Big Ten schedule rankings (cont.)
Posted: Thursday June 21, 2007 1:32PM; Updated: Thursday June 21, 2007 4:17PM
Behind the ranking: Iowa's non-conference schedule (Northern Illinois and Western Michigan at home, Syracuse and Iowa State on the road) actually ranks among the toughest in the Big Ten, but we can't ignore the fact that the Hawkeyes avoid Michigan and Ohio State this year.
Toughest game: Sept. 22 at Wisconsin. Penn State is the only other Iowa opponent that finished the 2006 season in the Top 25.
Cakewalk: Sept. 8 vs. Syracuse. There are no Division I-AA foes -- or guaranteed wins -- on Iowa's schedule. Syracuse forced Iowa into overtime last year, but that was at the Carrier Dome and the Hawkeyes were missing their starting quarterback. Iowa should have a much easier time beating the Orange at home.
Trap game: Nov. 3 at Northwestern. Iowa's schedule offers hope for a late-season surge because three of its last four games are at home. The lone exception is this trip to Northwestern, which has beaten the Hawkeyes each of the last two years.
Changes from last season: Iowa gets a huge break from the changes in its Big Ten schedule. Penn State and Michigan State replaced Michigan and Ohio State on the Hawkeyes' list of conference foes. The only change on Iowa's non-conference schedule is that the Hawkeyes will face Western Michigan instead of Montana.
Behind the ranking: Northwestern's four non-onference foes went a combined 14-34 last year. The Wildcats face only four teams that had winning records last season. Northwestern's Big Ten schedule allows the Wildcats to avoid Wisconsin and Penn State.
Toughest game: Sept. 22 at Ohio State. We're guessing Northwestern's first three games against Northeastern, Nevada and Duke won't adequately prepare the Wildcats for this Big Ten opener.
Cakewalk: Sept. 1 vs. Northeastern. You can argue that no game with a I-AA opponent is a cakewalk after Northwestern lost 34-17 to New Hampshire last season, but the Wildcats shouldn't have too much trouble winning this season opener. Northeastern went 5-6 in '06 and lost 38-0 to Virginia Tech in its only game against a I-A opponent.
Trap game: Oct. 19 vs. Eastern Michigan at Detroit. Northwestern clearly has more talent than Eastern Michigan, a Mid-American Conference team that went 1-11 last year. But the Wildcats could have a letdown because this game is scheduled between encounters with Big Ten foes Minnesota and Purdue.
Changes from last season: Northwestern's nonconference schedule is similar to last year's slate, though the Wildcats benefit from having Nevada at home this year. Indiana and Minnesota replace Wisconsin and Penn State on Northwestern's Big Ten schedule.
Behind the ranking: This is the type of schedule that could help Indiana finish .500 and earn its first bowl bid since 1993. Indiana avoids Ohio State and Michigan while playing a schedule that includes only four teams that posted winning records last year. Indiana doesn't have a non-conference game against a BCS school.
Toughest game: Oct. 27 at Wisconsin. The Badgers buried Indiana 52-17 at Bloomington last season. The Hoosiers need to do a better job of slowing down P.J. Hill, who rushed for three touchdowns against them a year ago.
Cakewalk: Sept. 1 vs. Indiana State. The Sycamores are a Division I-AA team that went 1-10 last season.
Trap game: Sept. 8 at Western Michigan. The Broncos went 8-5 and reached the International Bowl last year after losing at Indiana in their season opener. This time the Hoosiers have to make the trip to Kalamazoo. This game could end up determining whether Indiana becomes bowl eligible.
Changes from last season: The big difference is the Hoosiers will face Penn State and Northwestern instead of Ohio State and Michigan. Indiana State and Akron replace Southern Illinois and Connecticut as non-conference opponents. Mid-American Conference programs Western Michigan and Ball State return to the schedule after losing to Indiana last season.