Ranking the 2016 Big Ten football schedules from easiest to hardest. Find out which Big Ten football team has the toughest road ahead.
The Boilermakers miss Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State from the East and get Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin at home. None of their road games this season are against teams that finished with a winning record last year. There’s no non-conference game against a Power 5 team, and outside of a run of three road games in four weeks going away to Maryland, Illinois and Nebraska in the middle of the season, the trips away from West Lafayette just aren’t that bad.
There aren’t any non-conference games against Power 5 teams, and while going away for two of them might be interesting, dates at FIU and UCF are hardly killers. Traveling to Nebraska is a bad break against the West, but getting to face Purdue and Minnesota at home helps. Michigan State and Ohio State are home games and outside of the Florida two-step early on, there aren’t any other back-to-back road games.
Wake Forest is tougher than it might appear to be on paper, but this is a home game to go along with a road game against FIU and a home date with Ball State. Michigan State is a home game to get out of the way early on, and Penn State comes to Bloomington; however the Hoosiers have to go on the road to face Ohio State and Michigan. The Purdue game is always a big break against the East, and there’s no Wisconsin or Iowa to deal with.
The Gophers aren’t being pressed too hard in non-conference play, starting out with Oregon State, Indiana State and Colorado State all at home, but the Big Ten season begins with a killer road contest against Penn State. But that’s the one bad break until late with five straight games against teams that finished with losing records after hosting Iowa. The payoff, though, comes late with road games at Nebraska and Wisconsin wrapped around Northwestern.
The Hawkeyes have it relatively easy to kick things off, even if Iowa State is an in-state rivalry battle and North Dakota State is an FCS superpower. The Northwestern, Wisconsin and Nebraska games that were so pivotal last season are now all in Iowa City, as is the showdown with Michigan in mid-November. Going to Penn State is a problem, but the rest of the road slate isn’t all that bad.
There’s not a whole lot to complain about early on with the first five games in Ann Arbor and the trip to Rutgers the only away game until late October. But there’s a kicker over the second half – at Michigan State, at Iowa and at Ohio State. Playing Wisconsin – along with the Hawkeyes – from the West isn’t a positive, but there aren’t two road games in a row all season long.
8. Penn State
There might be plenty of tough battles, but the two big ones in the second half – Ohio State and Michigan State – are in Happy Valley. Playing Purdue from the West is a huge break, and while having to face Iowa isn’t easy, it’s at home. The Michigan game is on the road, but overall, the Nittany Lions only leave Pennsylvania once before October 29th.
Don’t sleep on the opener against Western Michigan – that could be a shootout – and Duke brings a strong offense to Evanston. The Big Ten opener against Nebraska is a huge home game with road games at Iowa and Michigan State to follow. Making things worse is a road game at Ohio State followed up by a home game against Wisconsin. Going to Purdue and Minnesota in November could have weather issues before closing out against Illinois.
6. Michigan State
There are plenty of big-time showdowns, but they’re almost all in East Lansing. There’s a trip to Notre Dame on the road, but it comes with a week off to prepare. And there’s an interesting game against BYU in the middle of the season, though that’s at home. Michigan and Ohio State are home games, and while playing Wisconsin and Northwestern from the West is tough, they’re both at home.
The Huskers have one of the league’s most important and toughest non-conference games, but Oregon has to make the trip to Lincoln. The big problem is over the second half of the season with road games at Wisconsin and Ohio State in back-to-back weeks, and closing out with a trip to Iowa. All of this comes after traveling to Northwestern in September. On the plus side, there’s no Michigan or Michigan State to face.
While all the non-conference games are at home, and the first road game isn’t until October 1st, North Carolina and Western Michigan aren’t easy ways to get into the Big Ten campaign. Three of the biggest games against the West – Nebraska, Wisconsin and Northwestern – are all on the road, while having to face Michigan on the road and Michigan State at home from the East isn’t fair. At least the Iowa game is in Champaign.
Having to start out the Chris Ash era all the way across the country at Washington stinks, but the rest of the non-conference schedule makes up for it with Howard and New Mexico at home to follow. After that trip to Seattle, there’s only one road game away from home until October 22nd, but that’s at Ohio State. Michigan and Penn State are home dates, while having to go to Michigan State is a tough draw. Three of the last five games are on the road.
2. Ohio State
At Oklahoma. As if facing the dangerous high-powered offenses of Bowling Green and Tulsa weren’t enough of a tune-up for the Big Ten season, going to Norman to face the Sooners is the toughest non-conference road game any big-time team will face this season. Making matters worse, the Buckeyes have to play Wisconsin on the road and follow it up with a date at Penn State. The Michigan State game is also on the road, but at least the Michigan game is at home.
Just survive the first half. Not only do the Badgers open up the season against LSU in Green Bay, but after some breathers against Akron and Georgia State, it’s on the road to play Michigan State in an unfair run of West games. It starts with the Spartans, and then a trip to Michigan, and then after a week off comes Ohio State. If that wasn’t bad enough, the East season starts out at Iowa. At least the Nebraska and Minnesota games are in Madison.