their budget, which means additional conference games could be problematic. Even if the league only goes to nine Big Ten games, every team will be playing five road conference games every other year, and so they would have to schedule all three nonconference games at home to reach seven. That will make it difficult, at least logistically, to schedule strong home-and-home series. As for your question about revenue, teams depend on the money they get from filling their large stadiums. Michigan AD Dave Brandon told the Detroit News that the Wolverines generate more than $5 million for each home game. And for teams like Michigan and Ohio State, it doesn't really matter who they play, because fans will still turn out. It's hard to imagine how extra TV money can cover that potential lost revenue.

Tom from Fairfield, Calif., writes: Keeping a 9-game schedule 'fair' isn't that difficult with a 14-team league. In even years, all Legends teams play 5 home and 4 road. In the odd years, they all play 4 home and 5 road. It wasn't that simple (but was doable) with 12 teams.More conference games, and no protected crossovers are needed to make sure that everyone sees each other frequently enough. No kid should play for Iowa for 4 years and never get a chance to play Michigan.

Brian Bennett: That was Northwestern AD Jim Phillips' idea, and it probably is the most fair way to do things in a nine-game scenario. That still doesn't mean it's totally fair. The division that has more home games will obviously have an advantage, which could play into bowl selections and even the four-team playoff. And who you play from the other division on the road becomes even more important. But I agree that if you're going to go to 14 teams, then you should play more league games.

Mark R. from Cleveland writes: I think I'm the only person who doesn't think having Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State together is a good thing. The 90's are over, college football has moved on, Nebraska as the lone power out west is the same as B12 North. That is why Michigan must stay with Nebraska. Yes Wisconsin is a good program. However, It's Not a power program and has trouble recruiting and winning bowl games. Yes, I know the entire league has issues with bowl games. So just move Illinois out west.

Brian Bennett: You have a point, though I did chuckle a bit that you used the rationale "the '90s are over" before calling Nebraska a power. Let's face it, the Huskers haven't been dominant since that decade, either. In my proposal, I have Michigan State and Wisconsin in Nebraska's division (the one I have quite cleverly called "West"). I think that's pretty good balance, especially if Iowa bounces back and/or Northwestern stays strong. But if the Spartans and/or Badgers take a step back, you run into the danger of the other division being much stronger. The Huskers may like to have a bigger "brand" name in their own division, but grouping the teams geographically makes sense for rivalries. The division alignment could always be changed if the competitive balance proved out of whack.

Chuck N. from Houston writes: Brian, I enjoy keeping up with Purdue news through your lunch-time links; however, I am no longer able to view any links from the Journal-Courier due to a 30 article maximum before subscription. I live in Houston so I really don't want a subscription to the Lafayette newspaper. Is there any way around this?

Brian Bennett: Chuck, I understand the frustration as a lot of newspapers are going to the subscription model (about 10 years too late, in my opinion, but that's another story entirely). That's challenging for our links. Unfortunately, there just aren't a lot of mainstream sites out there that cover Purdue football on a regular basis, especially in the offseason. We'll keep that in mind as we search for Boilermakers links in the future, however.

Eli from New York City writes: You wrote: "In my re-alignment proposal, only Michigan and Michigan State would absolutely need to be a protected crossover game. And I think that's workable." I don't think Nebraska/Penn State fans would want to see their yearly game go away. Nebraska/Iowa is manufactured, just like Nebraska/Colorado was. Nebraska/Penn State actually has some history and hatred built in.

Brian Bennett: Some history, sure, but not a whole lot. And any "hatred" comes mostly from the early '80s, which many young fans don't remember. Nebraska and Penn State would still play, but in my mind it doesn't have to be a yearly rivalry, especially when the Nittany Lions can have two East Coast opponents in Rutgers and Maryland, while Nebraska could play Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota every year. A fascinating part of the upcoming athletic director talks will be which rivalries they decide are the most important to keep, and which ones don't need to be played every year.

Alex from Butler University writes: Your piece on future B1G neutral site games was interesting, but I'm curious about one thing. Of the Maryland home games that I saw this year, none were sellouts. While I'm sure their attendance will increase with them playing bigger teams (both in rankings and name), do you think they will end up selling out all of their home games? If not, would playing at FedEx Field actually increase their revenue enough to make it worth giving up any home-field advantage they may have? If they can't sell out 54,000, how will they sell out 91,000 besides the opposing team buying up tickets?

Brian Bennett: Maryland's attendance is not great, but of course going 4-8 a year after finishing 2-10 doesn't much help with that. The Terps drew only an announced crowd of 35,244 for their late-season matchup against Florida State. Maryland will need to play better to attract more fans, and it will be interesting to see how excited Terrapins backers are to see teams like Purdue and Illinois come to town. But when Maryland hosts Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska, I'm pretty sure the ticket demand will be much higher, and not all from the locals. The school's athletic department has a lot of financial problems, so the opportunity for a quick payday at a neutral site can't be overlooked.