Last summer I commented on Northwestern's "like academic" college football scheduling approach, wondering whether Boston College should take a similar approach to non-conference scheduling. Last Wednesday, Northwestern AD Jim Phillips announced that the Wildcats will continue its tour of the USN&WR Top 50 with a home-and-home with Stanford in 2015-16.
"Jim Phillips announced today that Northwestern and Stanford will play a home-and-home series in football, with the first meeting in Evanston on September of 2015, and the rematch the next September in Palo Alto. The two schools will also play a four game series beginning in 2019."
The USN&WR Top 50 is well represented on Northwestern's future schedules, including games against:
2012 -- Vanderbilt, Boston College
2013 -- at California, at Vanderbilt
2014 -- California, Vanderbilt, at Notre Dame
2015 -- Stanford, at Duke
2016 -- at Stanford, Duke
2017 -- at Duke, Rice
2018 -- Duke, Notre Dame, Rice
2019 -- Stanford
2020 -- at Stanford
2021 -- Stanford
2022 -- at Stanford
With such a tough non-conference schedule to go along with the eight game Big Ten schedule, Sippin' On Purple naturally has some reservations:
"As a fan, it's exciting that Northwestern will be facing some real teams in non-conference play as opposed to the usual scrubs, but Phillips and Fitzgerald may regret playing so many tough games in September if they're unable to reach the six wins needed for bowl eligibility. If the NU football program improves and is able to compete in these games, then it's a great move to schedule tough. But whether NU will be good enough to beat teams like Stanford and Notre Dame remains to be seen."
Reservations aside, the strategy here is pretty clear. If Northwestern isn't currently winning a majority of recruiting battles against these academic peer schools, then Phillips and Fitzgerald wants to take those battles to the football field. If Northwestern is able to knock off a Stanford or Notre Dame, then the program may just start turning some of these recruiting battles in their favor.
Non-conference scheduling like this also allows the Northwestern program to get to different parts of the country -- Carolinas, West Coast, Texas, Tennessee -- which also helps with recruiting and also placates out of town fans and alumni as they get to see their team play.
Contrast the above schedule with Boston College's tentative future opponents:
2012 -- at Northwestern, Maine, at Army Notre Dame
2013 -- at Southern Cal, Army, Stony Brook, Syracuse (will probably be an ACC game by 2013)
2014 -- Southern Cal, Army at Yankee Stadium
2015 -- Buffalo, Army, Notre Dame
2016 -- Buffalo, at Notre Dame
2018 -- at Notre Dame
2019 -- Notre Dame
There are a few differences between BC's and Northwestern's current college football lot in life. BC will soon have just three non-conference dates a year to Northwestern (and the Big Ten's) four. The ACC also has a bunch more like academic schools than the Big Ten, where Northwestern stands out as the lone private school in the conference.
But it's hard not to like what Northwestern is doing with its non-conference football scheduling and I wish BC would get around more of these programs that NU is scheduling -- Stanford, Cal, Vanderbilt, Rice (located in Texas, hello?!) -- as well as UCLA, Northwestern (again), Michigan and Texas.
It will be tough to achieve with a long-term deal inked with Notre Dame and the annual I-AA game (a given), but I'd rather see BC use its last non-conference slot on one of these BCS AQ schools over Buffalo, UMass and other MACrificial lambs. (That said, I do love the Army series as BC-Army have a long shared history as two long-time Eastern independents).
It's the type of high risk, high reward balls-out scheduling that I know will never get done under the current administration, but you have to admire what Phillips and Fitzgerald are trying to achieve at Northwestern.