Big announcement today as the Big Ten opted to move to 9 conference games in 2017. Though this seemed highly likely after comments from the Commissioner and Michigan's Athletic Director Dave Brandon, this is still an important announcement.
Not only will this keep the "intimacy" of the Big Ten, but it will have a large impact on scheduling in future seasons. For example, as of now, Michigan has a yearly rivalry game with Notre Dame, but now that Michigan will only play 3 non-conference games after 2017, this will become even more difficult to schedule if Michigan is hoping to plan more games similar to the 2012 showdown with Alabama in Dallas.
Michigan has enjoyed long-term battles with several MAC teams, specifically Western and Eastern Michigan, so being forced to cut some of these games may leave some fans annoyed, but it will likely create more quality games over time. Facing MAC teams are always fun, but at least personally, I'd much rather play a team like Wisconsin or Penn State than Eastern or Western Michigan.
The other issue is that Michigan's schedule will also likely become more difficult on a yearly basis. Granted, Michigan has often scheduled tough non-conference opponents (this can be seen in Michigan's 2012 schedule which includes Alabama, Notre Dame, and Air Force), but as stated earlier, the replacement of some MAC teams or other "easier" teams will likely make every year more difficult.
This change is still a few years off, but it's exciting to know that Michigan will be facing more quality opponents on a consistent basis.
Here is ESPN's post about the change with some comments from Commissioner Delany: