It's time to jump into our candy striped DeLoreans and go all the way into the future... to September 18, 2021, to be exact. Hopefully it's a crisp fall Bloomington Saturday with spectators and tailgaters out and about. We don't know much of the other specifics of the game, but as was reported last week, we know that IU will be hosting Cincinnati at Memorial Stadium on that day, and that exactly a year and six days later, the Hoosiers and Bearcats will meet again at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.
Last week, the Hoosiers and Bearcats agreed to a home-and-home series for games that will be played in 2021 and 2022. Thinking ahead to the 2021 season requires a lot of foresight, since the students who will be freshmen at IU in 2021 are currently just about to start sixth grade. To put it in even more perspective, by the time these two teams meet, only a few undergrads will have been born when Bob Knight was still head basketball coach here.
With the current format of college football scheduling, however, these games need to be scheduled far in advance, and the opportunities for nonconference matchups are about to become more scarce. In 2016, the Big Ten moves to a nine-game football schedule, a move that has been long overdue for the league, and is pertinent now that they have expanded to 14 teams. (Why the SEC and ACC haven't followed suit yet surprises me, though I get why the Notre Dame agreement with the ACC makes a nine-game schedule difficult.) Having nine B1G games will be good for fans who want to see more variety of conference teams, as well as for teams who get another quality opponent every year.
On the other hand, this change leaves Big Ten teams with only three nonconference games per year staring in 2016. As a result, they'll have to schedule wisely and far in advance to make sure they've got good teams on the docket. And Cincinnati, whose teams have been to bowl games in all but three years since 2000, will be a quality opponent for the Hoosiers. With Bloomington only a two and a half hour drive from the Queen City, these will be convenient games for fans of both teams to attend.
The college football atmosphere has changed from seven years ago. In 2007, BTN was in its first season of broadcasting Big Ten games, back when the conference only had 11 teams and one football division. Missouri, Texas A&M, Nebraska, and Colorado were still in the Big 12, which actually had 12 teams. The Pac-12 was still the Pac-10, and the Big East still had football. Also, as you're likely aware, the 2007 season was also the last time IU made a bowl game. Thus, a lot can change in seven years; so while the Bearcats are in the American Athletic Conference at the moment instead of one of the five "power conferences," they could be one of the first targets to move up to a major conference, along with UConn, with whom we also happen to have scheduled a home-and-home series in 2019 and 2020.
As you can see from our upcoming schedule chart, we are booked through the 2016 season for nonconference games, but have some flexibility starting in 2017. Obviously I'd love to see us renew our dormant rivalry with Kentucky, and a home-and-home against Louisville would also generate a lot of excitement. But why not dream big? Purdue and Notre Dame are playing in Lucas Oil Stadium this season, so how about the Hoosiers getting a shot at the Irish in Indy too? And I'd love to see Kevin Wilson take on Oklahoma and his former boss Bob Stoops. So I leave you this morning with this question: What other nonconference schools would you want to see the Hoosiers to take on in football?