Big Ten schedule rankings
Michigan schools head conference's toughest slates
Posted: Thursday June 21, 2007 1:32PM; Updated: Thursday June 21, 2007 4:17PM
Those glamorous intersectional matchups that made the Big Ten's non-conference games so appealing last season have disappeared from this year's schedules.
Ohio State won't be facing Texas this September. The Buckeyes instead open the season with probable victories against Youngstown State, Akron and Washington.
Rather than facing California on the second week of the season, Minnesota will play host to Miami University -- that's the one in Ohio.
Only three teams in the conference scheduled 12 Division I-A opponents, which is a troubling sign for a league that doesn't have a full round-robin schedule.
Michigan may have the most ambitious non-conference schedule with back-to-back games against Oregon and Notre Dame, but the Wolverines leave home just four times. Penn State, Michigan State and Purdue also face Notre Dame this year.
The biggest complaint about last year's Big Ten schedule -- the absence of an Ohio State-Wisconsin game -- won't be a worry this fall. Wisconsin travels to Columbus on Nov. 3.
The Big Ten schedule includes some memorable late-season games. The Wisconsin-Ohio State game, Michigan-Wisconsin skirmish and Ohio State-Michigan showdown occur in consecutive November weekends.
But will that late-season excitement compensate for all those early-season snoozers?
1. Michigan State
Behind the ranking: Michigan State doesn't have a Division I-AA foe on its schedule. Penn State and Iowa are the only other Big Ten teams that won't be playing any I-AA programs this fall. Michigan State's 12 opponents posted a .592 winning percentage, which is the highest among all Big Ten schedules. Michigan State faces all four of the top Big Ten programs -- Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State -- and also has a pair of tricky non-conference games at Notre Dame and against Pittsburgh. The Spartans face Notre Dame and Wisconsin on the road in back-to-back weeks in September. They also have a grueling five-game stretch against Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, Purdue and Penn State to end the season.
Toughest game: Oct. 20 at Ohio State. We could have gone with the Sept. 29 game at Wisconsin, but the trip to Ohio State may prove tougher. Although Ohio State has an offense full of first-year starters, those underclassmen should have gained quite a bit of experience by the time the Spartans visit the Horseshoe on Oct. 20.
Cakewalk: Sept. 1 vs. UAB. The season-opening home game should allow Mark Dantonio to start his Michigan State tenure on a winning note. UAB returns only seven starters from a team that went 3-9 last season.
Trap game: Sept. 15 vs. Pittsburgh. This game could prove tricky if Michigan State is looking ahead to its visits to Notre Dame and Wisconsin the next two weeks.
Changes from last season: Wisconsin and Iowa replace Illinois and Minnesota on Michigan State's Big Ten schedule. The Spartans' first two games against UAB and Bowling Green might not seem like much of a challenge, but they're slightly tougher than the home games with Idaho and Eastern Michigan that started the 2006 season.
Behind the ranking: Michigan might have the toughest non-conference schedule of any Big Ten team with reigning I-AA national champion Appalachian State, Oregon, Notre Dame and Eastern Michigan all visiting the Big House. The Wolverines aren't in the top spot because they have eight home games and stay in Ann Arbor for six of the first seven weeks.
Toughest game: Nov. 10 at Wisconsin. Michigan's hopes of playing for the national title could come down to how the Wolverines fare when they close the regular season with Wisconsin and Ohio State in back-to-back weeks. Since the Ohio State game is in Ann Arbor, we'll mark the trip to Wisconsin as the Wolverines' biggest challenge. The Wisconsin game marks the only time all year that Michigan goes on the road to face a team that had a winning record last season.
Cakewalk: Oct. 6 vs. Eastern Michigan. Who's the bigger pushover -- the reigning I-AA national champion or a Mid-American Conference team that went 1-11 last year? We think Eastern Michigan is less likely to put up a fight than Appalachian State, which could stay competitive for a quarter or two if it isn't intimidated by the Big House.
Trap game: Nov. 3 at Michigan State. Michigan has the misfortune of facing its in-state rival on the road the week before those back-to-back games with Wisconsin and Ohio State. That type of scheduling certainly provides the opportunity for an upset.
Changes from last season: Michigan should benefit from playing Notre Dame at home instead of on the road, but the addition of Oregon to the schedule gives the Wolverines two dangerous non-conference games. Purdue and Illinois replace Iowa and Indiana on Michigan's Big Ten schedule.
Behind the ranking: Purdue has a I-AA foe on its schedule (Eastern Illinois) and avoids Wisconsin, but the Boilermakers' I-A opponents posted an impressive combined record of 82-58 last season. Purdue also has a grueling stretch from mid-September to mid-October when it plays six 2006 bowl teams in a row, including Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan in consecutive weeks.
Toughest game: Oct. 13 at Michigan. As if heading to Ann Arbor isn't tough enough, the Boilermakers have to make the journey one week after facing Ohio State. If they lose both games, this veteran team will fall out of Big Ten title contention by midseason.
Cakewalk: Sept. 8 vs. Eastern Illinois. This I-AA foe lost 42-17 to Illinois in its only game against a Big Ten opponent last year. The Panthers don't figure to be more competitive against Purdue.
Trap game: Sept. 1 at Toledo. Purdue opens the season by going on the road to face a hungry Toledo team that returns eight starters on offense and eight on defense. The Rockets are eager to make a statement after suffering their first losing season since 1993 last year. The Boilermakers face another tough non-conference test when they play host to Motor City Bowl champion Central Michigan the week before they open their Big Ten schedule.
Changes from last season: The changes in the Big Ten schedule hurt Purdue more than anyone else in the conference. The Boilermakers have to face Michigan and Ohio State after dodging both Big Ten heavyweights last year. The Wolverines and Buckeyes replace Wisconsin and Illinois on the schedule. After struggling last year to beat Miami (Ohio) and Ball State -- two Mid-American Conference teams that went a combined 7-17 last year -- Purdue again faces a pair of MAC foes in Toledo and defending league champion Central Michigan.
Behind the ranking: Illinois faces all four of the strongest Big Ten teams (Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Penn State). A non-conference schedule that includes trips to Syracuse and a game with Missouri at St. Louis also could prove challenging. The 11 Division I-A foes on Illinois' schedule went a combined 82-57 last year. The good news for the Illini is that Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan all have to come to Illinois.
Toughest game: Nov. 10 at Ohio State: Illinois gave Ohio State all it could handle before falling 17-10 last year, so the Illini can't expect the Buckeyes to be looking ahead to a showdown with Michigan the following week.
Cakewalk: Sept. 8 vs. Western Illinois: This matchup with a Division I-AA team that went 5-6 last year is perhaps the only certain win on Illinois' schedule.
Trap game: Oct. 27 vs. Ball State: The return of Nate Davis could make Ball State one of the most improved teams in the Mid-American Conference next year. Illinois faces the Redbirds for homecoming right before back-to-back road games with Minnesota and Ohio State, so the Illini can't afford a letdown.
Changes from last season: Illinois' Big Ten schedule got harder when Michigan and Minnesota replaced Purdue and Michigan State on the Illini's list of conference opponents. Illinois doesn't have to face Rutgers after losing to the Scarlet Knights 33-0 last year, but playing Missouri in St. Louis is no picnic.
1 of 3