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Big Ten Football: Ranking the Conference's Toughest Schedules

David Fidler Correspondent IOctober 25, 2016

Big Ten Football: Ranking the Conference's Toughest Schedules

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    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

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    11. Iowa Hawkeyes

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      10. Illinois Fighting Illini

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        9. Wisconsin Badgers

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          8. Penn State Nittany Lions

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            7. Minnesota Golden Gophers

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              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

              10/06: OPEN

              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

               

              Breakdown

              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

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              5. Northwestern Wildcats

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                4. Nebraska Cornhuskers

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                  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

                  10/13: OPEN

                  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

                   

                  Breakdown

                  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

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                  2. Michigan State Spartans

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                    1. Michigan Wolverines

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