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Big Ten Football: 2015 Non-conference Schedule Power Rankings

March 2, 2015

                                                                                      Photo credit Angela J. Cesere//AnnArbor.com

 

 

by Lisa Horne

 

We continue our five-part series of non-conference schedule power rankings with our third installment. The Big Ten has been roundly criticized for weak scheduling but Ohio State's championship season in 2014 may stifle the masses.

 

Unlike the Big 12 and the Pac-12, the Big Ten teams play four non-conference games instead of three. Many so-called experts believe that Big Ten teams pad their overall records with soft opponents. However, Ohio State went 3-0 against Top 10 teams while its College Football Playoff opponent Alabama went 2-2. 

 

I have always believed that the best team in the country is still the best team in the country even if it has a cupcake schedule or plays in a mid-tiered conference. But why make it harder for pollsters to evaluate a team if it does not have similar criteria as other highly-ranked teams? 

 

Here we go....

 

Illinois

 

Kent State, Western Illinois, at North Carolina, Middle Tennessee State 

 

KSU and MTSU went a combined 8-15 last year. This schedule is fooling no one and should serve as a prime example as to why four non-conference games are losing support.  

 

Grade: F+

 

Indiana

 

Southern illinois, Florida International, Western Kentucky, at Wake Forest

 

Western Kentucky was the only team among the four who had a winning record in 2014. True, there is an ACC team in the schedule but ...it's Wake Forest (3-9). 

 

Grade: F

 

Iowa

 

Illinois State, at Iowa State, Pittsburgh, North Texas

 

Iowa State went 2-10 last year--its two wins were against Iowa and Toledo. So... just because a bad team beats Iowa twice in four years doesn't mean Iowa should get props for scheduling said team. 

 

Grade: C-

 

Maryland

 

Richmond, Bowling Green, South Florida, at West Virginia

 

West Virginia is a hostile environment so the Mountaineers should prepare the Terps for conference play.  But Maryland's first three games are not very enticing. 

 

Grade: C

 

Michigan

 

At Utah, Oregon State, UNLV, BYU

 

Gulp. Ambitious scheduling will get players up to speed faster but this schedule is probably a bit too difficult for a team with a new head coach. 

 

Grade: A

 

Michigan State

 

At Western Michigan, Oregon, Air Force, Central Michigan

 

This is not too bad of a schedule although having Oregon sandwiched between some directional Michigan teams and Air Force is downright puzzling. 

 

Grade: B-

 

Minnesota

 

TCU, Colorado State (at Denver), Kent State, Ohio

 

The Golden Gophers get tested right out of the gate with a legitimate national title contender. Colorado State is also a very good team. Kent State and Ohio are average MAC teams. 

 

Grade: A-

 

Nebraska

 

BYU, South Alabama, at Miami (FL), Southern Miss

 

At first glance, this looks like an SEC team's schedule. It appears Nebraska is trying to build recruiting pipelines into the South (smart move) so props for that. Additional kudos for avoiding FCS teams. 

 

Grade: A-

 

Northwestern

 

Stanford, Eastern Illinois, at Duke, Ball State

 

The intent of the schedule is good. An elite team, an above average Power 5 team, an FCS team and a MAC team are about right. How much better would this schedule be if the FCS team was dropped? It would be an A+.

 

Grade: B

 

Ohio State

 

At Virginia Tech, Hawai'i, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan

 

Will season ticket holders be happy that three of their seven opponents at home are Hawai'i, Northern Illinois and Western Michigan? Last year a ticket to one of those games would have cost $79.

 

Grade: D-

 

Penn State

 

At Temple, Buffalo, San Diego State, Army

 

How does a team even get up for this slate? 

 

Grade: F-

 

Purdue

 

At Marshall, Indiana State, Virginia Tech, Bowling Green

 

The road trip to Marshall may be a real challenge for the Boilermakers. Virginia Tech should also be a big test but overall, this schedule looks pretty bland. 

 

Grade: D-

 

Rutgers

 

Norfolk State, Washington State, Kansas, at Army

 

Technically, Rutgers is playing two Power 5 teams but Kansas is undoubtedly the worst Power 5 team in the country. (Washington State was the worst a few years ago but has improved). The intent of this schedule is obvious.

 

Grade: D+

 

Wisconsin

 

Alabama (at Arlington), Miami (OH), Troy, Hawai'i

 

The Badgers play an elite SEC team at a neutral venue and do not play an FCS team. It's not a great schedule but compared to many of its brethren's, it's decent.

 

Grade: B

 

Non-conference Power Rankings

 

1- Michigan

2- Nebraska

3- Minnesota

4- Northwestern

5- Wisconsin

6- Michigan State

7- Maryland

8- Iowa

9- Rutgers

10- Purdue

11- Ohio State

12- Illinois

13- Indiana

14- Penn State

 

 

Schedules courtesy of FBSchedules.com

 

 

 

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