Now that the Big Ten has made public its http://host.madison.com/sports/college/football/article_66811b36-606b-11e0-be92-001cc4c03286.html" target="_blank">league football schedules through 2014, there is one glaring omission from the University of Wisconsin slate: Michigan.
That's a tough break for two reasons: Not only are the Wolverines a major draw, but they're in the midst of a coaching transition in the aftermath of the failed Rich Rodriguez era, portending an ongoing window of vulnerability that maize-and-blue supporters are counting on new coach Brady Hoke to slam shut sooner rather than later.
The Badgers have won three of the last four games in the series, including a 48-28 thumping at the Big House last November that capped UW's first back-to-back victories over Michigan in 16 years and just the second set of consecutive victories since winning three straight from 1959-62.
From a historical perspective, the four-year gap is the longest break in the series since an eight-season void from 1951-1958. The teams have had no more than a two-year break since that time and have faced each other every year since 2005.
The good news: Big Ten senior associate commissioner Mark Rudner confirmed in a phone call Wednesday afternoon that Michigan and Wisconsin will play each other in 2015, although that next round of scheduling has yet to be formally considered, let alone hashed out.
The uncertainty surrounding the scheduling formula going forward is rooted in the Big Ten's internal debate over whether to add a ninth conference game.
"That's still an open question," said Rudner, noting that it could be resolved as soon as next month, when the Big Ten athletic directors are scheduled to meet in Chicago.
If the Big Ten decides on a nine-game league slate, each team would face their five divisional foes and four teams from the other division — one being the appointed traditional rival it faces annually. In Wisconsin's case, that is Minnesota.
That setup would still create an imbalance, in that there are just two foes a given school would not face in a scheduling cycle. In short: If those leftovers are inserted into the next rotation, how would the third non-divisional, non-traditional foe be decided?
Given that circumstance, one option for league ADs is to add another traditional rival. In Wisconsin's case that likely would be Iowa, which will return to the schedule in 2013-14 after dropping off the next two years.
That'd pacify fans in Madison who mourned the loss of annual meetings with the Hawkeyes, and restore similar cherished matchups throughout the league. From an equity standpoint, it'd create a format in which the four other non-division foes would rotate in and out of the schedule in two-year cycles.
That's similar to what the Big Ten offers now, but preferable in a fairness of competition sense. Division foes will always get a shot at each other on the field, avoiding situations such as 2002 when Iowa and Ohio State were undefeated co-champions.