The Wisconsin Badgers will open their 2014 football campaign in Houston, taking on the LSU Tigers.
Athletic director Barry Alvarez wanted more, telling the Wisconsin State Journal that he tried to get a home-and-home series with LSU for 2014 and 2016.
“They weren’t interested,” Alvarez said. “They wouldn’t tell you why. They just weren’t interested.”
So the Badgers and Tigers will play in those years, but the games will be at NRG Stadium in Houston on Aug. 30 and at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Sept. 3, 2016.
Wisconsin will also play another Southeastern Conference power, Alabama, on Sept. 3, 2015, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Again, not a home-and-home. Alvarez said Alabama—like LSU—wanted no part of it.
“I’d love to do it,” Alvarez said. “I’ve approached a lot of those schools. I have one that we’re talking to for a home-and-home, but we’re just in the infant stages of it.”
Alvarez didn’t say which school it was, but did say it was not Arkansas, where former Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema works.
The Big Ten plays an eight-game conference schedule through the 2015 season, when it will bump up to nine games.
So that leaves three non-conference spots open; a challenge for athletic directors now that programs from the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA, are no longer allowed to be scheduled under a new policy enacted by the Big Ten.
For Wisconsin, the matchup with LSU in Houston is their first regular-season meeting against an SEC opponent since they played a home-and-home with LSU in 1971 (at Madison) and 1972 (at Baton Rouge, La.)
Wisconsin has faced four SEC foes in bowl games since 2003, going 1-3, including a 34-24 loss to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1.
Just for giggles, let’s look at how the SEC programs have scheduled true road games against Power 5 non-conference competition outside of the SEC footprint since the turn of the century, including this season:
- Vanderbilt—8 games (2001 at Duke, 2005 at Wake Forest, 2006 at Michigan, 2006 at Duke, 2008 at Wake Forest, 2011 at Wake Forest, 2012 at Northwestern, 2012 at Wake Forest)
- Tennessee—6 games (2001 at Notre Dame, 2005 at Notre Dame, 2007 at California, 2008 at UCLA, 2013 at Oregon, 2014 at Oklahoma)
- LSU—5 games (2002 at Virginia Tech, 2003 at Arizona, 2005 at Arizona State, 2009 at Washington, 2011 at West Virginia)
- Auburn—4 games (2001 at Syracuse, 2002 at USC, 2008 at West Virginia, 2014 at Kansas State)
- Georgia—3 games (2008 at Arizona State, 2009 at Oklahoma State, 2010 at Colorado)
- Kentucky—3 games (2001 at Indiana, 2003 at Indiana, 2005 at Indiana)
- Missouri—3 games (2001 at Michigan State, 2011 at Arizona State, 2013 at Indiana)
- South Carolina—3 games (2002 at Virginia, 2007 at North Carolina, 2009 at North Carolina State)
- Texas A&M—3 games (2002 at Pittsburgh, 2003 at Virginia Tech, 2004 at Utah)
- Alabama—2 games (2002 at Oklahoma, 2011 at Penn State)
- Arkansas—2 games (2005 at USC, 2013 at Rutgers)
- Mississippi State—2 games (2002 at Oregon, 2007 at West Virginia)
- Florida—no games (the last time Florida played a true road game outside the Southeast against a Power 5 school was 1991 at Syracuse)
- Ole Miss—no games (the last time Ole Miss played a true road game outside the Southeast against a Power 5 school was 1985 at Notre Dame)
It should be noted that Texas A&M and Missouri only joined the SEC in 2012.
What’s really strange about it is that it’s not as if Big Ten schools are asking SEC schools to come north in November or December, when it’s cold. September in the Midwest is sort of like, you know, still summer most of the time.
But apparently that’s the key to being known as the best conference in America—schedule well and, for God’s sake, never leave the region.