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College Football

There is No Reason to Buy a Big Ten Football Season Ticket In 2014 Because the Schedules Are Awful

Jim Delany Big Ten

The Big Ten enters a new, 14-team era in 2014. The conference, with a fair bit of cynicism, opted for lucrative television markets with Maryland and Rutgers over football prowess (66th and 93rd in SRS respectively). These additions will only dilute the Big Ten’s underwhelming conference schedules further. Paired with soft non-conference schedules optimized for ease and home revenue, Big Ten teams are offering no reason beyond blind loyalty for their fans to buy season tickets.

Big Ten home slates for 2014 are bleak. We bolded games against marquee conference opponents for next year (Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin) and against big name BCS conference teams. Six teams had either one or no such game on the schedule.

Braxton Miller dives for a touchdown against Indiana-b

Illinois: Youngstown State, Western Kentucky, Texas State, Purdue, Minnesota, Iowa, Penn State

Indiana: Indiana State, Maryland, North Texas, Michigan State, Penn State, Purdue

Michigan: Appalachian State, Miami (Ohio), Utah, Minnesota, Penn State, Indiana, Maryland

Minnesota: Eastern Illinois, Middle Tennessee, San Jose State, Northwestern, Purdue, Iowa, Ohio State

Nebraska: Florida Atlantic, McNeese State, Miami (Florida), Illinois, Rutgers, Purdue, Minnesota

Wisconsin: Western Illinois, Bowling Green, South Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, Minnesota

Michigan-Ohio State fight

Michigan’s best home game in 2014 is … Utah. There is not one game worthy of marking up the pricing. Michigan State has Michigan and … yawn. Their second best game is Minnesota. Nebraska fans may feel fortunate the team scheduled Miami. Wisconsin fans will hope Nebraska is competent next year.

A further six Big Ten teams will spoil fans with not one but two marquee pairings.

Iowa: Northern Iowa, Ball State, Iowa State, Indiana, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Nebraska

Maryland: James Madison, West Virginia, Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan State, Rutgers

Ohio State: Virginia Tech, Kent State, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan

Penn State: Akron, UMass, Northwestern, Ohio State, Maryland, Temple, Michigan State

Purdue: Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Southern Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Northwestern

Rutgers: Howard, Penn State, Tulane, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana

Iowa hosts Wisconsin and Nebraska, after fans warm up with Northern Iowa, Ball State, Iowa State, Indiana and Northwestern. Ohio State has two home games in danger of being competitive.

The two schools that offer three marquee opponents are Michigan State and Northwestern.

Michigan State: Jacksonville State, Wyoming, Eastern Michigan, Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State, Rutgers

Northwestern: California, Northern Illinois, Western Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan, Illinois

Isaiah Lewis ejected for targeting Northwestern player-a

But, lest you get too excited, Northwestern balances that extravagance by charging you for Cal (0-11 vs. FBS in 2012) and three games against teams from Illinois. Michigan State balanced with three cupcakes.

Fan apathy has become an issue in college sports, even at the biggest and most successful programs. Too often, this problem is attributed to the character and fickleness of fans, rather than the product offered on the field. Teams in the Big Ten and elsewhere have chased TV revenue, gate revenue and individual bowl bonuses, while viewing fan support as a given. They are coasting on loyalty and tradition, while offering a spectacle woefully ill-prepared for a rational entertainment marketplace.

Cynicism is bred by exploitation. Empty crowd shots may be rife at Big Ten stadiums next year. It’s not because of smartphones or PS4s. It’s because a vast swath of games, far more than 20 or even 10 years ago, suck. Hope the Big Ten network checks are worth it.

[Photo via USA Today Sports]

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