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Berry Tramel  


Big Ten football: Ranking the non-conference schedules

by Berry Tramel Modified: March 27, 2013 at 4:10 pm •  Published: May 31, 2012

Yesterday, we saw how the ACC has really produced solid non-conference schedules. Today, we return to normalcy. The Big Ten largely isn’t interested in a quality September. The Michigan schools are a notable exception, of course. Let’s compare the Big Ten to the Big 12 scheduling.

Games against lower-division teams: Nine. That’s courtesy of Indiana, which plays both Indiana State and UMass. Nine is 18.8 percent. The Big 12 plays 30 percent of its non-conference games against I-AA foes. THIRTY PERCENT.

Games against traditional national powers: Five. But that’s counting Notre Dame three times. The other two — Michigan-Alabama, Michigan State-Boise State. Five marquee games is 10.4 percent. The Big 12 plays elite names of college football. The Big 12 plays 6.7 percent of its games against the elite.

Games against other major-conference programs: 10. Some good teams. Arizona State, Oregon State, Cal, UCLA, Virginia, Boston College, Iowa State, Syracuse twice. So that means 15 of the Big Ten’s 48 non-conference are absolutely legitimate games. That’s 31.2 percent. Big 12 — 27 percent.

Road games: 12. That’s counting the Michigan-Alabama neutral site game. Indiana plays two road games, but Iowa and Ohio State don’t play any. The Big Ten plays 25 percent of its non-conference games away from home. The Big 12 plays 27 percent, so finally the Big 12 wins something.

Let’s go to the Big 10 rankings.

1. Michigan: Alabama at Arlington, Texas; Air Force, Massachusetts, at Notre Dame. Now that’s a schedule. Hail to the victors. One dud game out of four. Hey, Wolverines, you make 1973 proud.

2. Michigan State: Boise State, at Central Michigan, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan. Wow, home games against Boise State and Notre Dame. The Spartans also host Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern. That’s a season ticket, my friends.

3. Northwestern: at Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Boston College, South Dakota. Not really a marquee game in the bunch. But three solid games out of four. Hard to argue much with that.

4. Nebraska: Southern Mississippi, at UCLA, Arkansas State, Idaho State. Southern Miss lifts the Huskers above all the other let’s-play-just-one-real-team Big Ten schedules.

5. Penn State: Ohio, at Virginia, Navy, Temple. Not a blockbuster, just a typical Penn State quartet. An in-state foe (Temple), an old Eastern independent brother (Navy), a fellow academic snob (Virginia) and a neighboring state pushover (Ohio).

6. Purdue: Eastern Kentucky, at Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Marshall. Notre Dame saves the day.

7. Illinois: Western Michigan, at Arizona State, Charleston Southern, Louisiana Tech. The Sun Devils are a quality foe. Truth is, it’s hard to distinguish between these bottom-half schedules.

8. Minnesota: at Nevada-Las Vegas, New Hampshire, Western Michigan, Syracuse. I would say that the Gophers are the Big Ten’s least visible program. Start naming the Big Ten schools, and either Minnesota or Purdue will be the last two you think of. And scheduled like this won’t help that status.

9. Ohio State: Miami-Ohio, Central Florida, California, Alabama-Birmingham. A two-hyphen schedule. That’s not good. The Buckeyes in conference host Nebraska, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan. So this is the opposite of Michigan State. A season ticket of eight games, with only three worth watching.

10. Wisconsin: Northern Iowa, at Oregon State, Utah State, Texas-El Paso. The trip to Corvallis, Ore., is solid, but the other games aren’t much. Three non-losable games, two of which are from the Mountain Time Zone, which might not be a Big Ten record but ought to be.

11. Iowa: Northern Illinois, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Central Michigan. Four home games, only one against a fellow major conference foe, and that’s Iowa State, which the Hawkeyes can’t easily get away from. Three directional schools, one of which is a I-AA foe. And Iowa is a big-time program. A textbook awful program.

12. Indiana: Indiana State, at Massachusetts, Ball State, at Navy. I suppose it’s a good tourist schedule. Go visit Boston during the UMass trip. Tour Annapolis for the Navy game. But the football is awful.


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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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