Dienhart: Ranking 2013 Big Ten noncon schedules

Schedule strength will become more vital beginning in 2014, when the four-team playoff is started. Why? Because a major component of the playoff team selection process figures to be schedule strength.

So, cupcakes are on the way out. But, until then, many remain. Just look at the non-conference schedules. Here is my ranking of the Big Ten non-conference schedules.

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1. Purdue. at Cincinnati; Indiana State; Notre Dame; Northern Illinois  –Two games vs. foes that were in BCS bowls last season in ND and NIU; Cincinnati was Big East co-champ. Darrell Hazell will earn every penny in his check.

2. Northwestern. At Cal; Syracuse; Western Michigan; Maine—Two games vs. “Big Six” league teams will be a challenge.

3. Penn State. Syracuse (at East Rutherford, N.J.); Eastern Michigan; UCF; Kent State—Tough. The only non-bowl team is the EMU. UCF played for the C-USA title. The Golden Flashes are coming off a season for the ages. At least there are no true road games.

4. Michigan. Central Michigan; Notre Dame; Akron; at UConn—Yes, there are no FCS foes, but the Zips and Huskies missed bowls. The Chippewas were 7-6. That leaves the visit from the Fighting Irish as the lone scary test.

5. Indiana. Indiana State; Navy; Bowling Green; Missouri—All four games are in Bloomington, but challenges loom. The Midshipmen and Falcons are good programs coming off bowl trips. Mizzou went 5-7 in its SEC debut but has plenty of talent.

[ RELATED: View all of our 2013 Big Ten football predictions ]

6. Illinois. Southern Illinois; Cincinnati; Washington (at Chicago); Miami (Ohio)—No true road games; that’s nice. But the Bearcats and Huskies each went to bowls last season.

7. Michigan State. Western Michigan; USF; Youngstown State; at Notre Dame—The Broncos and Bulls had losing records last year; the FCS Penguins will be overmatched. Going to South Bend will be tough.

8. Wisconsin. UMass; Tennessee Tech; at Arizona State; BYU—Yes, the Minutemen (1-11) and FCS Tennessee Tech will be pushovers. But the trip to Tempe and visit from the Cougars will be rugged. Each went bowling last season.

9. Iowa. Northern Illinois; Missouri State; at Iowa State; Western Michigan—The Huskies are coming off a BCS bowl, while the Cyclones have been a nemesis to the Hawkeyes.

10. Ohio State. Buffalo; San Diego State; at Cal; Florida A&M—Save for the trip to Cal—which has a new coach and is coming off a 3-9 season—there is little to fear. This slate is a big reason why OSU may go unbeaten.

11. Nebraska. Wyoming; Southern Miss; UCLA; South Dakota State—Yes, the Bruins—who beat the Huskers last season–will pose a big challenge. But Wyoming and Southern Miss were bad last year. And the Huskers are one of just two Big Ten teams with no road games in non-conference action. (Indiana is the other.)

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12. Minnesota. UNLV; at New Mexico State; Western Illinois; San Jose State—Let’s all say it together: “soft.” The Spartans are coming off an 11-2 season but have a new coach. That’s it. The other three games are layups. New Mexico State annually is one of America’s worst programs. WIU is a FCS school.


Games vs. the other five “power” leagues and Notre Dame (16). Minnesota is the lone Big Ten that will play no such opponent:

  • Illinois: Cincinnati; Washington (at Chicago)
  • Indiana: Missouri
  • Iowa: at Iowa State
  • Michigan: Notre Dame; at UConn
  • Michigan State: at Notre Dame; USF
  • Nebraska: UCLA
  • Ohio State: at Cal
  • Northwestern: at Cal; Syracuse
  • Penn State: Syracuse (at East Rutherford, N.J.)
  • Purdue: at Cincinnati; Notre Dame
  • Wisconsin: at Arizona State

Games vs. FCS foes (10): Southern Illinois at Illinois; Indiana State at Indiana; Indiana State at Purdue; Missouri State at Iowa; Youngstown State at Michigan State; Western Illinois vs. Minnesota; South Dakota State at Nebraska; Maine at Northwestern; Florida A&M at Ohio State; Tennessee Tech at Wisconsin

Big Ten teams with no games vs. FCS foes: Michigan, Penn State.

Indiana and Nebraska are the only teams with no road games.

Purdue is the only team that plays two schools that played in BCS bowls—Northern Illinois and Notre Dame.

Plenty of MAC foes (13 games). In fact, the only Big Ten teams with no games vs. the MAC are Minnesota and Nebraska.

  • Western Michigan: Iowa; Michigan State; Northwestern
  • Northern Illinois: Iowa; Purdue
  • Eastern Michigan: Penn State
  • Kent State: Penn State
  • Central Michigan: Michigan
  • Akron: Michigan
  • Bowling Green: Indiana
  • Miami (Ohio): Illinois
  • UMass: Wisconsin
  • Buffalo: Ohio State

Purdue and Penn State are the lone Big Ten teams that play three bowl foes:

  • Purdue: at Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Northern Illinois
  • Penn State: Syracuse, UCF, Kent State
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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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (10 Comments)
shookwriter27 on 6/18/2013 @ 4:23pm EDT Said:

I think Illinois has a tougher schedule than Indiana.

common Sense on 6/18/2013 @ 5:47pm EDT Said:

Does not surprise me that Michigan has a much tougher schedule than MSU . To be the best
You have to beat the best and Brady Hoke clearly subscribes to anyone , anytime , anywhere.
I remember going in to Spartan Stadium in 99 and putting up 31 point with Tom Brady. Came back from 34-17 to almost win it and would have won it had the game been 5 minutes longer.

lolwut on 6/18/2013 @ 7:35pm EDT Said:

Brady Hoke had nothing to do with putting together the 2013 Michigan football schedule.

When your shift at Walmart is over, head on over to use the community computer at your local library and do some research: UConn has no offense, Akron is essentially an FCS team and Central was on of the 10 worst bowl teams of the last decade.

Thievery Jim, Thievery on 6/18/2013 @ 8:35pm EDT Said:

Right you are my man and two years later Spartan Bob the clock keeper stole the game in 2001

Common sense on 6/18/2013 @ 8:47pm EDT Said:

You know Frank I think between the two of us that we have done enough tonight for MSU Doug to seriously consider converting to the Maize and Blue. He has to realize that becoming a Michigan Man has a lot to offer

Common sense on 6/18/2013 @ 9:25pm EDT Said:

And we should have won in 2001 as well Spartan Bob the clock keeper stole that game from us

Thievery Jim Thievery

Common sense on 6/18/2013 @ 9:27pm EDT Said:

Yes special memories like those two games only happen to Michigan men Frank that’s what Doug is missing out on

Josh on 6/19/2013 @ 11:29am EDT Said:

UCLA is the best team that any Big Ten team plays out of conference other than possibly Notre Dame. How could Nebraska be so low with the toughest opponent, that beat them last year, when each team other than Purdue only plays one tough opponent???

Doug on 6/20/2013 @ 9:47am EDT Said:

wow, 3 michigan “fans” all talking to eachother about nonsense

I remember in 99 when MSU was up 34-17 and decided to take it easy on old Floyd cause MSU was about ready to put up 50 on that weak Michigan defense

Josh on 6/20/2013 @ 10:06am EDT Said:

Exactly. Crickets.