It was making the argument for conference challenges in college football, similar to the events staged in college basketball every year between the Big Ten and ACC. They are very successful and generate some buzz in what used to be a mostly boring pre-conference season.
ESPN writer Mark Schlabach proposed a Big Ten-Pac 10 football challenge, where 10 games would be staged. He designated Purdue as the Big Ten's odd team out, but scheduled the rest of the teams to play a fictitious Rose Bowl game of sorts.
Indiana was given USC in the inaugural series. This game is as unlikely as it is stupid. If the challenge were agreed to, USC would be the marquee team and demand a prime-time television audience. Also, coach Pete Carroll would want the game to improve his BCS standing, not hurt it. A likely blow-out of Indiana would not provide TV star power or BCS points.
If the series were established, I think it would have a make-up similar to its basketball counterpart. Teams with large followings would play each other, i.e. Indiana v. Duke and North Carolina v. Michigan State. The lesser teams in each conference still participate, but play teams on their level. Example: Northwestern v. Miami.
In a football challenge, USC most likely would play a Big Ten power, like Penn State or Ohio State, in the first year or two to interest the fans in the series. I would love to see the Hoosiers take on a team like Stanford. The game would generate some interest if played in Bloomington. Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh led the Indianapolis Colts to the AFC Championship game back in the mid-90s.
The rest of my Big Ten-Pac 10 challenge:
- Oregon State-Northwestern -- There is a little history between these two. Northwestern beat Oregon State in 1964, but the Beavers still went to the Rose Bowl. This would be a good game against two conference contenders.
- Michigan-Arizona -- Two teams on the rise and RichRod gets a good early benchmark for his team's development. It also could score some big points for the winner in the BCS polls, since both should be conference title contenders.
- Wisconsin-Washington -- I don't know why this match-up is appealing. Wisconsin likes playing out west (they have scheduled Hawaii this season). This would save them a few thousand miles on a plane.
- Penn State-USC-- This is the game everyone will want to see. Two big-time programs with big-time coaches. Can you imagine the white-out at Beaver Stadium?
- Michigan State-California -- This game is perfect for these two teams. Both have a history of not living up to expectations. At least this time someone has to come through in a big game.
- Ohio State-Oregon -- The Buckeyes get more practice defending against the spread offense, which will come in handy if they get another BCS berth. This game also could be an early top 10 match-up. Autzen Stadium will be rocking.
- Minnesota-Washington State -- Like I indicated above, some of the games will be boring, and this one should be among them. Minnesota has shown improvement in recent years, but the Cougars have been just awful lately. The Big Ten can use the game to get some needed points for the series title.
- Iowa-UCLA -- This is a coaches match-up, Rick Neuheisel versus Kirt Ferentz. Both teams will be ready to play, even if they don't have national championship talent. It would be a great game whether played in L.A. or Iowa City.
- Illinois-Washington -- The Huskies haven't made much noise in the last few seasons, but if the game were played in Illinois, you know the Illini fans would be eager.
Overall, I like this idea. If gets some lesser-known teams, like Indiana, on national TV, which would help in recruiting. And it creates some quality non-conference games each year for the BCS contenders.
Just think of the scene in Bloomington if Indiana drew a ranked team. All the sudden, those pre-conference games designed to generate easy wins and cement a bowl bid don't seem to matter. I think IU fans would buy tickets to see a west coast team that was not part of the usual schedule.
And what if the Hoosiers pulled the upset? Well let's not get ahead of ourselves.