Back in April, the Big Ten announced it was going to implement a nine-game conference schedule, starting in 2016. Thursday, it unveiled the first such schedule—along with the 2017 Big Ten league slate.
One thing fans will notice in the 2016 and 2017 schedules is conference games being played earlier in the season. Previously, league games typically didn’t begin until October—depending on calendar quirks. But the extra league contest has pushed Big Ten action forward in the calendar, as schools will drop from four to three non-conference games in 2016 to accommodate the inflated Big Ten slate.
The first conference game in 2016 is still in October—barely: Oct. 1; but in 2017, league action kicks off on Sept. 2, with Ohio State playing at Indiana. There are no Big Ten games the next week, but league action dots the docket on Sept. 23 and 30.
The 2016 schedule will feature the introduction of “parity-based scheduling” for cross-division games. The idea: The top teams in the East (Ohio State; Michigan; Penn State) would play more games vs. the top teams in the West (Nebraska; Wisconsin; Iowa). One look at the cross-division opponents for each school listed below shows that, indeed, parity-based scheduling is in full force. And it’s a beautiful thing.
Purdue and Indiana will play the only annual division crossover tilt. In the previous alignment, every Big Ten squad had one protected crossover foe each year. While Purdue and Indiana’s battle for the iconic Old Oaken Bucket is the only protected crossover, the league will have a cross-division rotation with teams playing all of the other league members at least once every four years.
Also, remember this: East Division squads will have five conference home games in even-numbered years; West teams will have five conference home games in odd-numbered years.
The nine-game Big Ten schedule will mean more quality games dotted across the fall landscape. That should make fans and TV executives happy, as the league welcomes Rutgers and Maryland in 2014, when it also realigns divisions based on geography and not competitive balance and also dumps the widely panned “Legends” and “Leaders” division names. The 2014 and 2015 seasons will feature eight Big Ten games under the new East and West Division alignment before the nine-game menu commences in 2016.
The Big Ten athletic directors and presidents also have approved a model that includes playing at least one team from a major FBS conference each season and no FCS foes. The 2016 season is when Delany hopes the model will be in place league-wide. The 2016 and 2017 non-league games for many Big Ten schools remain a work-in-progress.
The Big 12 and Pac-12 are the other major conferences that play nine league contests. Will the ACC and SEC follow suit? The Big Ten last played nine conference games in the 1983 and 1984 seasons.
Here’s a look at each school’s cross-division foes in 2016 and 2017.
Indiana: Nebraska; at Northwestern; Purdue
Maryland: Purdue; Minnesota; at Nebraska
Michigan: Wisconsin; Illinois; at Iowa
Michigan State: Wisconsin; Northwestern; at Illinois
Ohio State: at Wisconsin; Northwestern; Nebraska
Penn State: Minnesota; at Purdue; Iowa
Rutgers: Illinois; at Minnesota; Iowa
Illinois: at Rutgers; at Michigan; Michigan State
Iowa: at Rutgers; at Penn State; Michigan
Minnesota: at Penn State; at Maryland; Rutgers
Nebraska: at Indiana; at Ohio State; Maryland
Northwestern: at Michigan State; Indiana; at Ohio State
Purdue: at Maryland; Penn State; at Indiana
Wisconsin: at Michigan; at Michigan State; Ohio State
Indiana: Wisconsin; at Illinois; at Purdue
Maryland: at Minnesota; Northwestern; at Wisconsin
Michigan: at Purdue; Minnesota; at Wisconsin
Michigan State: Iowa; at Minnesota; at Northwestern
Ohio State: at Nebraska; at Iowa; Illinois
Penn State: at Northwestern; at Iowa; Nebraska
Rutgers: at Nebraska; at Illinois; Purdue
Illinois: Rutgers: Indiana; at Ohio State
Iowa: at Michigan State; Penn State; Ohio State
Minnesota: Maryland; Michigan State; at Michigan
Nebraska: Rutgers; Ohio State; at Penn State
Northwestern: Penn State; at Maryland; Michigan State
Purdue: Michigan; at Rutgers; Indiana
Wisconsin: Maryland; at Indiana; Michigan
And here are the 2016, 2017 no-plays.
Indiana: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin
Maryland: Illinois, Iowa, Northwestern, Wisconsin
Michigan: Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue
Michigan State: Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Purdue
Ohio State: Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue
Penn State: Illinois, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin
Rutgers: Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin
Illinois: Indiana, Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State
Iowa: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State
Minnesota: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State
Nebraska: Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Rutgers
Northwestern: Maryland, Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers
Purdue: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Rutgers
Wisconsin: Indiana, Maryland, Penn State, Rutgers,
Indiana: Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern
Maryland: Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Purdue
Michigan: Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska,, Northwestern
Michigan State: Illinois, Nebraska, Purdue, Wisconsin
Ohio State: Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin
Penn State: Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue, Wisconsin
Rutgers: Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin
Illinois: Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State
Iowa: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Rutgers
Minnesota: Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers
Nebraska: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State
Northwestern: Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State or Rutgers
Purdue: Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State
Wisconsin: Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers
|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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