Can we please re-draw the Big 12 football schedules at some point?

I'm not going to pretend that this is some sort of major sticking point for me, but we've grown to accept something in Big 12 football schedules that just shouldn't really be accepted--the rotating schedule.

In basketball, obviously it's not very hard--play your division rivals twice, the non-division rivals once, and voila, 16 games.  For football, though, you can't play everybody every year (at least, not if you ever want a team from your conference playing in the national title game again), so you rotate.  Home-and-away with three non-division rivals for two years, home-and-away with the others the next.  Aside from the fact that it has hurt some rivalries--OU/NU, for instance--it works pretty well in theory.  In practice, however, the Big 12 just does it wrong, and it affects division races.

For 13 years now, all Big 12 teams have played exactly the same rotating schedule.  Mizzou's schedule in 2009 will be what it was in 2005, 2001, and 1997, and what it will be in 2013, 2017, etc., if nothing changes.  Now, for Mizzou it's not that big a deal--they get Texas for two years, then Oklahoma.  They get Tech for two years, then Oklahoma State.  They get ATM for two years, then Baylor.  Really, if you're breaking the South division into tiers, that's just about as well as you can do. But what about Kansas and Iowa State?

The main reason KU isn't the runaway North favorite in 2009.  Well, that and a weak front seven.

In 2007, KU's schedule was one of the main reasons they almost (almost!) won the Big 12 North and went 7-1 in conference.  In 2009, KU's schedule could be the main reason they don't win.  In 2007, KU's south opponents were @OSU, @ATM, Baylor at home.  In 2009, @TT, @Texas, OU at home.  That's ridiculous.  The winner of the division should have a lot more to do with who plays the best in the division, not who has the most beneficial schedule*.

* Granted, I shouldn't complain at all about the 2009 draw since, as I said, it might prevent KU from winning the North, which would be grand.

It's been the same for Iowa State.  Seneca Wallace led one of the best Iowa State teams ever in 2002.  After a narrow loss to Florida State to start the season, the Cyclones got hot.  Really hot.  They whipped Kansas, beat an 11-win Iowa team in Iowa City, beat Nebraska, and were the #11 team in the country when this play happened against a 9-win Texas Tech team...

...and it really seemed like Iowa State would be the leader of the Big 12 North race and could make some national noise.  And then the Cyclones, in the Top 10 for the first time ever, had to travel to Norman and Austin in back-to-back weeks.  They got outscored 70-13 in those two games, and the wheels had flown off.  They snuck by an average Mizzou team at home, and then they gave up 99 points combined to Kansas State and Colorado.  Their 6-1 start saw a 1-6 finish, and one of the best teams in Iowa State history finished 7-7.  Granted, a truly good team would have at least been competitive in Norman and Austin--this wasn't a great team by any stretch, but if they had only played one of those games while complementing the schedule with a game against Baylor, they could have still been in the race for the North.

And then in 2004 and 2005, a much less talented Iowa State team twice came within a loss to Missouri of winning the North without having to play Oklahoma or Texas.  Which is just as ridiculous.

In the stratified South, scheduling isn't as much of an issue.  OU and Texas are by far the two best programs in the league, and it really doesn't matter who they play from the North.  But on a given year, the schedule directly impacts the favorite and the winner in the North, and that's not the way it should be.

Really, the SEC does it wrong too.  Their inter-division schedules overcompensate for ongoing rivalries, which is fine, but I don't like the results.  For instance, East Division Tennessee (why are they in the East again?) plays West Division Alabama every single year.  Meanwhile, they've only played Ole Miss twice in 11 years.  Same for Georgia and Mississippi State.  Florida plays LSU every year, and they only played Mississippi State twice from 1994 to 2003.  In the end, this is just as ridiculous.  You should absolutely be playing everybody in your conference on a regular basis.

There is a VERY easy solution for this, and I don't think it takes an advanced degree to figure out.  Re-draw the schedules every four years.  Break the divisions into three tiers based on the last four years of conference performance and make sure that nobody plays two teams from the same tier.  Based on the last four years, that would mean that nobody from the north plays both OU and Texas, OSU and Texas Tech, or Texas A&M and Baylor...and everybody plays at least one of them.

Now, this isn't a perfect solution, for three main reasons:

1) One thing I do enjoy about constant Big 12 rotation is that a student attending Mizzou for four years has the opportunity to see every conference rival visit Faurot Field and the opportunity to roadtrip to every conference rival's stadium/town (I managed this for 9 of 11 rivals).  If you're redrawing the docket every four years, you're stil guaranteed of playing each non-division team four times in eight years, however, there's the possibility that you'd play a team the first two years of one four-year span, and the last two years of the next, meaning you'd possibly go four straight years without playing somebody.

2) Every four years, it becomes harder to plan for the upcoming schedule, as you won't know the season's schedule until about February of the upcoming season.  Of course, this is minor.  The SEC never seems to have the upcoming season's schedule finalized until the preceding offseason, and nobody seems too bothered by it.

3) Quite simply, the balance of power changes.  Even in the Big 12 South, where OU and Texas have been dominating every year this decade, the first four years of the Big 12 were completely up for grabs, and it was Texas A&M doing most of the grabbing.  The balance of power has shifted in the South once in the existence of the Big 12, but meanwhile, in the North, it shifts about every two years.  Since the inception of the Big 12, the North has shifted from Nebraska, to Nebraska & K-State, to K-State & Colorado, to...nobody, to Missouri & Kansas. 

The point being, you could still end up with an unbalanced schedule if a team that was great or terrible for four years, turns around 180 degrees the next four years.  Still, though, even if that happens, it only happens for a four-year span.  At this point, Iowa State would just be smart to redshirt and build toward the years where they don't play OU, UT, and Tech, and try to make a run then while giving up on the other two years in the four-year cycle.  With re-drawn schedules, imbalance is temporary.

Out of curiosity, I'm going to walk through the Big 12 years over the next few days, to see how much this scheduling strategy may or may not have impacted division races over the last 13 seasons.  Even if you don't care, it entertains me, and that counts for something, right?

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