Big Ten bans cupcakes

Story by Andy Hildebrand, Sports Editor

If you’ve watched the first four games of any Badger football season from the past decade, you know they look much more like a collection of meaningless preseason games than the start of college football. We often see bloated scores and extended playing time for the backups.

The motivation behind this kind of cupcake schedule is to enter Big Ten play with an unblemished record, making it that much easier to qualify for a bowl and potentially make it to the conference title game.

The way college football is set up, a loss, no matter who it’s against, can prove to be the kiss of death.

However, If the Big Ten wants to ever be taken seriously again, it needs to start flexing its muscles early in the season. It needs to start taking on some top notch competition and win.

That’s why when University of Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez announced to the press this week the conference as a whole has agreed to no longer schedule schools from the Football Championship Subdivision, I was relieved.

FCS teams, although technically Div. I, are not eligible to compete in bowl games and, for the most part, don’t belong on the same field as most Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

There are exceptions of course. We are talking about sports after all, where anything can happen on any given day. In 2007, FCS school Appalachian State knocked off No. 5 Michigan at the Big House, pulling off one of the greatest upsets of all time. It can happen, but the vast majority of the time, the scores are embarrassing and the games don’t serve as any real test for schools from the FBS.

Naturally, the elimination of FCS schools from Big Ten schedules leads us to believe that we’ll see much tough competition on the schedule. I think that remains to be seen though, too.

We all saw what happened to Michigan last year when the traveled down to play Alabama early last season. They got rolled. They got embarrassed. They looked like an FCS school.

I don’t think we’ll see a lot of SEC schools on the Badgers early season schedule anytime soon. Although, I don’t think they’d have any problem getting up for a season-starting matchup against Bret Bielema’s Arkansas Razorbacks (man, would I love that).

What’s far more likely is the addition of early games against schools from the ACC, Big 12 and Pac 12. These are still quality opponents, but can’t beat you up the way an SEC school can.

If I looked at a Badgers schedule and saw the first four games look something like University of Northern Illinois, Arizona, Cal and North Carolina, I’d be just fine with that. They’re teams that don’t necessarily scare the Badgers, but they’re competitive and we don’t have to be embarrassed about playing them.

Regardless, banning FCS schools from Big Ten schedules is a step in the right direction. Not only does it ensure the teams won’t be wasting their time playing inferior opponents, but also guarantees the fans a better early season product.

Hopefully, it’s the league’s first of many steps towards a renewed sense of national relevancy.