With the announcement on Sunday that the Big Ten would go to a nine-game conference schedule beginning in 2016, Michigan State was suddenly looking at perhaps one of the toughest slate of games in all of college football that year.
In addition to being placed in the East Division, where the Spartans will play Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State every year, Michigan State has non-conference games scheduled in 2016 on the road at Alabama and at home against Notre Dame.
According to the Detroit Free Press, MSU says it plans to keep the games against the Tide and Irish that year. The Spartans also have two cupcakes against Eastern Michigan and Furman scheduled that season as well. For what it’s worth, the Big Ten is looking to swear off games against 1-AA schools in the future.
“Everything’s under review,” Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said. “And don’t overreact to that, because I think (the Alabama series) is safe. We want to play these games, we’re not shying away from them. … But this is a challenge.”
The Notre Dame series should be relatively easy to manage. The two sides are scheduled to play through 2032 with a two-year gap in play every four years. Because the Big Ten’s East division will get five home conference games in even-numbered years and four in odd-numbered ones, Michigan State could switch some home games with the Irish.
Scheduling is a puzzle and the even bigger issue is that every school is trying to put together its own. The initial reaction of a conference going to nine league games is that major non-conference games could be scrapped. At least for now, Michigan State appears to be doing the opposite.