Has the Big Ten improved their out of conference slate?

Scott Cunningham

Ohio State has been busy trying to improve their out of conference games to prepare for the playoffs. Other Big Ten schools have as well, to varying degrees of success. We look at who is putting on their big boy pants, and who is scheduling Tulane.

The Big Ten has talked about wanting to become a Leader and/or Legend in out of conference scheduling. They (apparently have) told people to stop scheduling FCS squads, and many league squads have been busily improving their future slates. Michigan just added a home and home with Virginia Tech, while Minnesota announced a home-and-home with TCU slated for 2014-2015. How does their recent addition stack up with the rest of the league, and Ohio State? Does the Big Ten have more chances in the coming years to shed that less-than-complementary image?

Let's take a look at the data, from our friends at FBschedules.com, with the caveat of course that games scheduled nearly a decade from now are not guaranteed to be played at all.

Michigan State

2014 @ Oregon

2015 Oregon

2016 @ Alabama, Notre Dame

Future: 2017 Alabama/@ Notre Dame, 2020/2021 home-and-home with Miami FL, 2022-2023, home-and-home with Boise State, possible future games with Notre Dame.

Michigan State's upcoming slate of games isn't just the most impressive in the Big Ten (except for maybe Ohio State's); it could be the most ambitious in the country. Home-and-homes with three top Ten caliber squads, to say nothing of annual dates with Michigan and Ohio State, will make for very difficult schedules for even the best Spartan squads. Michigan State is also over scheduled in 2016 and 2017, which means that some #MACtion will have to go (I'd guess Furman gets dropped instead of EMU in 2016, and Miami OH gets dropped in favor of WMU in 2017).

Nebraska

2014-Miami (FL), At Fresno State

2015-BYU, @ Miami (FL)

2016- Tennessee, vs Northern Illinois in Chicago, IL

Future: 2017 @ Tennessee, 2020/2021 home-and-home with Oklahoma

Nebraska deserves some credit for playing a strong schedule already, picking up games with plucky midmajors (Southern Miss was scheduled when they weren't horrendous, Arkansas State), and a willingness to play games on the road (UCLA, Fresno State). As a fan, I'm particularly excited about the prospect of Nebraska continuing their series with Oklahoma. They are over scheduled for 2016, with likely either Fresno State or Wyoming coming off the board.

Wisconsin

2014- @ Washington State, USF

2015- vs Alabama (Arlington Texas), Washington State

2016- @ Va Tech

Future: @ BYU and @ USF in 2017 (we'll see if that stays in the 9 game schedule though), 2018 – Washington and BYU.

Wisconsin deserves particular praise for finally scheduling real teams, as they were notorious over the last decade for scheduling the likes of Akron, Wofford, and Westerville Central. A willingness to go on the road to Arizona State this year, along with a three game slate with BYU (that starts this season) are great to starts to what looks like very interesting games. The Washington State series, in particular, will make great television.

Michigan

2014 @ Notre Dame, Utah

2015 - @ Utah, Oregon State, BYU

No, you don't get any credit for scheduling Colorado.

Future: 2017-Cincinnati, 2018/2019 home-and-home with Arkansas, 2020/2021 series with Virginia Tech

Michigan is apparently trying to take this "champions of the west" thing literally, with a Pac-12 heavy slate of upcoming games, plus a matchup with BYU (seriously, is EVERY good team in the Big Ten besides Ohio State going to play BYU? MAKE THE CALL GENE SMITH I DEMAND IT). They have Colorado on the future schedule as well, but I refuse to give anybody credit for scheduling Colorado. The 2014 return date with Appalachian State should be delightful as well.

Northwestern

2014 Cal, @ Notre Dame

2015 Stanford, @ Duke

2016 Duke, @ Stanford

Future: 2018 with Notre Dame, 4 games with Stanford scheduled from 2019-2022.

The Wildcats do have plenty of pasties still on the schedule, but they also aren't that far removed from being a program that didn't consider Western Michigan a layup win. A home-and-home with Cal that starts this season will be a great test on whether the Wildcats can sustain their positive momentum. Getting a long term deal with Stanford will also be great for the team, and those Duke games might not actually be so bad.

Minnesota

2014- @ TCU, SJSU

2015- TCU, @ Colorado State

2016 @ Miami (OH)

Future--2017-2018 home-and-home with Oregon State

It wasn't that long ago that Minnesota was actively buying out higher profile schools to get to bowl eligibility, and outside of TCU, the schedule is a little light on big games. Given the immediate goals of the program though, that strategy makes sense. A road trip to Colorado State is a good test, and the MAC type schools the Gophers are going after (Ohio, Kent) will also be tough outs. The Gophers are overbooked for 2016, and FCS Indiana State is the most likely school to be dropped, although it may be NMSU.

Indiana

2014- @ Missouri, @ Bowling Green

2015- @ USF, Wake Forest

2016- USF, Wake Forest

Future: Nothing so far.

Indiana is in a similar boat with Minnesota. None of these games are likely to set the world on fire, but Missouri, USF and Wake are great examples of games that the Hoosiers should go over to give them a little boost, and prepare them for league play. The team has very few games scheduled after 2016. It isn't clear if annual dates with Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State will make them be more conservative in non con games, or if improvement in the program will make them a little hungrier.

Maryland

2014-@ USF, TBA with WVU

2015- USF, WVU

2016- @ WVU, @ FIU (???), UCF (one road game likely to drop due to 9 game conference slate)

Future: home-and-home with Texas, 2017-2018.

Games against West Virginia, Southern Florida and Texas certainly aren't bad, and a previously scheduled matchup with Wisconsin is now going to be dropped for obvious reasons. League play is also going to be a bit of a step up for Maryland as well, so some cation is to be expected. Still, there are a lot of blegh games in the near future, including FCS teams every year until 2017, although since they're over scheduled for 2016, my guess is that Howard gets dropped or rescheduled then.

Purdue

2014- @ Notre Dame

2015- @ Marshall, Notre Dame

2016- Cincinnati, @ Notre Dame

Future: home-and-home with Missouri in 2017/2018, @ Nevada in 2019.

It's unclear exactly how the annual Notre Dame game is going to play out in a 9 game B1G schedule, and with Notre Dame's new ACC obligations. My guess is that won't end up on the schedule every year until 2021, as currently projected. Outside of that game, there isn't very much to be excited about, although a home and home with Nevada and a date with Cincinnati could be fun games. With the Boilermakers escaping to the "easier" division, here is hoping they improve the quality of their pre-B1G slate over time.

Penn State

2014- UCF

2016- At Pitt

Future: Will play Pitt and Syracuse across 2017-2021

On one hand, it's understandable for Penn State's schedule to be bland, given the uncertainty surrounding sanctions, and questions as to how competitive they'd be. The Nittany Lions can be given a little more credit for finally getting Pitt on the schedule, and for trying to spice things up by playing UCF in Ireland. Still, at the end of the day, this is a pretty bland slate, and there really isn't a game on there so far that gets me excited as an impartial fan.

Iowa

2014- At Pitt

2015- Pitt

Future: Outside of the annual game with Iowa State, nothing of merit.

Iowa does have Iowa State on the schedule for every season, but other than that, it's nothing but emptiness, lower-tier MACtion, and FCS games. With all the negative mojo surrounding the football team, getting a legitimately exciting game on the schedule would go a long way towards setting some momentum, or at the very least, placating various angry college football deities.

Rutgers

2014- @ Navy

2016- UCLA

Future: 2017 @ UCLA, home-and-home scheduled with Miami (FL) in 2018/2019.

There are a lot of empty spaces on this schedule, perhaps due to uncertainty surrounding the move to the B1G, along with the understanding that league play quality was about to step up. Still, outside of UCLA and Miami, the games that ARE on the schedule are a lot of ugh, from a home and home with Kansas to games against Tulane, Howard, Army and Norfolk State. Gross.

llinois

2014- @ Washington

Anything else- they do play Cincinnati and Washington (on a technically neutral field in Chicago) this season.

If anything, this current atrocity ought to be a reason to suggest kicking Illinois out of the Big Ten. Illinois has nothing set up past 2016, and only has Youngstown State and MACtion set up beyond their tilt with Washington. Getting some legitimate teams on that schedule out to be a priority for whatever coach takes over for Illinois after Tim Beckman invariably gets canned this season.

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