Dienhart: A look at 2017 cross-division draws

Dienhart: A look at 2017 cross-division draws

A schedule can make or break a team’s season. And a big part of the schedule equation is cross-division games. What three teams does your school play from the other division? Who does it miss?

This fall, Big Ten West teams all get five home conference games, including two of three interdivision matchups.

See the 2017 breakdowns below.

ILLINOIS
Play: Indiana, at Ohio State, Rutgers (10-17 combined B1G record in 2016; .370 winning percentage)
Miss: Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State
Skinny: The schedule gods smiled on Illinois. Yes, the Fighting Illini have to play at Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won eight straight in the Illibuck series. The last time Illinois won? It was 2007, when the Illini knocked off the No. 1 Buckeyes in Columbus, 28-21, behind Juice Williams. But this program-in-transition has a great chance to take care of business at home vs. IU and Rutgers. Illinois hasn’t played Indiana since 2013 and has lost the last two encounters. The Illini are 2-1 all-time vs. the Scarlet Knights, winning at Rutgers last season.

INDIANA
Play: Wisconsin, at Illinois, at Purdue (10-17; .370)
Miss: Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern
Skinny: First-year boss Tom Allen has to be giddy. Gotta like the Hoosiers’ chances vs. the Illini and Boilermakers—even though they are road games. Indiana has won four in a row vs. Purdue and the last two against Illinois, which it last met in 2013. But the Hoosiers have lost nine in a row to the Badgers. IU’s last win vs. UW? Back-to-back in 2001 and 2002.

IOWA
Play: Penn State, at Michigan State, Ohio State (17-10; .630)
Miss: Rutgers, Maryland, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan
Skinny: The Hawkeyes will earn everything they get this season, as they take on arguably the two best teams in the Big Ten in the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes. Iowa and OSU haven’t met since 2013. Ohio State has won the last five meetings. The Hawkeyes’ last win? A 33-7 romp in Iowa City in 2004. Before that, Iowa hadn’t toppled the Buckeyes since 1991. Iowa has lost the last two vs. Michigan State, with the last being in the 2015 Big Ten title game. Iowa has lost three in a row to Penn State, last winning in 2010.

MARYLAND
Play: at Minnesota, Northwestern, at Wisconsin (17-10; .630)
Miss: Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Purdue
The skinny: The Terps get few breaks, as all three West foes made bowls last year; and the Wildcats and Badgers are West division favs. Minnesota could be toppled by Maryland when the Terrapins visit in the Big Ten opener on Sept. 30. Minnesota won last year at Maryland. The Terps never have played Northwestern. Maryland has lost two Big Ten games vs. Wisconsin.

MICHIGAN
Play: at Purdue, Minnesota, at Wisconsin (13-14; .481)
Miss: Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern
The skinny: The trip to Madison will be daunting, as the Badgers may be the favorite to repeat as West champs. The Wolverines and Badgers have met just one time since 2010, with Michigan taking a 14-7 decision last year in Ann Arbor. You have to like the Wolverines’ chances in West Lafayette and in the Little Brown Jug tilt. The Wolverines and Boilers haven’t met since 2012. Michigan has won the last three in the series, including the last two in Ross-Ade Stadium. Purdue last toppled the Wolverines in 2009—in Ann Arbor, no less. Michigan and Minnesota have split their last two games, with the Gophers winning in Ann Arbor in 2015 and almost prevailing last season before the Wolverines won, 29-26, at Minnesota last season. P.J. Fleck vs. Jim Harbaugh. Gotta love it.

MICHIGAN STATE
Play: Iowa, at Minnesota, at Northwestern (16-11; .593)
Miss: Illinois, Nebraska, Purdue, Wisconsin
The skinny: This is a mixed bag for a team coming off a catastrophic 3-9 season. NU has won two of the last three vs. Michigan State, but the Spartans have won the last five meetings in Evanston dating to a Wildcat win in 2001. Michigan State has won the last four meetings with Minnesota, but the teams haven’t clashed since 2013 and haven’t met in Dinkytown since 2012. The Gophers’ last victory at home vs. the Spartans? It came in 2009. The Spartans have taken the last two vs. Iowa, including the 2015 Big Ten title tilt.

MINNESOTA
Play: Maryland, Michigan State, at Michigan (11-16; .407)
Miss: Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers
The skinny: Playing two of three at home is nice for new coach P.J. Fleck. Michigan and Minnesota have split their last two games, with the Gophers winning in Ann Arbor in 2015 and almost prevailing last season before the Wolverines won, 29-26, at Minnesota last year. Michigan State has won the last four meetings with Minnesota, but the teams haven’t clashed since 2013. The Gophers won 31-10 at Maryland last year.

NEBRASKA
Play: Rutgers, Ohio State, at Penn State (16-11; .593)
Miss: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State
The skinny: The Cornhuskers get no breaks here, taking on probably the two best teams in the Big Ten in Ohio State and Penn State. This will be the Buckeyes’ first trip to Memorial Stadium since 2011. NU and PSU haven’t clashed since 2013—in State College–and have met just three times since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten. And Nebraska has won all three meetings. PSU last toppled the Huskers in 2002 in Beaver Stadium. The Huskers have beaten RU 31-14 (2015) and 42-24 (2014) in two Big Ten meetings.

NORTHWESTERN
Play: Penn State, at Maryland, Michigan State (12-15; .444)
Miss: Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Rutgers
The skinny: The Wildcats’ West Division hopes figure to get a boost from this cross-division draw. Northwestern has won the last two vs. the Nittany Lions. Before that, PSU won six in a row vs. NU. You’d think Northwestern could win at Maryland and vs. MSU. NU has won two of the last three vs. Michigan State, but the Spartans have won the last five meetings in Evanston dating to a Wildcat win in 2001. The Wildcats never have played Maryland.

OHIO STATE
Play: at Nebraska, at Iowa, Illinois (14-13; .519)
Miss: Northwestern, Minnesota, Purdue, Wisconsin
The skinny: The trip to Lincoln will be the Buckeyes’ first since 2011, when NU won, 34-27. Ohio State has won the last two vs. Nebraska in dominating fashion, taking a 62-3 decision last year in Columbus and a 63-38 outcome in 2012 in Columbus. Ohio State has won the last five meetings vs. Iowa. The Hawkeyes’ last win? A 33-7 romp in Iowa City in 2004. Before that, Iowa hadn’t toppled the Buckeyes since 1991. The Buckeyes have won eight straight in the Illibuck series.

PENN STATE
Play: at Iowa, at Northwestern, Nebraska (17-10; .630)
Miss: Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue, Wisconsin
The skinny: A tough draw for the defending league champs. Keep an eye on the Huskers’ visit. These storied programs haven’t clashed since 2013—in State College–and have met just three times since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten. And Nebraska has won all three meetings. Iowa has lost three in a row to Penn State, last winning in 2010. Northwestern has won the last two vs. the Nittany Lions. Before that, PSU won six in a row vs. NU.

PURDUE
Play: Michigan, at Rutgers, Indiana (11-16; .407)
Miss: Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State
The skinny: The Hoosiers have taken command of the Old Oaken Bucket series, winning four in a row for the first time since 1944-47. Can Indiana continue its mastery over the Boilermakers in the first clash between Tom Allen and Jeff Brohm? The Wolverines and Boilers haven’t met since 2012. Michigan has won the last three in the series, including the last two in West Lafayette. Purdue last toppled the Wolverines in 2009—in Ann Arbor, no less. The Boilers and Rutgers never have played.

RUTGERS
Play: at Nebraska, at Illinois, Purdue (9-18; .333)
Miss: Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin
The skinny: This is a decent draw for a rebuilding Rutgers program. The Cornhuskers have beaten RU two times as Big Ten foes, winning 42-24 in 2014 and 31-14 in 2015. The Scarlet Knights and Boilermakers never have met. Illinois won last year at Rutgers.

WISCONSIN
Play: Maryland, at Indiana, Michigan (14-13; .519)
Miss: Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers
The skinny: This looks very good for the Badgers. The Wolverines and Badgers have met just one time since 2010, with Michigan taking a 14-7 decision last year in Ann Arbor. The schools haven’t met in Madison since 2009, as Wisconsin took a 45-24 win. In fact, UW has won the last three vs. Michigan in Camp Randall Stadium, where the Wolverines last prevailed in 2001. After losing consecutive games in 2001 and 2002, the Badgers have won nine in a row vs. Indiana. Wisconsin is 2-0 all-time vs. Maryland. It seems odd that these cross-division foes are meeting for a third time since 2014.

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

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, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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