A Schedule Splash

Bret Bielema (US Presswire)

From adding a second BCS team to the non-conference schedule for the first time in nearly a decade and kicking off the 2013 conference schedule a week early, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema is instilling new scheduling philosophies into UW and the Big Ten.

CHICAGO - With the Southeastern Conference having won six straight national championships, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema and the rest of his Big Ten coaching colleagues are trying to pick up any helpful hints from the southern power that they can. On Wednesday, Bielema took a page from SEC scheduling to add a big piece to next year's non-conference schedule.

In a formula Bielema would like to use in the conference going forward and one used by the SEC, Wisconsin announced its home game against Brigham Young – a 10-3 team last year - will be played Nov. 9, one week after a road game against Iowa and one week before a home game against Indiana.

Originally scheduled for one of UW's two bye weeks, with the first Oct. 5, Wisconsin reached out to Purdue to move its home game against the Boilermakers from Oct.26 to Sept. 21. to avoid playing eight consecutive games. As a result, the Badgers will open Big Ten play one week before the rest of the league.

"I was very grateful, because I really wanted to get that BYU game in there," Bielema said during Big Ten Media Days. "For us to move forward, I've been trying to get a second BCS-type caliber team on our roster, so (in 2013) it's going to be Arizona State and BYU … but hopefully bigger and better things are coming down the line."

Wisconsin last played a non-conference game during the Big Ten season in 2007, hosting Northern Illinois after a road game against Penn State and a week before a home game against Indiana. UW played 12 consecutive games without a bye that year.

That was also the last season UW opened league play in the third full week of September. UW defeated visiting Iowa, 17-13, on Sept. 22.

"I actually reached out to four or five league coaches on and kind of was trying to get their opinion on," said Bielema of playing early conference games. "I think it could be a good thing for our league."

Playing two BCS-level competitors is outside the norm for Wisconsin (the Badgers haven't scheduled two non-conference BCS teams since 2003), but might become common practice once college football instills its playoff system in 2014.

Using a selection committing to decide which four teams will play for the BCS championship, strength of schedule will certainly be one of the things taken into consideration. It's a reason Bielema met with UW's athletic director Barry Alvarez to map out a plan for future scheduling to make sure UW doesn't hurt itself with poor non-conference schedules.

"I think the worst thing you can be is maybe a 12-1 team, the one game you lost is in your division and you lost to the guy that wins the Big Ten championship and you're sitting there 12-1, you want in that game," said Bielema. "On the same side, I think it has to be one (BCS game) away and one home, there are all of those dynamics."

Of course, scheduling home-and-home series has been easier said than done for Bielema.

"Madison is not an appealing place for teams to come to," said Bielema. "I don't mean to slight anybody's opinion ... I've had a lot of opportunities where teams have said, ‘Oh, yeah, we'll play but it's not going to be (home and home). Or to go to a neutral field.' I don't want to take a home game away from us to go to a neutral field. It takes away from the fans."

Citing the huge impact scheduling has on a coach's success and longevity, Bielema, along with his colleagues, remain united in staying at an eight-game conference schedule instead of an unbalanced nine-game model. This comes despite the conference's athletic directors agreeing to a nine-game conference schedule last summer.

"I think we're of a unanimous mind to stay at eight games," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said.

Although the nine-game conference schedules could help a team's overall strength of schedule, it would limit how teams schedule its non-conference portion and create a scenario where a team is playing five road games and four at home every other year.

The Big 12 and Pac 12 currently play nine conference games and the Atlantic Coast Conference is going to nine when it expands to 14 teams. The SEC is at eight.

"I would like to stay at eight, just because I think the recipe is there," said Bielema. "The SEC has the eight and they've won six in a row. I do enjoy playing nonconference opponents. I realize fan base may want nine or 10 or play us all. I also believe if it ain't broke, don't fix it. We've been able to have some success, back-to-back BCS games, I like that formula."

Unfortunately for some fans, Bielema's formula also includes playing a FCS opponent on a yearly basis. Wisconsin will play Northern Iowa in the opener on September 1 and host Tennessee Tech next season after San Diego State backed out of a 2-for-1 series following the first meeting.

"The hard part is, making the dates work and getting a team to come on this specific date," said Bielema. "It's just so hard to make dates work on the front end especially in the first four weeks."

Future Wisconsin schedules

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