The debut for Paul Chryst was a success, as Wisconsin posted a 10-win season capped by a nice bowl win vs. USC. But the Badgers failed to win the West despite playing a favorable Big Ten schedule. Now, the schedule flips on Wisconsin, which has one of the most challenging slates in the nation. [ MORE: Dienhart: Wisconsin Badgers’ offseason to-do list ] Can the Badgers overcome the myriad hurdles while breaking in a new quarterback and with a new defensive coordinator? Here is a look at Wisconsin’s 2016 schedule. Toughest non-conference game: vs. LSU, Sept. 3 (Lambeau Field). No
Rutgers is looking for a new start. And, it’s getting just that with the arrival of Chris Ash, who continues to put his stamp on the program after taking over for Kyle Flood. [ MORE: Dienhart: Rutgers Scarlet Knights’ offseason to-do list ] Ash has work to do after arriving from a gig as defensive coordinator at Ohio State. The Scarlet Knights need a lot of help, as Rutgers ranked No. 13 in the Big Ten in total defense in 2015 (462.0 ypg) and 12th in scoring (34.9 ppg) in 2015. The offense will be undergoing a scheme change, adding
Purdue is looking for a breakthrough in its fourth season under Darrell Hazell.
This is a big season for James Franklin, who has done a lot of good things his first two years in State College. But he’s just 14-12 overall and 6-10 in the Big Ten. And Penn State finished last season with four consecutive losses. The roster is now mostly full of his players and he has tweaked his staff. Will this lead to the Nittany Lions moving up the ladder in the rugged Big Ten East? A tough schedule looms, which only complicates matters. Here is my look at Penn State’s 2016 slate. [MORE: Penn State’s offseason to-do list ]
Ohio State is eager and ready to get back on top of the Big Ten. The Buckeyes won the national championship in 2014 and looked primed to repeat in 2015, but the coaching staff’s bungled handling of the quarterback situation proved ruinous for a team that had a national-best 12 NFL draft picks. [ MORE: Dienhart: Ohio State Buckeyes’ offseason to-do list ] Now, Ohio State has myriad holes to fill as it looks to become Big Ten kings again. And it faces a tough schedule that will make ascending back to the top a challenge. Here is a look
Northwestern is coming off a stellar season that saw the Wildcats win 10 games. And NU is thinking big in 2016 as it looks to win what looks like a wide-open Big Ten West. And, it just may happen, as this could be Pat Fitzgerald’s most talented team yet. But it faces a daunting schedule that offers little relief. [ MORE: Dienhart: Northwestern’s offseason to-do list ] Here’s a breakdown. Toughest non-conference game: vs. Duke, Sept. 17. The Wildcats waded into Durham, North Carolina, last year and took a 19-10 decision. This was a good Blue Devil squad that would
The 2015 season didn’t go as scripted for Minnesota. Jerry Kill abruptly retired and the Gophers finished with their first losing record since 2012. [ MORE: Dienhart: Get Minnesota’s offseason to-do list ] Now, Tracy Claeys is leading the Gophers. And he wasted little time putting his stamp on the program, letting go offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Matt Limegrover and quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski. Jay Johnson was hired from Louisiana-Lafayette to run the offense and coach quarterbacks, while Bart Miller was tabbed to coach the line. Work remains to be done if Minnesota wants to improve on a 6-7 mark
The honeymoon is over for Mike Riley. He knows that. Last year’s 6-7 debut was difficult to stomach, as the Huskers seemed to find a new way to lose each week. But on an up note, Nebraska finished with some momentum, going 3-1 in its last four games with a bowl win vs. UCLA in an otherwise vexing season. [ MORE: Get Tom Dienhart’s Nebraska offseason to-do list ] A challenging schedule awaits the Huskers as they look to move up the pecking order in the Big Ten West in search of the program’s first league title since 1999. Here
Michigan State is the defending Big Ten champ, coming off its first playoff appearance. This program is rolling. But, some big personnel issues are staring at Mark Dantonio as he begins his 10th season in East Lansing.
Jim Harbaugh enjoyed a smashing debut in 2015, posting 10 wins. And, his second Michigan squad has a good chance for success thanks to plenty of returning talent and another year of familiarity with the system. [ MORE: Get Tom Dienhart’s Michigan offseason to-do list ] Check this out: Michigan opens with five—yes, FIVE—home games. In fact, the Wolverines play six of their first seven in the Big House. The back half of the schedule is a challenge. But, by then, Michigan could be filled with confidence behind its new quarterback. Here is a breakdown of the 2016 schedule. Toughest