Dienhart: 2018-19 football schedule analysis

The Big Ten announced Wednesday its conference schedules for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. And there are some good cross-division games.

In making league schedules, the Big Ten earlier stated that it would take a “parity-based” approach. What’s that? The marquee programs will play each other outside of division play as often as possible.

[ MORE: View 2018 conference schedule (PDF) | And 2019 conference schedule (PDF) ]

And, remember, with the additions of Maryland and Rutgers in 2014, the Big Ten is going to seven-team East and West Divisions. Here’s a look at the divisions:

Michigan State
Ohio State
Penn State


Looking at the 2018-19 schedules, you can see, parity-based scheduling is apparent. Over those two seasons, we will see matchups like:


  • Nebraska at Michigan
  • Wisconsin at Michigan
  • Michigan State at Nebraska
  • Nebraska at Ohio State
  • Wisconsin at Penn State
  • Iowa at Penn State


  • Michigan at Wisconsin
  • Iowa at Michigan
  • Penn State at Iowa
  • Michigan State at Wisconsin
  • Ohio State at Nebraska
  • Wisconsin at Ohio State

Nebraska doesn’t play Penn State in 2018 or 2019, and Iowa misses Michigan State and Ohio State. Otherwise, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State from the East all play Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin from the West over the two-year period.

Wisconsin may have the toughest cross-division draws of all the schools. In 2018, the Badgers play at Michigan; Rutgers; at Penn State. In 2019, Wisconsin has Michigan; Michigan State; at Ohio State.

There will continue to be Big Ten games in September, a function of the conference moving to a nine-game league schedule beginning in 2016. In fact, Northwestern and Purdue will open the season vs. each other on Sept. 8, 2018, in West Lafayette.

Also, Nebraska and Iowa will continue to finish their seasons playing on the Friday after Thanksgiving. In fact, end-of-season foes don’t change from 2017. The pairings: Northwestern-Illinois; Purdue-Indiana; Wisconsin-Minnesota; Michigan-Ohio State; Penn State-Maryland; Michigan State-Rutgers.



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


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

Let’s single out some of the toughest cross-division draws.


  • Michigan: vs. Nebraska; at Northwestern; vs. Wisconsin.
  • Nebraska: at Michigan; at Ohio State; vs. Michigan State
  • Wisconsin: at Michigan; vs. Rutgers; at Penn State


  • Illinois: vs. Michigan; vs. Rutgers; at Michigan State
  • Iowa: vs. Rutgers; at Michigan; vs. Penn State
  • Wisconsin: vs. Michigan; vs. Michigan State; at Ohio State
  • Northwestern: vs. Michigan State; vs. Ohio State; at Indiana

And check out some of these tough runs:

In 2018…

Minnesota has back-to-back road games at Ohio State and at Nebraska

In 2019…

Maryland ends the season playing vs. Michigan, at Ohio State, Nebraska and at Michigan State.

Michigan State plays at Ohio State, at Wisconsin and vs. Penn State in a row.

Northwestern has vs. Michigan State, at Wisconsin, at Nebraska, vs. Ohio State and vs. Iowa in succession.

Conference honchos want every player to have a chance to play each of the other 13 Big Ten teams during his four-year career, so cross-division opponents will change from season to season.

The league earlier announced its conference slates for 2014-2017. Here was my analysis of the 2015-16 schedules. And here was my look at the 2017 schedule.

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.

And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.


Your Opinion?
Show Comments (3 Comments)
shookwriter27 on 10/16/2013 @ 2:30pm EDT Said:

I’d like to Illinois play Ohio State often in cross over.

mark on 10/17/2013 @ 7:28am EDT Said:

I agree with Jerry Danardo. The SEC will play some of their strong conference games early and that allows two things, first, the loser of those games still have the rest of the year to recover from the loss and second, it allows strong teams to play week non-conference games such as Alabama vs. Tennessee Chattanooga and fly those games under the radar. If Alabama played that game AND Georgia State in consecutive weeks to start the season everyone would be screaming like they are about OSU this year.

JP on 10/17/2013 @ 9:43am EDT Said:

Nebraska gets jobbed again by the conference. NU not only will play five of nine league games on the road that season —the road trips in 2018 will be to Michigan, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Ohio State and Iowa. 5 of the top 6 programs and ALL on the road.