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2011 Schedule Analysis: BIG TEN

One of the offseason series' we are beginning here at One Foot Down is a look at the major conferences and each schedule their member teams are playing in 2011.

Who has a tough road ahead next fall?

Who is going to win 8 games on schedule weakness alone?

It will all be here as we first take a look at the loveable Big Ten conference, complete with a full set of 12 teams and two new divisions.

Tell us who you think plays a tough or weak schedule after reading through this.


Iowa Hawkeyes

OOC Home: Tennessee Tech, Pittsburgh, and Louisiana-Monroe

OOC Road: Iowa State

Conference Home: Northwestern, Indiana, Michigan, and Michigan State

Conference Road: Penn State, Minnesota, Purdue, and Nebraska

Who They Miss: Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Illinois

Grade: C-

Sadly in today’s college football, playing two BCS teams out of conference is considered risky and impressive. Still, Iowa’s OOC schedule isn’t very daunting.

The Hawkeyes are 6-2 versus in-state rival Iowa State since 2003 and will also host what should be a Pitt team that will take a step back in the post-‘Stache era and with some big players leaving.

Iowa also does not play arguably the conferences top two teams, which in turn will provide the Hawkeyes with one of the easiest Big Ten schedules in 2011.

Michigan Wolverines

OOC Home: Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, and San Diego State

OOC Road: None

Conference Home: Minnesota, Purdue, Nebraska, and Ohio State

Conference Road: Northwestern, Michigan State, Iowa, and Illinois

Who They Miss: Wisconsin, Penn State, and Indiana

Grade: B

You have to respect that Michigan has not joined the rank and file of college football and completely watered down their schedule in recent years.

There are two easy games out of conference, plus there are no road games outside of the Big Ten, but the Wolverines face Notre Dame and what should be a pretty decent San Diego State team just drooling to beat their former coach Brady Hoke.

In the Big Ten, Michigan has two winnable home games, but two others in which they should be pretty heavy underdogs.

The road games are all difficult to some degree, with Illinois being the easiest and the three others being fairly tough. Missing Wisconsin and Penn State is a bonus, but this is likely one of the more difficult 2011 schedules in the Big Ten.

Michigan State Spartans

OOC Home: Youngstown State, Florida Atlantic, and Central Michigan

OOC Road: Notre Dame

Conference Home: Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Indiana

Conference Road: Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa, and Northwestern

Who They Miss: Penn State, Illinois, and Purdue

Grade: B

Outside of the tough road game in South Bend, the Spartans out of conference schedule is pretty laughable. Had they scheduled another tough team outside the Big Ten this could have been a contender for the hardest schedule among this group.

Michigan State’s home slate isn’t too rough, but their road schedule is positively brutal. If Northwestern stays competitive with Dan Persa under center and Iowa doesn’t fall off too much after a disappointing 2010 season, this could easily be the toughest in-conference road schedule in the Big Ten.

Missing Penn State, Illinois and Purdue means the Spartans are likely to play the top four or five teams in the conference, which most teams in the Big Ten simply won’t have to endure.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

OOC Home: New Mexico State, Miami (OH), and North Dakota State

OOC Road: Southern California

Conference Home: Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois

Conference Road: Michigan, Purdue, Michigan State, and Northwestern

Who They Miss: Ohio State, Penn State, and Indiana

Grade: C

Minnesota’s trip to the Los Angeles Coliseum to start the 2011 season prevents this schedule from being truly weak, but this is still one of the easier collection of games in the Big Ten.

The Gophers might be challenged at home by Miami of Ohio, but they also face two of the worst football teams you can line up out of conference.

The home schedule in conference is daunting, yet Minnesota misses Ohio State and Penn State and doesn’t have a particularly challenging road schedule either.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

OOC Home: Chattanooga, Fresno State, and Washington

OOC Road: Wyoming

Conference Home: Ohio State, Michigan State, Northwestern, and Iowa

Conference Road: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Penn State, and Michigan

Who They Miss: Illinois, Indiana, and Purdue

Grade: B+

The Huskers out of conference slate certainly isn’t tough, but they do host a couple good teams in Washington and Fresno State.

It is in conference where Nebraska is really being welcomed to the Big Ten with one tough collection of games. In Lincoln they will face four quality opponents, including taking on the modern day power Ohio State.

On the road Nebraska has three tough road trips with only one breather against Minnesota. The Cornhuskers will play all of the top teams in conference and likely miss out on competing against three of the bottom four teams.

Northwestern Wildcats

OOC Home: Eastern Illinois and Rice

OOC Road: Boston College and Army

Conference Home: Michigan, Penn State, Minnesota, and Michigan State

Conference Road: Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, and Nebraska

Who They Miss: Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Purdue

Grade: C-

All in all, Northwestern isn’t facing a very tough out of conference schedule, and the Wildcats don’t have to play two of the best Big Ten teams in conference.

Their home slate could be tough if either Michigan or Penn State takes a step forward in 2011, but it doesn’t look too daunting right now.

There are a couple tough road games in the Big Ten, but overall this is one of the weakest schedules.


Illinois Fighting Illini

OOC Home: Arkansas State, South Dakota State, Arizona State, and Western Michigan

OOC Road: None

Conference Home: Northwestern, Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin

Conference Road: Indiana, Purdue, Penn State, and Minnesota

Who They Miss: Nebraska, Iowa, and Michigan State

Grade: D+

There are high expectations for Arizona State in 2011 and the Sun Devils may come into the season ranked, but Illinois’ OOC schedule is abysmal outside of this matchup.

The Fighting Illini face a daunting home schedule, but their road slate is almost too easy for a BCS team in a major conference. What’s more, they miss three quality teams in conference play and don’t have to play a road game until the second week of October.

This is a seriously weak schedule.

Indiana Hoosiers

OOC Home: Virginia and South Carolina State

OOC Road: Ball State (neutral) and North Texas

Conference Home: Penn State, Illinois, Northwestern, and Purdue

Conference Road: Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio State, and Michigan State

Who They Miss: Nebraska, Michigan, and Minnesota

Grade: B-

Here’s a seriously hot and cold schedule for Indiana.

The OOC schedule is about as easy as you can get with one mildly competitive BCS team on it, while the home games lined up for 2011 in conference are not very intimidating as well.

As it were, the Hoosiers are looking at a murderer’s row of road games in conference as they face the top four teams from last year’s standings. With that, Indiana’s schedule moves up to a respectable grade.

Ohio State Buckeyes

OOC Home: Akron, Toledo, and Colorado

OOC Road: Miami (FL)

Conference Home: Michigan State, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Penn State

Conference Road: Nebraska, Illinois, Purdue, and Michigan

Who They Miss: Iowa, Northwestern, and Minnesota

Grade: B

Ohio State will probably have their hands full when they travel to play Miami (particularly without the suspended five players), but the rest of the out of conference lineup should be comfortable victories.

In the Big Ten the Buckeyes have a pretty balanced schedule with some hard games and some easy ones. Overall, it is a pretty average schedule but nothing too overwhelming.

If Michigan doesn’t improve, the road lineup looks to be much easier than the home games, and this is what keeps Ohio State from having one of the tougher schedules in the Big Ten.

Penn State Nittany Lions

OOC Home: Indiana State, Alabama, and Eastern Michigan

OOC Road: Temple

Conference Home: Iowa, Purdue, Illinois, and Nebraska

Conference Road: Indiana, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Wisconsin

Who They Miss: Michigan, Michigan State, and Minnesota

Grade: B

Hosting a top five team like Alabama boosts Penn State’s schedule strength immensely and a trip to Philadelphia to play Temple won’t be easy even if the Owls are without Al Golden as coach now.

The Nittany Lions face a couple of really tough games both on the road and at home, but they also miss out on playing both Michigan schools as well.

Overall, this is a solid schedule although it is curious to point out that Penn State won’t be playing arguably their two main rivals (Michigan State and Minnesota) in 2011.

Purdue Boilermakers

OOC Home: Middle Tennessee State, Southeast Missouri State, and Notre Dame

OOC Road: Rice

Conference Home: Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio State, and Iowa

Conference Road: Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana

Who They Miss: Nebraska, Michigan State, and Northwestern

Grade: D+

Outside of the rivalry game with Notre Dame, the Purdue Boilermakers are looking at a seriously weak OOC schedule in 2011.

They host Ohio State and Iowa at home, while the road lineup features three quality teams as well.

With three weak teams out of conference this schedule just doesn’t have enough competition on it, particularly since Purdue isn’t playing three quality teams in the Big Ten, including new member Nebraska.

Wisconsin Badgers

OOC Home: UNLV, Oregon State, Northern Illinois (neutral), and South Dakota

OOC Road: None

Conference Home: Nebraska, Indiana, Purdue, and Penn State

Conference Road: Michigan State, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Illinois

Who They Miss: Michigan, Iowa, and Northwestern

Grade: C-

Wisconsin continues their tradition of facing one mildly competitive opponent out of conference to go with three easy games, although the neutral tilt against Northern Illinois may be tougher than expected.

The Badgers home games don’t appear to be tough with only Nebraska the likely ranked team to come to Madison, although they will have to travel to Michigan State and Ohio State on the road.

Without three quality programs on their schedule in the Big Ten, this simply isn’t that demanding of a schedule.

So, who has it easy and who has it tough?