We gave you a quick overview of the 2014 football schedule release earlier today, noting that rivalries are first and foremost in the minds of the Big Ten, putting the biggest of them on the final weekend of the season and all.
However, there are a lot of interesting things happening all over the individual schedules. In that vain, we are here to break down each schools schedule and give you the winners and losers in this deal. Additionally, you'll see each breakdown happen in order of toughest to easiest schedule.
Enjoy and let the breaking down begin!!
1. Rutgers: How's this little stretch for you - Penn State, BYE, Michigan, BYE, at Ohio State, at Nebraska, Wisconsin. Not sure that's exactly the welcome the Scarlet Knights were hoping for. However, they'll know exactly where they stand in the pecking order of the conference with that stretch. All four are bad news for trying to be competitive off the bat. Sure, it was going to be tough no matter what moving into the division they are in, but then getting the top of the West as well. DAMN.
2. Maryland: Things aren't much easier for the other newcomer to the league. They have their own hellacious stretch of at Wisconsin, at Penn State, BYE, vs. Michigan State, at Michigan. The only saving grace for the Terps is that unlike their fellow newcomers in Rutgers they don't get both of the big time teams from the West. Instead of Nebraska they get Iowa and that's at least a bit more manageable.
3. Northwestern: NU is looking to become a year after year player at the top of the conference, but in 2014 they are going to have to earn it big time as they got both Michigan and Penn State as cross-division games and to kick them further in the shorts the Wildcats start the season off with a trip to Penn State and a visit from Wisconsin. No dipping the toes into the water in life after Kain Colter for the boys from Evanston.
4. Minnesota: These guys are almost in the same boat as the Wildcats above them and one could argue to flipping the two around. Why? Well, the Gophers get all four of the top teams in the Big Ten in Michigan, Ohio State, and fellow West Division teams Nebraska and Wisconsin. In fact they have perhaps the worst stretch out of anyone over the final three games with it being Ohio State, at Nebraska, at Wisconsin. DAMN is all I've got to say about that.
5. Illinois: This one is short and sweet, the Illini have this for their four away games on the schedule: Nebraska, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Northwestern. Good luck getting off the bottom of the league with that kind of a slate in front of you.
6. Penn State: It's a bit of a mixed bag for the Nittany Lions as they do start off pretty tough with Rutgers, Northwestern and at Michigan. However, they also have a pretty winnable stretch of Indiana, Illinois and Michigan State. It's by far not the most difficult, nor is it the easiest thanks the Northwestern being one of it's two cross-divisional games, so near the middle of the pack is fitting if you ask me.
7. Ohio State: This one would be much lower thanks to them avoiding the difficult teams out of the West and instead facing Minnesota and Illinois if it weren't for what happens at the start of the Big Ten season for them, facing three straight against fellow East division teams.
8. Nebraska: How's this for a road slate - Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Nothing like having your biggest games all on the road. What helps is the fact that they are likely one of the top three teams (if not the top) in the West and if you want to compete these are all winnable games for them. Getting Rutgers in addition to MSU out of the East wasn't all that bad for them either.
9. Michigan State: We've officially hit easy street of sorts with this spot. MSU has just one tough road game and that's for the Land Grant Trophy at Penn State to end the season. I'm sure you're wondering why I have them this low with back-to-back division games against rival Michigan and then big boy Ohio State, but I assure you getting a bye between them makes that task far easier than if they had to do it in true back-to-back fashion. The rest of things are snooze inducing.
10. Iowa: We may not really know a lot about this team to start Big Ten play and that's because their final five games are all against the West division, which you could argue makes this a tough schedule and you wouldn't find much argument from me. However, what makes this schedule easier than those above it is getting Maryland and Indiana as cross-divisional games. Sure, the Hoosiers are on the rise, but until they prove they are a true contender they're on even footing with the Hawkeyes and so to are Maryland. Hard to say the Hawkeyes have that difficult a schedule.
11. Purdue: There is a tough stretch of @ Nebraska, vs. Wisconsin, vs. Northwestern to deal with and it'll tell us everything we need to know about the Boilermakers, but outside of that stretch the schedule doesn't really jump out at me. Sure, the Old Oaken Bucket closes out the season and all, but that's a rivalry weekend game and anything goes in this matchup against the Hoosiers. Point being that in the grand scheme of toughness inside the conference this one isn't even close to the top.
12. Indiana: While this team does have to play three of their final five games on the road with trips to Michigan, Rutgers, and Ohio State, they are in the East and there was bound to be a tough stretch, so it's hard to not see something like this coming. What puts them down near the bottom for me is the fact that open up with three winnable football games (Yes, Michigan State is winnable, especially if IU continues it's upward trend) and that means momentum down the very tough final stretch of the schedule. Besides, no Wisconsin or Nebraska to go with Purdue from out West, that's a hell of a lot easier than it could've been.
13. Michigan: Surprised to see them this low? Well, you shouldn't be thanks to some evenly spaced out byes and evenly spaced out tough games on their schedule. There are no back-to-back insane matchups like what we see from everyone else thanks to one of those byes and a matchup with Indiana. Additionally getting a bye, Maryland, and the finale at Ohio State is about as easy living as you could ask if you're a fan of the Mazie 'N Blue.
14. Wisconsin: Come on... could there be a schedule that's more set up for a team to win their division? Well, that is if you don't consider four straight against the West to end the season all that tough. However, you can't deny they got lucky by avoiding any of the "big four" from the East and for that they rank at the bottom in terms of toughness of their schedule.
Wisconsin - Talk about dodging a bullet... No Michigan, MSU, OSU, or PSU on the schedule.... Oh and you get main rival Nebraska at home. If there was a bigger winner, with an easier route to the Big Ten championship game please show me, cause I can't find it.
Penn State - This is more about how their bye weeks play out than anything else. While they face back-to-back challenges in Michigan and Ohio State they will have a bye before each of these games and that's tremendously helpful to say the least. Especially since they'll also take on Northwestern before the bye and Michigan stretch. At least they didn't end up with Wisconsin or Nebraska during the time where they will be at the height of the effect of the sanctions against them.
Rivalry Games - They were the biggest casualty of the last round of realignment and in 2014 every single rivalry game will be played. That includes the Illibuck and the Little Brown Jug games, which we know won't be played on an annual basis. It was at least nice to give the fans these games the first two years of the new system.
The new guys - Hey Maryland and Rutgers, you want to play with the big boys? Well, how's about we throw you into the deep end without any swimming lessons. If you float awesome, if you start to sink - well, we all saw that coming. Good lord did they get a challenge in both facing Wisconsin and Rutgers also getting Nebraska. OUCH.
Minnesota - Um.... Ya, you're treat for moving to the West? You get to take on both Michigan and Ohio State. While it's nice that the Little Brown Jug game will be played the Big Ten didn't do an improving team any favors by also shoving OSU down their throats either.
Nebraska - While the overall schedule is manageable, having all four of their biggest games occur on the road (Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Iowa)? It's hard not to say that's losing.