Breaking down November schedules for Big Ten's 'Big Four' contenders

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Breaking down November schedules for Big Ten's 'Big Four' contenders

November is the month they play the games we’ll remember. It’s the month when championships are won, reputations are forged and legacies are made.

And the month looms large for the Big Ten’s “Big Four:” Michigan State and Ohio State, of the East, and Nebraska and Wisconsin, of the West.

Who has the most difficult path? Here’s my ranking, in order of toughest to easiest.

1. NEBRASKA (7-1 overall /3-1 Big Ten)
Nov. 1: Purdue 3-5/1-3
Nov. 15: At Wisconsin 5-2/2-1
Nov. 22: Minnesota 6-2/3-1
Nov. 28: At Iowa 5-2/2-1
Composite record: 19-11/8-6 (.633/.571)

The skinny: The trip to Madison looks daunting. The Cornhuskers were embarrassed, 48-17, in their last trip to Camp Randall in 2011. Nebraska is thinking “payback” to the Gophers after a 34-23 loss in Minnesota last year. The Gophers haven’t won in Lincoln since 1960, dropping their last seven visits. The Huskers won 13-7 the last time they visited Iowa City in 2012. But the Hawkeyes dominated last year in Lincoln, taking a 38-17 triumph that almost cost Bo Pelini his job.

Easiest game: Purdue
Toughest game: at Wisconsin
Trapdoor game: Minnesota

***

2. WISCONSIN (5-2/2-1)
Nov. 1:
At Rutgers 5-3/1-3
Nov. 8: At Purdue 3-5/1-3
Nov. 15: Nebraska 7-1/3-1
Nov. 22: At Iowa 5-2/2-1
Nov. 29: Minnesota 6-2/3-1
Composite record: 26-13/10-9 (.667/.526)

The skinny: Playing three of five on the road will make this challenging. The Badgers are 2-1 vs. Nebraska since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten. The last meeting? A 70-31 Wisconsin romp in the 2012 Big Ten title game. Trekking to Iowa City will be a challenge. Wisconsin has won the last two games—both in Iowa City, by the way–and four of the last six. In fact, the Badgers are 3-1 in their last four trips to Kinnick Stadium. The visit from Minnesota could be tough, but the Gophers haven’t left Madison with a win since 1994.

Easiest game: at Purdue
Toughest game: Nebraska
Trapdoor game: Minnesota

***

3. MICHIGAN STATE (7-1/4-0)
Nov. 8: Ohio State 6-1/3-0
Nov. 15: At Maryland 5-3/2-2
Nov. 22: Rutgers 5-3/1-3
Nov. 29: At Penn State 4-3/1-3
Composite record: 20-10/7-8 (.667/.467)

The skinny: The Buckeyes lost, 34-24, to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game last season, ending No. 2-ranked Ohio State’s 24-game winning streak and trashing its national title hopes. Michigan State is 4-1 all-time vs. Maryland, but the teams haven’t met since 1950. Since joining the Big Ten in 1993, Penn State has a 13-5 mark vs. Michigan State. The teams haven’t played since 2010.

Easiest game: Rutgers
Toughest game: Ohio State
Trapdoor game: at Penn State

***

4. OHIO STATE (6-1/3-0)
Nov. 1: Illinois 4-4/1-3
Nov. 8: At Michigan State 7-1/4-0
Nov. 15: At Minnesota 6-2/3-1
Nov. 22: Indiana 3-4/0-3
Nov. 29: Michigan 3-5/1-3
Composite record: 23-16/9-9 (.590/.500)

The skinny: The Buckeyes won the last time they visited Spartan Stadium, taking a 17-16 decision in 2012. Minnesota is 7-43 all-time vs. Ohio State, losing the last eight games and 24 of 25. The only Gophers’ win in that span was in 2000. The Buckeyes have dominated Michigan of late, going 11-2 vs. the Wolverines in the last 13 meetings. When did Michigan last win in Columbus? It was the 2000 season.

Easiest game: Indiana
Toughest game: at Michigan State
Trapdoor game: Michigan

***

Where’s Minnesota? Good question, considering the Gophers are 3-1 in the West. But, for the sake of this study, I wanted to consider the top two contenders from each division. Also, take a look at Minnesota’s remaining schedule:

Nov. 8: vs. Iowa 5-2/2-1
Nov. 15: vs. Ohio State 6-1/3-0
Nov. 22: at Nebraska 7-1/3-1
Nov. 29: at Wisconsin 5-2/2-1
Composite record: 23-6/10-3 (.793/.769)

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 Twitterb 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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