My own answer to that question was a resounding "yes," but, after I contrasted Georgia's non-conference scheduling with that of a comparable S.E.C. team, I thought it might behoove The Movement to offer similar comparisons of the Maize and Blue to their conference brethren.
The Big Ten expanded to eleven members in 1993. Set forth below is a list of the quality non-conference opponents faced by the 10 Big Ten teams not located in Ann Arbor, Mich., since that time. For purposes of this discussion, I have defined "quality non-conference opponents" as "teams from B.C.S. leagues in contests that are not regularly recurring rivalry games."
For instance, although Penn State's intermittent clashes with Pittsburgh were included, Michigan State's and Purdue's series with Notre Dame, Iowa's in-state rivalry with Iowa State, Indiana's and Kentucky's clashes of basketball schools (which have been perennial affairs each autumn since 1987), and various teams' showdowns with legitimate opponents from mid-major leagues like Louisville (in the Cardinals' pre-Big East days) and Southern Miss all were excluded, not because such games do not matter but because I am trying to illustrate the Wolverines' ability, vel non, to schedule a series with Georgia, even if the Maize and Blue still have the Fighting Irish on their schedule.
Sept. 4 - Purdue at N.C. State
Sept. 11 - Illinois at Missouri; Kansas at Michigan State; Washington at Ohio State; Southern Cal at Penn State
Sept. 18 - Arizona at Illinois; Kansas State at Minnesota; Boston College at Northwestern; Ohio State at Pitt; Iowa State at Wisconsin
Sept. 25 - Oregon at Illinois; Wake Forest at Northwestern; Rutgers at Penn State
Oct. 2 - Penn State at Maryland
Sept. 1 - Illinois v. Washington State (Chicago, Ill.)
Sept. 10 - Missouri at Illinois; Michigan State at Kansas; Stanford at Northwestern; Ohio State at Washington; Southern Cal at Penn State
Sept. 17 - Pitt at Ohio State; Wisconsin at Colorado
Sept. 24 - Iowa at Oregon; Minnesota at Kansas State; Rutgers at Penn State
Oct. 1 - Penn State at Temple
Aug. 27 - Ohio State v. Boston College (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Sept. 2 - Purdue at West Virginia; Colorado at Wisconsin
Sept. 9 - Illinois at Oregon; Nebraska at Michigan State; Texas Tech at Penn State
Sept. 16 - Arizona at Illinois; Washington at Ohio State; Temple at Penn State; Wisconsin at Stanford
Sept. 23 - Minnesota at Syracuse; Ohio State at Pitt; Penn State v. Rutgers (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Sept. 30 - Boston College at Michigan State; Notre Dame at Ohio State
Aug. 25 - Penn State v. Southern Cal (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Sept. 7 - Southern Cal at Illinois; Arizona at Iowa; Michigan State at Nebraska; Northwestern at Wake Forest
Sept. 14 - Illinois at Arizona
Sept. 21 - Syracuse at Minnesota; Pitt at Ohio State; Penn State v. Temple (East Rutherford, N.J.); West Virginia at Purdue; Stanford at Wisconsin
Sept. 28 - Ohio State at Notre Dame; N.C. State at Purdue
Aug. 23 - Northwestern v. Oklahoma (Chicago, Ill.)
Aug. 24 - Wisconsin v. Syracuse (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Sept. 6 - Indiana at North Carolina; Northwestern at Wake Forest; Pitt at Penn State
Sept. 13 - Iowa State at Minnesota; Duke at Northwestern; Temple at Penn State
Sept. 20 - Washington State at Illinois; Arizona at Ohio State
Sept. 27 - Ohio State at Missouri
Aug. 30 - Purdue at Southern Cal
Sept. 5 - Illinois at Washington State; Michigan State at Oregon; Ohio State at West Virginia
Sept. 12 - Duke at NorthwesternSept. 19 - Iowa at Arizona; Missouri at Ohio State; Penn State at Pitt
Aug. 28 - Arizona at Penn State
Aug. 29 - Ohio State v. Miami (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Sept. 2 - Oregon at Michigan State
Sept. 4 - Nebraska at Iowa
Sept. 11 - North Carolina at Indiana; U.C.L.A. at Ohio State; Pitt at Penn State
Sept. 18 - Northwestern at Duke; Penn State at Miami
Aug. 26 - Iowa v. Kansas State (Kansas City, Mo.)
Aug. 27 - Penn State v. Southern Cal (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Sept. 9 - N.C. State at Indiana; Duke at Northwestern; Ohio State at Arizona; Oregon at Wisconsin
Sept. 16 - Cal at Illinois; Michigan State at Missouri; Minnesota at Baylor; Penn State at Pitt
Sept. 23 - Iowa at Nebraska
Aug. 25 - Virginia at Wisconsin
Sept. 1 - Illinois at Cal; Miami at Penn State; Wisconsin at Oregon
Sept. 6 - Indiana at N.C. State
Sept. 22 - Northwestern at Duke; Ohio State at U.C.L.A.
Dec. 1 - Missouri at Michigan State; Penn State at Virginia
Aug. 24 - Texas Tech at Ohio State
Aug. 31 - Illinois v. Missouri (St. Louis, Mo.)
Sept. 7 - West Virginia at Wisconsin
Sept. 14 - Cal at Michigan State; Duke at Northwestern; Washington State at Ohio State; Nebraska at Penn State
Sept. 21 - Wake Forest at Purdue; Arizona at Wisconsin
Nov. 9 - Virginia at Penn State
Aug. 30 - Illinois v. Missouri (St. Louis, Mo.); Northwestern at Kansas; Washington at Ohio State; Temple at Penn State; Wisconsin at West Virginia
Sept. 6 - Indiana at Washington; Rutgers at Michigan State; Boston College at Penn State
Sept. 13 - Illinois at U.C.L.A.; N.C. State at Ohio State; Penn State at Nebraska; Purdue at Wake Forest
Sept. 20 - California at Illinois; Arizona State at Iowa; Northwestern at Duke; Arizona at Purdue; North Carolina at Wisconsin
Sept. 4 - Michigan State at Rutgers
Sept. 5 - Syracuse at Purdue
Sept. 11 - U.C.L.A. at Illinois; Indiana at Oregon; Arizona State at Northwestern; Penn State at Boston College
Sept. 18 - Iowa at Arizona State; Kansas at Northwestern; Ohio State at N.C. State; Wisconsin at Arizona
Sept. 3 - Rutgers at Illinois; South Florida at Penn State
Sept. 10 - Texas at Ohio State; Cincinnati at Penn State
Sept. 17 - Illinois at Cal; Northwestern at Arizona State; Purdue at Arizona; Wisconsin at North Carolina
The Wolverines' in-state rival offers an instructive example. Like the Maize and Blue, the Spartans annually face a Big Ten schedule and an out-of-conference home and home rivalry with Notre Dame that (except for 1995 and 1996) has been played year in and year out since 1959.
Travel distances from East Lansing to other regions of the country are approximately the same as they are from Ann Arbor. Add to that the fact that Michigan State's historically has been the "little brother" program of the Great Lakes region and it becomes clear that, anything the Spartans can do, Michigan should be able to do better.
Since Big Ten expansion brought Penn State into the league, Michigan State has gone on the road to play at Kansas (in 1994), at Louisville (in 1995), at Nebraska (in 1996), at Oregon (in 1998), at Missouri (in 2000), and at Rutgers (in 2004). Before that, the Spartans traveled to face N.C. State at Raleigh (in 1976), Southern Cal at Los Angeles (in 1978), Oregon at Eugene (in 1980), Miami at Coral Gables (in 1982), Colorado at Boulder (in 1984), Arizona State at Tempe (in 1986), Florida State at Tallahassee (in 1988), Syracuse at Syracuse (in 1990), and Boston College at Chestnut Hill (in 1992).
In the last three decades, M.S.U. has ventured into warmer climes numerous times and, even excluding Kentucky and Missouri as border states, Sparty has scheduled three regular season road games in the South since the year Jimmy Carter was elected president. Meanwhile, Michigan's arch-rival, Ohio State, has played an away game against a Southern opponent in September as recently as 2004 and will do so again as soon as next fall.
As I have noted previously, the Wolverines have not shied away from facing tough non-conference competition, although they have been steering clear of the Old Confederacy for the last two decades. The Maize and Blue cannot fall back upon heat, humidity, and a tough conference slate as excuses when both Michigan State and Ohio State have done recently the very thing I am asking Michigan to do.
In fact, the Wolverines' major conference rivals are not the only Big Ten teams to have ventured into my neck of the woods in recent years. Michigan's last regular season contest in the South took place on September 21, 1985 . . . and every other Big Ten team has availed itself of our Southern hospitality since then.
On September 29, 1990, Iowa faced Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. On September 16, 1995, Michigan State faced Louisville in Louisville, Ky. On December 1, 2001, Penn State faced Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. On September 7, 2002, Illinois faced Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, Miss., and Minnesota faced Louisiana-Lafayette in Lafayette, La. On September 13, 2003, Purdue faced Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C. On September 2, 2004, Northwestern faced Texas Christian in Fort Worth, Tex. On September 18, 2004, Indiana faced Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., and Ohio State faced N.C. State in Raleigh, N.C. On September 17, 2005, Wisconsin faced North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C.
No other Big Ten team has gone as long as Michigan without playing an away game against a Southern school. Seven of the other 10 conference squads have traveled to the region for a regular season contest in the 21st century, but the Wolverines haven't ventured below the Mason-Dixon line in September since the first year of Ronald Reagan's second term, at a time when the Berlin Wall still stood, the Soviet Union still existed, and the Cold War still continued.
Put another way, U.M. took on the Gamecocks in Columbia, S.C., during my senior year of high school. Last week, I received a telephone call from a high school classmate regarding the scheduling of our 20-year class reunion, but the Maize and Blue haven't been back in the meantime.
As a Georgia fan, I have little room to criticize, of course; the Bulldogs have gone twice as long as the Wolverines without leaving their region and I would not want to be accused of being the pot calling the kettle red and black. Nevertheless, when Michigan, which has a good argument for calling itself the most storied program in its conference, has gone longer than any other Big Ten team without playing a non-conference game in the South, it is time for the Maize and Blue to take a lesson from their league competitors.
Indiana plays Kentucky, Iowa plays Iowa State, and Michigan State and Purdue both play Notre Dame, yet each of these Big Ten teams still finds time to travel to the South every once in a while. With or without the Fighting Irish on their schedule, the Wolverines should step up to the plate and schedule a two-game series with the 'Dawgs.
Georgia and Michigan each stand to benefit from facing one another and both schools should be leading the way, not lagging behind, in the league-wide efforts to upgrade the out-of-conference schedules of two of the nation's premiere conferences.