Scheduling Shifts Make LSU Happen

With the announcement becoming official on Friday, that Wisconsin will play LSU at historic Lambeau Field to open the 2016 football season, it marked the end to a huge scheduling puzzle that the Badgers needed to take apart and put back together again.

MADISON - With college football moving into a four-team playoff format in the 2014 season, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez knew that he had to schedule marquee nonconference opponents in order for the Badgers even be in the conversation should the opportunity arise.

With the amount of pieces he had to move to make it happen, Alvarez must feel good about Wisconsin's chances the next three seasons.

A process that has been ongoing and reported on since April finally concluded Thursday when Wisconsin announced it will open the 2016 season against LSU at Lambeau Field on Sept.3. The game adds to Wisconsin opening against LSU next season in Houston and against two time reigning national champion Alabama in Dallas in 2015.

"I'm very excited about this game and I hope our fans are, too," Alvarez said in a statement. "We have a great working relationship with the Packers and Mark Murphy and I want to thank them for all their help in getting this game scheduled. It is a tremendous opportunity to showcase our program, a great experience for our players to play in one of the most revered stadiums in the country and a terrific chance for our fans to see us play a quality opponent in the state of Wisconsin."

Considering how far out nonconference schedules are determined in the world of college football, the Badgers had some maneuvering to be done.

Already set to play at Washington State in 2014 before hosting the Cougars in 2015, Wisconsin needed to move the series to avoid playing a second nonconference road game. After the Cougars found a suitable replacement for the two games (Washington State will face new Big Ten foe Rutgers), the two schools moved the series to 2022 in Madison and 2023 in Pullman, Wash.

The final game of the three-game series will be played 16 years after the first one, as Wisconsin beat WSU, 42-21, in the 2007 season opener.

Fitting in the return game in Lambeau Field caused even more schedule juggling. The Badgers begin play in the Big Ten Conference's West Division in 2014 following the addition of Maryland and Rutgers and Big Ten teams will begin playing nine league games in 2016. UW is scheduled to play four home conference games in even-numbered years and five home conference games in odd-numbered years.

Speaking on the topic previously, Alvarez said he would prefer to play neutral-site games during seasons when the Badgers have only six dates at Camp Randall Stadium. In order to do accomplish that, Alvarez had to move a proposed game against Virginia Tech again.

Originally scheduled to begin the series in 2008-09, then-head coach Bret Bielema delayed the series to 2016-17, with the first meeting scheduled for Blacksburg, VA, since the Badgers opened the '08 season playing Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa in consecutive weeks, not to mention a scheduled road game at Fresno State.

Despite relatively easier conference schedules in 2014 and '15, Wisconsin's 2016 Big Ten schedule begins with back-to-back road games at Michigan and Michigan State, home game vs. Ohio State, at Iowa, home vs. Nebraska and at Northwestern.

Despite saying the series has been moved four times since its original start date, Virginia Tech Athletic Director Jim Weaver agreed to postpone the series until 2019 in Madison and 2020 at Virginia Tech.

But for a chance to be a part of the first college game at a historic landmark right in their backyard against a SEC opponent, Wisconsin was willing to jump at the opportunity.

"It's two tremendous conferences facing off against each other in a big time game early in the year," said Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen. "It'll be a highly competitive game in a national spotlight, and that's why kids play the game. It's why we coach. When you're at a school like the University of Wisconsin you want to be on the highest stage and play the best of the best. It'll also help us in recruiting young men, especially and potentially in the south."

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