Rating the B1G schedules

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Last updated: 08/24/2012 2:21 AM
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Ranking the Big Ten Schedules
By Tony Gerdeman

For most teams, schedules are just as important as the talent. If your team is on the road against three of the top four teams in the conference, your talent has just been trumped by your schedule, even if you are the best team in the conference.

Some schedules are too much to overcome, like Nebraska's this season. Others, like Wisconsin's, are as easy as they could possibly be, given the mandatory opponents they must play.

To come up with these rankings, all opponents were assigned point values between 0.0 and 1.0. The more difficult the opponent, the higher the value. For instance, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State were .8s on the road, but 1.0s at home.

Schedule scores ranged from 5.1 to 7.35. Wisconsin's schedule was the easiest in the conference by a very wide margin. The second-easiest schedule scored a 5.6.

(Ranked by easiest schedule)

1. Wisconsin
Sep 01 Northern Iowa
Sep 08 @Oregon St.
Sep 15 Utah St.
Sep 22 UTEP
Sep 29 @Nebraska
Oct 06 Illinois
Oct 13 @Purdue
Oct 20 Minnesota
Oct 27 Michigan St.
Nov 10 @Indiana
Nov 17 Ohio St.
Nov 24 @Penn St.

The only road game that could pose a serious threat is at Nebraska. They could possibly stumble early at Oregon State, but don't count on it. Getting Ohio State and Michigan State at home could be the difference between the Capital One Bowl and the BCS National Championship Game.

2. Iowa
Sep 01 vs Northern Illinois (Chicago, IL)
Sep 08 Iowa St.
Sep 15 Northern Iowa
Sep 22 C. Michigan
Sep 29 Minnesota
Oct 13 @Michigan St.
Oct 20 Penn St.
Oct 27 @Northwestern
Nov 03 @Indiana
Nov 10 Purdue
Nov 17 @Michigan
Nov 23 Nebraska

Only having four true road games is always going to lead to beneficial scheduling, but having to go on the road against both Michigan and Michigan State is not ideal. Fortunately, Iowa does get to avoid Ohio State and Wisconsin. They could be favored in nine or ten games this season.

3. Illinois
Sep 01 W. Michigan
Sep 08 @Arizona St.
Sep 15 Charleston Southern
Sep 22 Louisiana Tech
Sep 29 Penn St.
Oct 06 @Wisconsin
Oct 13 @Michigan
Oct 27 Indiana
Nov 03 @Ohio St.
Nov 10 Minnesota
Nov 17 Purdue
Nov 24 @Northwestern

The Illini do have one of the more difficult conference schedules, and it will be hard for them to win a single game on the road, but the rest of their schedule is filled with gooey cupcakes dripping with icing. If they can get by Arizona State, they should start 5-0 before the losing comes.

4. Indiana
Sep 01 Indiana State
Sep 08 @Massachusetts
Sep 15 Ball St.
Sep 29 @Northwestern
Oct 06 Michigan St.
Oct 13 Ohio St.
Oct 20 @Navy
Oct 27 @Illinois
Nov 03 Iowa
Nov 10 Wisconsin
Nov 17 @Penn St.
Nov 24 @Purdue

The bad thing for Indiana is not only are they bad, but they make their schedule tougher than it needs to be. Two road non-conference games is not a good idea if you're lacking in talent. Their home Big Ten schedule might be the best ticket in the conference this year, however.

5. Northwestern
Sep 01 @Syracuse
Sep 08 Vanderbilt
Sep 15 Boston College
Sep 22 South Dakota
Sep 29 Indiana
Oct 06 @Penn St.
Oct 13 @Minnesota
Oct 20 Nebraska
Oct 27 Iowa
Nov 10 @Michigan
Nov 17 @Michigan St.
Nov 24 Illinois

Northwestern opens the season against three BCS non-conference opponents, but none of them may end up being bowl teams. Getting Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois at home makes up for having to travel to both Michigan schools. As I've said before, the Wildcats could very well start out 9-0, or 3-6.

6. Ohio State
Sep 01 Miami (Ohio)
Sep 08 UCF
Sep 15 California
Sep 22 UAB
Sep 29 @Michigan St.
Oct 06 Nebraska
Oct 13 @Indiana
Oct 20 Purdue
Oct 27 @Penn St.
Nov 03 Illinois
Nov 17 @Wisconsin
Nov 24 Michigan

The Buckeyes are the beneficiaries of playing in the weakened Leaders Division this season, but for television purposes they find Michigan State and Nebraska on their schedule. They should be favored in ten of their games this year, with Michigan State and Wisconsin the possible exceptions.

7. Penn State
Sep 01 Ohio
Sep 08 @Virginia
Sep 15 Navy
Sep 22 Temple
Sep 29 @Illinois
Oct 06 Northwestern
Oct 20 @Iowa
Oct 27 Ohio St.
Nov 03 @Purdue
Nov 10 @Nebraska
Nov 17 Indiana
Nov 24 Wisconsin

In any normal year, a game at Virginia wouldn't be a concern, but Penn State won't have a normal year until 2020. The road games are all losable, and the home conference schedule only has one cheapie. Three conference wins for the Nittany Lions would have to be considered a pretty good season.

8. Purdue
Sep 01 Eastern Kentucky
Sep 08 @Notre Dame
Sep 15 E. Michigan
Sep 29 Marshall
Oct 06 Michigan
Oct 13 Wisconsin
Oct 20 @Ohio St.
Oct 27 @Minnesota
Nov 03 Penn St.
Nov 10 @Iowa
Nov 17 @Illinois
Nov 24 Indiana

The schedule is a little more difficult than normal because the Boilers have to travel to South Bend. Getting Michigan and Wisconsin at home is a boon, provided they can do something with it. There is only one gimme on the conference schedule, and that's a rivalry game against Indiana.

9. Minnesota
Aug 30 @UNLV
Sep 08 New Hampshire
Sep 15 W. Michigan
Sep 22 Syracuse
Sep 29 @Iowa
Oct 13 Northwestern
Oct 20 @Wisconsin
Oct 27 Purdue
Nov 03 Michigan
Nov 10 @Illinois
Nov 17 @Nebraska
Nov 24 Michigan St.

The Gophers don't do themselves any favors by having a rivalry with Wisconsin. As if it wasn't bad enough that they have to play everybody in the Legends Division, but they also have to play the Badgers. A road game at Illinois isn't helpful either. At least they avoid the Buckeyes.

10. Nebraska
Sep 01 Southern Miss
Sep 08 @UCLA
Sep 15 Arkansas St.
Sep 22 Idaho State
Sep 29 Wisconsin
Oct 06 @Ohio St.
Oct 20 @Northwestern
Oct 27 Michigan
Nov 03 @Michigan St.
Nov 10 Penn St.
Nov 17 Minnesota
Nov 23 @Iowa

Home games against Penn State and Minnesota are the only breaks that Nebraska's conference schedule has. Every road game could be a loss, and back-to-back games against Michigan and Michigan State won't exactly be a field day. If Nebraska overcomes this schedule, then you go ahead and crown them.

11. Michigan State
Aug 31 Boise St.
Sep 08 @C. Michigan
Sep 15 Notre Dame
Sep 22 E. Michigan
Sep 29 Ohio St.
Oct 06 @Indiana
Oct 13 Iowa
Oct 20 @Michigan
Oct 27 @Wisconsin
Nov 03 Nebraska
Nov 17 Northwestern
Nov 24 @Minnesota

While the Boise State game is more flash than substance, it's still a non-conference game that most Big Ten teams aren't interested in scheduling. Getting Ohio State and Wisconsin on the schedule is unfortunate for them, but at least they get the Buckeyes in East Lansing.

12. Michigan
Sep 01 vs. Alabama (Arlington, TX)
Sep 08 Air Force
Sep 15 Massachusetts
Sep 22 @Notre Dame
Oct 06 @Purdue
Oct 13 Illinois
Oct 20 Michigan St.
Oct 27 @Nebraska
Nov 03 @Minnesota
Nov 10 Northwestern
Nov 17 Iowa
Nov 24 @Ohio St.

By anybody else's standards, having Notre Dame or Alabama on the non-conference schedule would be plenty. Dave Brandon is not satisfied with "plenty", however. Road games at Nebraska and Ohio State should see them as underdogs, and whether or not they're favored against the Spartans, that won't be an easy one.

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