ESPN.com’s Big Ten guy Adam Rittenberg writes today about Big Ten non-conference schedules. He ranks the Hawkeyes fifth in the conference with UNI, @ Iowa State, Arizona and Arkansas State. Iowa gets points for having two BCS conference teams on its schedule — ISU and Arizona.
Adam had Illinois No. 1 (Missouri, Illinois State, Cincinnati and Fresno State) and Penn State No. 11 (Akron, Syracuse, Temple and Eastern Illinois).
Last season, I took an objective look at the non-conference schedules, giving points for BCS, even for a lower-level (mid-major) FBS and subtracting a point for FCS.
Let’s try that again:
Illinois — Missouri (plus), Illinois State (minus), Cincinnati (plus) and Fresno State (even).
The Illini are plus 1 but I’m giving them extra credit for Missouri, a game that’s going away unfortunately. I’ve always found this game very entertaining. I wish TV cash would be incentive enough to keep the series going, but apparently not. It ends in 2011. This is two BCS schools and Fresno State, a WAC team that is usually very good and a handful for BCS schools. This is a great non-conference schedule.
Indiana — Eastern Kentucky (minus), Western Michigan (even), @ Akron (even), @ Virginia (plus).
The Hoosiers grade at even. Do they get credit for going on the road for Akron and Virginia? How is Akron a road game? They must’ve gotten a 2-for-1 home-and-home out of that deal, as Iowa did with Miami (Ohio) in the early 2000’s. Is this the Big Ten’s only non-con with a team from the south, not counting Wisconsin and Wofford, of course?
Iowa — Northern Iowa (minus), @ ISU (plus), @ Arizona (plus), Arkansas State (even).
The Hawkeyes rate a plus 1. The Hayden Fry-born philosophy of cupcake, Iowa State and BCS conference team has added, with the fourth non-conference game, a catch-is-as-catch-can category. Next season, that’s Eastern Illinois. Fans don’t want cupcakes and Iowa will have trouble filling Kinnick for weak non-conference games. Is Minnesota setting a trend here with its USC matchup? It’d be cool to think so, wouldn’t it? I know the UNI game is a minus in this exercise only. The Panthers are FCS elite. This will deliver two quality games every year. Face it, the Iowa State game is here to stay. This is no longer the Hayden Fry hoedown. The second BCS game will always be intriguing. But cupcake and catch-can will be a tough sell.
Michigan — Western Michigan (even), Notre Dame (plus), Eastern Michigan (even), Delaware State (minus).
Michigan rates an even. With home losses to Appalachia State and Toledo in recent years and with a new coaching staff, this has to be expected. How long will this be acceptable for Michigan fans? Probably not long. They see Minnesota-USC and they’re going to want Michigan-LSU or Michigan-Rutgers, something along those lines. Delaware State?
Michigan State — Montana State (minus), Central Michigan (even), @ Notre Dame (plus), Western Michigan (even).
Notre Dame saves this kinda boring collection and even that’s debatable. When did Western Michigan join the Big Ten? The Broncos have three Big Ten games this season. Of course, Iowa fans remember Western Michigan well (2001 and 2007 home losses).
Minnesota — @ Syracuse (plus), Air Force (even), California (plus), South Dakota State (minus).
This is a plus 1. Syracuse, even @ Syracuse, is a dubious plus. But Air Force is a defensible even (Mountain West, home of Sugar Bowl Champion Utah) and California could be a loss.
Northwestern — Towson (minus), Eastern Michigan (even), @ Syracuse (plus), Miami (Ohio) (even).
The ‘Cats rate an even. I don’t think Northwestern’s players’ parents will go to Towson. Here’s dubious Syracuse again. I’d pay to see Miami and that’s about it on this slate.
Ohio State — Navy (even), USC (plus), Toledo (even), New Mexico State (even).
This is a plus 1, with a very, very strong plus. You put USC on your schedule, you have major cojones. The Toledo game is at Cleveland. New Mexico State? I don’t understand the rest of the Buckeyes’ schedule, but they could trot out mannequins and the Horseshoe would sell out.
Penn State — Akron (even), Syracuse (plus), Temple (even), Eastern Illinois (minus).
This is an even, a very shaky and unimpressive even. I know there has been lots o’ talk about Big Ten expansion. I vote against Syracuse, which appears to be on a trial run this season. This is atrocious and Penn State knows it. Adding to the negatives, they’re all home games. This is a Bill Snyder/K-State 1990’s schedule — built for a run in the conference. Can’t fault that logic, but it’s simply not entertaining.
Purdue — Toledo (even), @ Oregon (plus), Northern Illinois (even), Notre Dame (plus).
This is a admirable plus 2. It might be four losses on the Boilers’ schedule, but it’s a legit non-conference schedule.
Wisconsin — Northern Illinois (even), Fresno State (even), Wofford (minus), @ Hawaii (even).
Given this scoring system, this minus 1 is the Big Ten’s worst non-conference schedule — non-BCS’s and Wofford. Just let that roll off the tongue. OK, Hawaii @ Hawaii usually turns out to be a fight to the bitter end. Visitors get on the island and just seem to lose focus. I’m not sure Badgers fans buy this.