Big Ten allows independents, AAC teams to fill Power 5 requirement


Beginning next season, the Big Ten is requiring its teams to play one non-conference game per season against a team from one of the other four Power 5 conferences.

But, somewhat strangely, that requirement can also be filled by playing one of a select number of teams from outside the Power 5 conferences.


According to a Tuesday report from ESPN's Brett McMurphy, the Big Ten will allow games against independents Notre Dame, BYU and Army, as well as games against Group of 5 teams such as Cincinnati, Connecticut and Navy, to count toward that requirement.

It seems a little silly, establishing the requirement for strength-of-schedule purposes and then allowing it to be filled by teams that in most cases do nothing to elevate the strength of schedules.

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Now, the most logical explanation for this is currently established schedules, games that have been in place since before this requirement was announced. For example, four Big Ten teams have scheduled six games against Cincinnati in coming seasons. Two Big Ten schools have scheduled four games against Connecticut in coming seasons. That would likely explain the inclusion of Cincinnati and Connecticut on this list, as the conference wouldn't want to blow up the schedules of these teams. Future non-conference scheduling has already been impacted enough by the Big Ten's move to a nine-game conference schedule, which also begins next season.

But McMurphy's report also includes that teams can ask for exemptions to the Power 5 requirement and the Big Ten can grant them depending on recent RPI rankings. So, if a non-Power 5 team has been as good as most Power 5 teams over the past few seasons, that team could qualify for the Power 5 requirement.

It, of course, makes total sense that Notre Dame and BYU would be considered Power 5-caliber games, as those programs have lengthy histories of high-quality football. But the military academies and some of these American Athletic Conference teams don't seem to be in the same class. And, if the Big Ten begins routinely granting these exceptions to lower-level teams — rather than just to already scheduled games — it would seemingly nullify the requirement's mission of strengthening its teams' schedules.

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