Here's an idea worth considering.
Wednesday, the Omaha World Herald's Sam McKewon proposed pitting the Big Ten and SEC against each other, one game at a time. McKewon was using the format to judge which conference will be better this season — or at least just to compare the strength of the two — by ranking the conferences' teams by division and pitting No. 1 vs. No. 1, No. 2 vs. No. 2 and so on. Channeling his inner hoops fan, he dubbed it the Big Ten vs. SEC Challenge.
Well we love this idea, though we're going to play College Football Scheduling God (no affiliation with the Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God) and get some more intriguing matchups on the calendar. Sure, quality of competition has to be taken into account, but let's all be honest: We really want to see the Badgers take on Bret Bielema's Razorbacks, right? And don’t we want to see who boasts the better Rock N Roll Hall of Famer between Minnesota and Georgia?
So here are the matchups Big Ten Talk came up with. Maybe they won't determine conference supremacy — in fact, it’s very, very, very likely they won’t — but they sure will be fun! We’ve divided them into thematic divisions, as well.
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The "Great Lakes-Yellowhammer" Division
Michigan vs. Alabama. If you want a fake rivalry dripping with tradition, look no further. After Yale and Princeton (two football powerhouses), these are the two schools that claim more national championships than any other. The Tide claim 15, while the Wolverines claim 11. Bo Schembechler. Paul "Bear" Bryant. The college football tradition oozes out of this matchup. Game name: Bo-Bear Bowl.
Michigan State vs. Auburn. These two could have met in last season's national title game had it not been for a pesky Spartan loss to pesky Notre Dame (Pesky's the right word, right? At least it's the most PG-rated.) But seriously, there wasn't much that needed to change about last year to see these two play for the final crystal football. Auburn ending up losing to Florida State, Michigan State ended up winning the Rose Bowl. Game name: The What Could've Been Bowl.
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The "He Used To Work Here" Division
Wisconsin vs. Arkansas. This one's easy. Bret Bielema used to coach at Wisconsin. Now he coaches at Arkansas. Boom. But there's more to this untapped rivalry than just former-employer vs. former-employee. Bielema's wife caused a bit of a social-media firestorm last season with her "#karma" tweet following Wisconsin's loss to Arizona State. That adds a bit of fuel to this potential fire. Game name: The #Karma Cup.
Penn State vs. Vanderbilt. Another easy one. Vanderbilt just lost head coach James Franklin to Penn State. And though Franklin has already made quick work of recruiting top talent to State College, those guys aren't there yet. So this season's edition of the game would feature Franklin-built Vandy and Franklin-coached Penn State. Like that Buccaneers-Raiders Super Bowl with Jon Gruden. Just like that. Game name: The Franklin Bowl.
Ohio State vs. Florida. One more of these head-coach games, and this one is the best of them all. The school Urban Meyer led to two national championships. The school he's led to two perfect regular seasons. This is a no-brainer. The real excitement would be if Meyer could coach both teams at once! If anyone can do it, it's him. Game name: The Urban Bowl.
Nebraska vs. LSU. Bo Pelini has only been a head coach at one place: Nebraska. But he got his recent fame as the defensive coordinator down in Baton Rouge. Pelini has a solid resume outside his three years working for Les Miles, but that’s the gig he succeeded in prior to his time as head coach in Lincoln. Also, we know Pelini loves cats, and LSU’s nickname is the Tigers, so this is perfect. Game name: The Bo-wl.
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The "Loose Sports Connection" Division
Rutgers vs. Texas A&M. Just three years ago, no Big Ten-SEC Challenge would have featured either of these schools. But traveling around from conference to conference is nothing new for this pair. Rutgers is on its fifth conference (Middle Three, Middle Atlantic, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big Ten). Texas A&M is on its third (Southwest, Big 12, Southeastern). Game name: The Realignment Bowl sponsored by some tire company. (Get it? Realignment? It's kind of funny. Isn't it?)
Indiana vs. Kentucky. While no one's accusing these schools of not trying when football season rolls around, let's be honest: They're focused on hoops. So why not establish a football rivalry to see which basketball school is more of a football school. That makes sense, right? Maybe even Tom Crean and John Calipari can coach this game. Let them recruit, too. So Kentucky wins. Game name: The Basketbowl.
Iowa vs. Tennessee. Now, there are plenty of SEC programs known for their baseball programs. Tennessee, though, might have the most baseball-related fame for a former football player. Long-time Colorado Rockie Todd Helton backed up Peyton Manning at QB during their college days. All in all, Tennessee has sent six different players to 23 All-Star Games. Iowa has some of its own baseball prestige, though, as the alma mater of Hall of Famer Cap Anson. You know, the guy with the 27-year career in the 19th century? The guy who pops up on every Cubs franchise leaders list? Come on, people. Game name: The Basebowl.
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The "This Is Getting Out Of Hand" Division
Northwestern vs. Missouri. These two met in the 2008 Alamo Bowl, with Mizzou grabbing an overtime win. But these two universities are more well known for boasting two of the top journalism schools in the country. So consider this a gridiron battle for journalism supremacy. Regardless of the two team's records, the press box will be packed to capacity. Game name: The J-School Showdown.
Illinois vs. South Carolina. Who needs football when you can build a rivalry around U.S. history? This is the Land of Lincoln vs. the first state to secede from the union. The drama writes itself! Of course, we'd need to make sure the stakes were very clear beforehand. We wouldn't want either team to get cocky from their victory and think it entitles them to form the new nations of Champaign or Columbia. Make sure everyone reads the small print. Game name: The Civil War Game.
Purdue vs. Mississippi. Both these schools played big parts in some of the most important moments in 20th century American history. Purdue has produced 22 astronauts, including Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. Ole Miss was the site of an important moment in the Civil Rights movement, when James Meredith became the first African-American to be admitted at the school following its desegregation despite great resistance. I’m sure there are several Tom Hanks-produced documentaries that cover both these topics. Game name: The Sixties Bowl.
Minnesota vs. Georgia. Here’s a matchup that pits one rock superstar against another. Bob Dylan was once upon a time an enrollee at the University of Minnesota. Likewise for members of R.E.M. at the University of Georgia. So, in other words, a natural rivalry is born! Isn’t this what the Hatfields and McCoys were always squabbling about? Game name: The Rock N Roll Bowl.
Maryland vs. Mississippi State. Down to the last two schools, the question becomes: What happens when you type “university of maryland” + “mississippi state university” into Google. Well, the answer is Donna M. Pierce. She’s an associate astrophysics professor at Mississippi State and earned her PhD at Maryland. Sounds like we need a football game to determine who will win the bragging rights in her classroom! Game name: The Donna M. Pierce Bowl.
So there you have it. Have we determined which of these two 14-team groupings is the superior college football conference? We can't imagine we have. But that's for you to decide. Share your predictions and any other matchups you'd like to see. And, it goes without saying, we'd be happy to organize these great rivalries for Jim Delany and Mike Slive if they'd like to put our plan into practice.