Rating the 2019 Big Ten Schedules

Ohio Stadium Spring Game Crowd 2019 Ohio State Spring Game

If you are going to win the Big Ten, you either better be one of the best teams in the nation or have an incredibly favorable schedule.

And if you can do both, do both.

When it comes to these annual Big Ten ratings, the schedules are just one piece of the puzzle. In reality, however, a schedule is all four corner pieces of that puzzle.

The teams that have the easiest roads can get away with lacking some personnel. Those teams that have the toughest schedules, however, will eventually be exposed.

And even the most talented teams who have difficult schedules can’t always fight their way through week after week.

So who has the easiest roads this season? Let’s take a look.

[Note: There is a formula for how I have come up with these ratings. Every team is given a grade based on wins over the last two seasons, returning starters, etc, and then those grades are plugged into each team’s schedule and a number is spit out. The lower the number, the easier the schedule. The schedule ratings below are listed in order from easiest to most difficult.]

East Division

1. Indiana Hoosiers (30.0)

Indiana’s non-conference schedule features Ball State, Eastern Illinois, and Connecticut. They get both Ohio State and Michigan at home. Road games at Nebraska, Michigan State, Maryland, Penn State, and Purdue could all be losses. None of their bye weeks will help. One comes before Rutgers at home and the other comes a week before the road game at PSU.

8/31 Ball State
9/7 Eastern Ill.
9/14 Ohio State
9/21 Connecticut
9/28 at Mich State
10/12 Rutgers
10/19 at Maryland
10/26 at Nebraska
11/2 Northwestern
11/16 at Penn State
11/23 Michigan
11/30 at Purdue

2. Ohio State Buckeyes (30.3)

No Power 5 non-conference opponents on this schedule keeps this score low, but Cincinnati isn’t a pushover. Crossover road games at Nebraska and Northwestern are less than ideal, as is the road game at Michigan. Getting Wisconsin at home isn’t exactly a breeze either. Having a bye week before the Wildcats is a help. Getting Penn State and Michigan back-to-back is foolishly out of the purview of my formula.

8/31 Florida Atlantic
9/7 Cincinnati
9/14 at Indiana
9/21 Miami (OH)
9/28 at Nebraska
10/5 Michigan State
10/18 at Northwestern
10/26 Wisconsin
11/9 Maryland
11/16 at Rutgers
11/23 Penn State
11/30 at Michigan

3. Maryland Terrapins (31.2)

Howard, Syracuse, and a road game at Temple are Maryland’s non-conference opponents. Michigan and Penn State are both at home, which is nice. Road games at Ohio State, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Purdue are not. Here’s a couple of interesting notes — the Terps have bye weeks before Penn State and Nebraska come to town.

8/31 Howard
9/7 Syracuse
9/14 at Temple
9/27 Penn State
10/5 at Rutgers
10/12 at Purdue
10/19 Indiana
10/26 at Minnesota
11/2 Michigan
11/9 at Ohio State
11/23 Nebraska
11/30 at Michigan State

4. Penn State Nittany Lions (31.3)

A home game against Pitt is the lone non-conference test, as Idaho and Buffalo should be fine. A road game at Iowa is a rough ask for even the best teams in the nation. Heading to Michigan State and Ohio State won’t help. Facing Michigan in Happy Valley a week after Iowa will be interesting. The Spartans come to Penn State off of a bye.

8/31 Idaho
9/7 Buffalo
9/14 Pittsburgh
9/27 at Maryland
10/5 Purdue
10/12 at Iowa
10/19 Michigan
10/26 at Michigan State
11/9 at Minnesota
11/16 Indiana
11/23 at Ohio State
11/30 Rutgers

5. Michigan State Spartans (31.4)

Home games against Tulsa, Western Michigan, and Arizona State is the respectable non-conference slate. Three of their first four Big Ten games are road tilts at Northwestern, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. They then sandwich two bye weeks around a game at home against Penn State. Having a bye week before they go to Michigan is a help.

8/30 Tulsa
9/7 Western Michigan
9/14 Arizona State
9/21 at Northwestern
9/28 Indiana
10/5 at Ohio State
10/12 at Wisconsin
10/26 Penn State
11/9 Illinois
11/16 at Michigan
11/23 at Rutgers
11/30 Maryland

6. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (32.0)

Rutgers goes to Iowa in week two, which again, is a tall order for even the best teams in the country. They host UMass, Boston College, and Liberty in the non-conference. They have a bye week before the BC game, so we’ll see if they put it to good use. A rivalry battle at Michigan will be tough. They end the season at Penn State.

8/30 Massachusetts
9/7 at Iowa
9/21 Boston College
9/28 at Michigan
10/5 Maryland
10/12 at Indiana
10/19 Minnesota
10/26 Liberty
11/2 at Illinois
11/16 Ohio State
11/23 Michigan State
11/30 at Penn State

7. Michigan Wolverines (32.8)

This is at least the second year in a row that Michigan has had the toughest schedule in the East using my formula (which I never write down and is never totally the same). Hosting Army in week two isn’t smart. Notre Dame gets a bye before going to Michigan, which happens one week after the Wolverines go to Penn State. Both Michigan and Wisconsin have bye weeks before their game in Madison.

8/31 Middle Tennessee
9/7 Army
9/21 at Wisconsin
9/28 Rutgers
10/5 Iowa
10/12 at Illinois
10/19 at Penn State
10/26 Notre Dame
11/2 at Maryland
11/16 Michigan State
11/23 at Indiana
11/30 Ohio State

West Division

1. Minnesota Golden Gophers (28.5)

This is one of those times my schedule formula sure seems like an inexact science. Non-conference games against South Dakota State, Fresno State, and Georgia Southern all seem soft, but all three won double-digit games last year. Not having Ohio State and Michigan on the schedule has helped their schedule. Getting Penn State at home is the best place to get them. Road games at Purdue, Iowa, and Northwestern are up for grabs.

8/29 San Diego State
9/7 at Fresno State
9/14 Georgia Southern
9/28 at Purdue
10/5 Illinois
10/12 Nebraska
10/19 at Rutgers
10/26 Maryland
11/9 Penn State
11/16 at Iowa
11/23 at Northwestern
11/30 Wisconsin

2. Illinois Fighting Illini (30.4)

If you want to sell tickets, bringing in Akron and Eastern Michigan ain’t how you do it. A road game at Connecticut is where scalpers go to die. Crossover games against Michigan and Michigan State are rough, but at least the Wolverines have to come to Illinois. Michigan State gets a bye week before they host Illinois, which seems pretty excessive.

8/31 Akron
9/7 at Connecticut
9/14 Eastern Michigan
9/21 Nebraska
10/5 at Minnesota
10/12 Michigan
10/19 Wisconsin
10/26 at Purdue
11/2 Rutgers
11/9 at Michigan State
11/23 at Iowa
11/30 Northwestern

3. Wisconsin Badgers (31.4)

Wisconsin opens the season at USF on Friday, which is interesting. Home games against Central Michigan and Kent State aren’t. Though, Kent State does come in off of a bye. Being forced to play Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State as crossover games is ridiculous, but only the OSU game is on the road. The toughest divisional road game is at Nebraska. They get Iowa and Northwestern at home, with an extra week to prepare for the Hawkeyes.

8/30 at USF
9/7 Central Michigan
9/21 Michigan
9/28 Northwestern
10/5 Kent State
10/12 Michigan State
10/19 at Illinois
10/26 at Ohio State
11/9 Iowa
11/16 at Nebraska
11/23 Purdue
11/30 at Minnesota

4. Nebraska Cornhuskers (31.5)

A nice, old Big 8 matchup takes place in week two as Nebraska travels to Colorado. Their other road games are at Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue, and Maryland. Home games are Ohio State, Northwestern, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Iowa. This doesn’t seem like the fourth-toughest schedule in the West, but it must be because my science says so.

8/31 South Alabama
9/7 at Colorado
9/14 Northern Illinois
9/21 at Illinois
9/28 Ohio State
10/5 Northwestern
10/12 at Minnesota
10/26 Indiana
11/2 at Purdue
11/16 Wisconsin
11/23 at Maryland
11/29 Iowa

5. Iowa Hawkeyes (32.0)

Iowa State gets a bye before they host Iowa in week three. Getting a road game at Michigan and a home game against Penn State is a bit like punishment. Road games at Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Nebraska could all be losses, but the Michigan game really feels like the only unwinnable game on this schedule.

8/31 Miami (OH)
9/7 Rutgers
9/14 at Iowa State
9/28 Middle Tennessee
10/5 at Michigan
10/12 Penn State
10/19 Purdue
10/26 at Northwestern
11/9 at Wisconsin
11/16 Minnesota
11/23 Illinois
11/29 at Nebraska

6. Purdue Boilermakers (32.6)

While hopes are high for Purdue, opening on a Friday night at Nevada is just asking for a loss. They host TCU in week three, and the Horned Frogs come in off of a bye week. Penn State, Maryland, and Indiana are the crossover games, with the Nittany Lions being the lone road game of the three. Should be a fun one to watch, though. Nebraska has to come to West Lafayette, but the Boilers go to Iowa, Northwestern, and Wisconsin.

8/30 at Nevada
9/7 Vanderbilt
9/14 TCU
9/28 Minnesota
10/5 at Penn State
10/12 Maryland
10/19 at Iowa
10/26 Illinois
11/2 Nebraska
11/9 at Northwestern
11/23 at Wisconsin
11/30 Indiana

7. Northwestern Wildcats (32.9)

Northwestern could be 1-6 to start the season and it wouldn’t even take terrible football to make that happen. They open at Stanford, then have an off week before a win against UNLV. Then comes Michigan State at home, Wisconsin and Nebraska on the road, and then Ohio State and Iowa at home. Home games down the road against Purdue and Minnesota won’t be easy. UMass is oddly scheduled for mid-November.

8/31 at Stanford
9/14 UNLV
9/21 Michigan State
9/28 at Wisconsin
10/5 at Nebraska
10/18 Ohio State
10/26 Iowa
11/2 at Indiana
11/9 Purdue
11/16 Massachusetts
11/23 Minnesota
11/30 at Illinois

Big Ten Ratings

Quarterback — East | West

Running Back — East | West

Receivers — East | West

Offensive Line — East | West

Defensive Line — East | West

Linebackers — East | West

Defensive Backs — East | West

Special Teams — East | West