Dienhart: Instant 2015-16 schedule analysis

The Big Ten announced its 2015-16 conference football schedules on Monday morning. It’s difficult to know which teams will be good this far in advance, but it’s always fun to think about the future. BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart breaks down the 2015-16 Big Ten schedules in this post. What are some of the top cross-division games? Which teams don’t play during the 2015-16 seasons? And which teams benefit the most from these schedules?

BEST CROSS-DIVISION GAMES
Leaders
Ohio State: Michigan (home: Nov. 26, 2016; away: Nov. 28, 2015), Michigan State (home: Oct. 17, 2015; away: Oct. 15, 2016)
Penn State: Iowa (home: Nov. 7, 2015; away: Nov. 5, 2016), Michigan State (home: Nov. 12, 2016; away: Nov. 14, 2015), Nebraska (home: Nov. 21, 2015; away: Nov. 19, 2016)
Wisconsin: Nebraska (home: Oct. 24, 2015; away: Oct. 8, 2016), Michigan (home: Oct. 29, 2016; away: Oct. 10, 2015)

Legends
Iowa: Penn State (home: Nov. 5, 2016; away: Nov. 7, 2015)
Michigan: Ohio State (home: Nov. 28, 2015; away: Nov. 26, 2016), Wisconsin (home: Oct. 10, 2015; away: Oct. 29, 2016)
Michigan State: Ohio State (home: Oct. 15, 2016; away: Oct. 17, 2015), Penn State (home: Nov. 14, 2015; away: Nov. 12, 2016)
Nebraska: Penn State (home: Nov. 19, 2016; away: Nov. 21, 2015), Wisconsin (home: Oct. 8, 2016; away: Oct. 24, 2015)

As analysts often say, it’s sometimes who you don’t play that matters more than who you do play. Knowing that, here’s a look at which schools DON’T play in 2015-16:

Illinois: Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska
Indiana: Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota
Iowa: Indiana, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Michigan: Indiana, Penn State, Purdue
Michigan State: Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin
Minnesota: Illinois, Indiana, Penn State
Nebraska: Illinois, Ohio State, Purdue
Northwestern: Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin
Ohio State: Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern
Penn State: Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern
Purdue: Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska
Wisconsin: Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern

Quickie analysis

  • Purdue gets a break by not having to deal with the Michigan schools—and Nebraska. Northwestern also has to be smiling over the prospect of not having to play the Buckeyes, Nittany Lions or Badgers. And Iowa has to like missing Ohio State and Wisconsin, though the Badgers are a rival.
  • Michigan and Michigan State will open vs. each other in 2015-16, which will be a nice table setter to the league season that will begin for each school on the first Saturday in October.
  • End-of-season foes won’t change for any schools.
  • Divisional play with eight-league games means that schools will go four years without playing a Big Ten foe. After meeting this fall, the following schools won’t play from 2013-16:

Illinois-Minnesota
Indiana-Iowa
Michigan-Purdue
Michigan State-Wisconsin
Nebraska-Ohio State
Northwestern-Penn State

I don’t like the Huskers and Buckeyes meeting so infrequently. Ditto the Spartans-Badgers, which is blossoming into one of the top rivalries in the Big Ten.

BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, all of his work is at btn.com/tomdienhart, and you can subscribe to it all via his RSS feed. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below.

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