Time to critique Big Ten football’s non-conference schedules. Remember, this is the last season of a 12-team Big Ten. Next year, the Big Ten goes to 14 teams. Eventually, the Big Ten figures to go to nine-game conference schedules and says it will ban I-AA opponents. We’ll see.
1. Purdue: at Cincinnati, Indiana State, Notre Dame, Northern Illinois. Three solid opponents, including two that were in BCS bowls last season.
2. Michigan State: Western Michigan, South Florida, Youngstown State, at Notre Dame. Typical solid Spartan schedule, though South Florida has dipped a bit.
3. Michigan: Central Michigan, Notre Dame, Akron, at Connecticut. You can always count on the Wolverines to man up.
4. Northwestern: at California, Syracuse, Western Michigan, Maine. If any Big Ten school has the right to dumb down its schedule, it’s Northwestern. But the Wildcats rarely do.
5. Wisconsin: Massachusetts, Tennessee Tech, at Arizona State, Brigham Young. Talk about no middle ground. Two good games, two awful games.
6. Nebraska: Wyoming, Southern Miss, UCLA, South Dakota State. This would be a fairly salty schedule had Southern Miss not laid an 0-12 egg last season.
7. Ohio State: Buffalo, San Diego State, at California, Florida A&M. Pretty soft for a program the caliber of the Buckeyes’.
8. Illinois: Southern Illinois, Cincinnati, Washington, Miami-Ohio. Three quarters of this schedule matches OU’s 2008 slate – Cincy, Washington, a I-AA foe. But while the Illini play Miami-Ohio, OU played TCU.
9. Penn State: Syracuse at East Rutherford, N.J.; Eastern Michigan; Central Florida; Kent State. Good to see an old Eastern rivalry renewed, with Syracuse. Now, about that Penn State-Pitt series.
10. Iowa: Northern Illinois, Missouri State, at Iowa State, Western Michigan. Not a terrible schedule, but mainly because Northern Illinois is better than it ought to be.
11. Indiana: Indiana State, Navy, Bowling Green, Missouri. Mediocre schedule. Mizzou-Indiana sounds like a Big Ten game.
12. Minnesota: Nevada-Las Vegas, at New Mexico State, Western Illinois, San Jose State. What a terrible schedule. The Gophers could challenge for the nation’s worst.