Big Ten Football: Ranking the Conference's Toughest Schedules
As Big Ten Media Days kicks off and pundits go into overdrive with their preseason predictions and expectations, which will win their respective divisions, and which will be the next team to receive a bowl ban, it is worth considering the path to the conference championship.
In other words, which program faces the toughest course to the Dec. 3 matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis?
Even though both Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible for both the conference championship game and a bowl game, they will be included in this countdown.
The first Big Ten game has Michigan State facing Boise State on Aug. 31, just 36 days away.
That game will play a substantial part in determining which team—starting with the softest and finishing with the strongest—has the conference's toughest schedule.
12. Indiana Hoosiers
11. Iowa Hawkeyes
10. Illinois Fighting Illini
9. Wisconsin Badgers
8. Penn State Nittany Lions
7. Minnesota Golden Gophers
08/30: At UNLV Rebels
09/08: New Hampshire Wildcats (FCS)
09/15: Western Michigan Broncos
09/22: Syracuse Orange
09/29: At Iowa Hawkeyes
10/13: Northwestern Wildcats
10/20: At Wisconsin Badgers
10/27: Purdue Boilermakers
11/03: Michigan Wolverines
11/10: At Illinois Fighting Illini
11/17: At Nebraska Cornhuskers
11/24: Michigan State Spartans
Missing from the conference slate: Ohio State, Indiana and Penn State
A roadie to Vegas is tough, but UNLV is not actually good, having managed four wins over the last two seasons.
Western Michigan is a tough cupcake draw and Syracuse may or may not be on its way back, but both are at home and are winnable.
All of the conference roadies are challenging, and Minnesota misses Indiana, unarguably the worst team in the Big Ten this year. Moreover, Penn State won't be especially good either.
On the other hand, missing Ohio State helps.
6. Purdue Boilermakers
5. Northwestern Wildcats
4. Nebraska Cornhuskers
09/01: Southern Miss Golden Eagles
09/08: At UCLA Bruins
09/15: Arkansas State Red Wolves
09/22: Idaho State Bengals (FCS)
09/29: Wisconsin Badgers
10/03: At Ohio State Buckeyes
10/20: At Northwestern Wildcats
10/27: Michigan Wolverines
11/03: At Michigan State Spartans
11/10: Penn State Nittany Lions
11/17: Minnesota Golden Gophers
11/23: At Iowa Hawkeyes
Missing from the conference slate: Illinois, Purdue and Indiana
Southern Miss and Arkansas State are actually worthy draws, and are two teams that could conceivably pull an upset.
UCLA won't be a tough opponent, but, as mentioned before, a road trip two time zones to the west is always difficult.
The Huskers miss the two middling teams from the East—Illinois and Purdue—but they also have the misfortune of missing Indiana, which would arguably be an easier win than Arkansas State or Southern Miss.
The Cornhuskers get Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State at home, but road games at Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa will test them.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes
2. Michigan State Spartans
1. Michigan Wolverines
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