2014 Big Ten Football Schedule: Winners and Losers
The Big Ten will begin a new era next fall when the league expands to 14 teams with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers and the realignment of divisions by geography.
The conference released its 2014 football schedule Thursday, with each team playing six division games and two inter-division games. The Big Ten will move to a nine-game schedule beginning in 2016, but the 2014 and 2015 schedules will remain at eight conference games. The 2015 schedule is expected to be released later this month.
Conference play begins on Sept. 13 with Penn State traveling to Rutgers. Maryland's first Big Ten game comes two week later when the Terrapins visit Indiana.
Like every conference that does not play a full round-robin schedule, certain Big Ten teams will have easier schedules than others.
Let's look at the winners and losers from Thursday's announcement.
West Division Home Games: Iowa, Northwestern, Purdue
West Division Road Games: Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin
Crossover Games: Ohio State, at Michigan
The Gophers figured to be in the easier of the two Big Ten divisions, but drawing both Michigan and Ohio State from the East negates that.
Both the Nebraska and Wisconsin games are on the road. The November schedule is brutal, with Minnesota facing Iowa and Ohio State at home before closing out the year on the road against the Cornhuskers and Badgers.
West Division Home Games: Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin
West Division Road Games: Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue
Crossover Games: Indiana, at Maryland
Drawing seemingly the two weakest teams from the East Division is a major coup for the Hawkeyes, who might be looking to 2014 as their breakthrough year with a rugged slate in 2013.
The three strongest divisional opponents have to come to Kinnick Stadium, including Northwestern and Wisconsin both making consecutive trips to Iowa City in 2013 and 2014. The only downside is playing Wisconsin and Nebraska only six days apart.
West Division Home Games: Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue
West Division Road Games: Iowa, Northwestern, Wisconsin
Crossover Games: Rutgers, at Michigan State
Nebraska's four toughest conference games might all come away from Lincoln. A home schedule of Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue and Rutgers does little to excite the fanbase.
There's no Ohio State or Michigan, so the schedule isn't terrible overall, but the lack of balance between home and away games has to be considered a disappointment. The Cornhuskers get a week off before going to Madison.
Winner: Michigan State
East Division Home Games: Michigan, Ohio State, Rutgers
East Division Road Games: Indiana, Maryland, Penn State
Crossover Games: Nebraska, at Purdue
The Spartans get to host Michigan two years in a row as a result of divisional realignment. Ohio State also comes to East Lansing, and Michigan State will have two weeks to prepare.
The road schedule is extremely cushy, with a depleted Penn State appearing to be the toughest trip. Drawing Nebraska from the West isn't great, but the home schedule might be the most attractive it has ever been.
East Division Home Games: Indiana, Maryland, Penn State
East Division Road Games: Michigan State, Ohio State, Rutgers
Crossover Games: Minnesota, at Northwestern
Having to go to Michigan State two years in a row means the Wolverines will play all three of their rivalry games (Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State) away from Ann Arbor.
Michigan does miss both Nebraska and Wisconsin, which helps. The home schedule, however, is as dull as it's ever been.
West Division Home Games: Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska
West Division Road Games: Iowa, Northwestern, Purdue
Crossover Games: Maryland, at Rutgers
Drawing both newcomers to the league, both in the second half of the season, is a major plus for the Badgers.
Wisconsin will be making consecutive trips to Iowa but does get Nebraska in Madison. The only back-to-back road trips are to Rutgers and Purdue.
East Division Home Games: Indiana, Michigan, Penn State
East Division Road Games: Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State
Crossover Games: Wisconsin, at Nebraska
Yikes. Rutgers has to go on the road to face two of three division favorites, with only Michigan coming to Piscataway. Games at Nebraska and Ohio State come in consecutive weeks.
The crossover games could not be more difficult, as the Scarlet Knights drew both 2012 Big Ten Football Championship Game participants.