Dienhart: Let's break down 2014 football slate

Dienhart: Let's break down 2014 football slate

Newcomer Rutgers will take part in the first Big Ten game of 2014 when it plays host to Penn State on Sept. 13. That’s one of several interesting matchups in the schedule, which was announced today. The 2014 schedule will be the first season with Maryland and Rutgers in the conference. The 2014 season also will see the Big Ten split into new East and West Divisions.

Teams will play eight conference games in 2014 and 2015, six vs. division foes and two vs. cross-division opponents. The Big Ten will move to a nine-game league slate in 2016.

Here’s a look at cross-division 2014 foes:

East

  • Indiana: at Iowa; Purdue
  • Maryland: Iowa; at Wisconsin
  • Michigan: Minnesota; at Northwestern
  • Michigan State: Nebraska; at Purdue
  • Ohio State: Illinois; at Minnesota
  • Penn State: Northwestern; at Illinois
  • Rutgers: at Nebraska; Wisconsin

Big Ten Conference schedule only below:

EAST
IU MD MICH MSU OSU PSU RU
9/13  —  —  —  —  — AT RU PSU
9/27 MD AT IU MIN Bye Bye NU Bye
10/4 Bye OSU AT RU NEB AT MD Bye MICH
10/11 AT IOWA Bye PSU AT PUR Bye AT MICH Bye
10/18 MSU IOWA Bye AT IU RU Bye AT OSU
10/25 Bye AT UW AT MSU MICH AT PSU OSU AT NEB
11/1 AT MICH AT PSU IU Bye ILL MD UW
11/8 PSU Bye AT NU OSU AT MSU AT IU Bye
11/15 AT RU MSU Bye AT MD AT MIN Bye IU
11/22 AT OSU AT MICH MD RU IU AT ILL AT MSU
11/29 PUR RU AT OSU AT PSU MICH MSU AT MD
12/6 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

West

  • Illinois: at Ohio State; Penn State
  • Iowa: Indiana; at Maryland
  • Minnesota: at Michigan; Ohio State
  • Nebraska: at Michigan State; Rutgers
  • Northwestern at Penn State; Michigan
  • Purdue: Michigan State; at Indiana
  • Wisconsin: Maryland; at Rutgers

Big Ten Conference schedule only below:

WEST ILL IOWA MIN NEB NU PUR UW
9/13  —  —  —  —  —  —  —
9/27 AT NEB AT PUR AT MICH ILL AT PSU IOWA Bye
10/4 PUR Bye Bye AT MSU UW AT ILL AT NU
10/11 AT UW IU NU Bye AT MIN MSU ILL
10/18 Bye AT MD PUR AT NU NEB AT MIN Bye
10/25 MIN Bye AT ILL RU Bye Bye MD
11/1 AT OSU NU Bye PUR AT IOWA AT NEB AT RU
11/8 Bye AT MIN IOWA Bye MICH UW AT PUR
11/15 IOWA AT ILL OSU AT UW Bye Bye NEB
11/22 PSU UW AT NEB MIN AT PUR NU AT IOWA
11/28 NEB AT IOWA
11/29 AT NU AT UW ILL AT IU MIN
12/6 BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

[ RELATED: Download the 2014 Big Ten football schedule (PDF) ]

Here’s a look at my winners and losers:

Winners:

Nebraska. Fans won’t like not playing Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State, but I bet Nebraska coaches don’t mind. The home schedule looks soft. But there are trips to Wisconsin and to Michigan State. Still, you have to like the Huskers’ chances in 2014.

Iowa. The Hawkeyes may have gotten the softest cross-division draw, playing host to Indiana and going to Maryland. And look at the four road games—all very winnable: Purdue; Maryland; Minnesota; Illinois. Don’t retire yet, Kirk!

Wisconsin. The Badgers play both Big Ten newcomers for their cross-division foes: Maryland and Rutgers. The Badgers also play Nebraska at home. Gary Andersen has to be smiling.

Rivalries. The last week of the season is loaded with them. And I love Rutgers playing at Maryland in the finale for both schools.

Ohio State and Michigan. The week before they meet, the Buckeyes play Indiana at home and the Wolverines play Maryland at home. Funny how that worked out.

Losers:

Scheduling parity. Neither Nebraska nor Wisconsin will play cross-division games vs. East heavyweights Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State. The Huskers do have to go to Michigan State. But the Badgers miss the Spartans.

Indiana. The Hoosiers have to play at Michigan and at Ohio State.

Minnesota: The Golden Gophers have arguably the toughest Big Ten slate. Their two cross-division games are doozies: at Michigan; Ohio State. They also play at Nebraska and at Wisconsin. Those are games vs. arguably the Big Ten’s four best teams.

Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights’ first five Big Ten games are tough: Penn State; Michigan; at Ohio State; at Nebraska; Wisconsin. As you can see, the Scarlet Knights have to play arguably the two toughest West Division foes. Welcome to the club, Rutgers!

Northwestern. In cross-division games, the Wildcats go to Penn State and play host to Michigan. Be ready, Wildcats.

Purdue’s home slate: Iowa; Michigan State; Wisconsin; Northwestern. No Big Ten “elite” schools coming to Ross-Ade, where tickets can be tough to sell.

Illinois. The Fighting Illini have games at Nebraska; at Wisconsin; at Ohio State. Oh, and a trip to Northwestern won’t be a treat, either.

Penn State. The Nittany Lions play at Michigan and vs. Ohio State in a three-week span. They get a bye in-between.

***

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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