What Will the 2014 and 2015 Big Ten Football Schedules Look Like?

Andrew Burton

The Big Ten is finalizing the football schedules for the fourteen team, eight game Big Ten schedules. Who will Nebraska play? I suspect that it won't be Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, or Penn State.

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez tipped off fans that the 2014 and 2015 football schedules could be released on Wednesday.

But a Big Ten spokesman soon cooled off that talk, suggesting that it's still a couple of weeks away.

With seven team divisions and eight conference games in 2014 and 2015, the consensus seems to be that each school will play the other six teams in their division and then two games against the other division. I'm not sure I'd be so quick to dismiss a 5 division-3 crossover game split, but it seems everybody else has.

So Nebraska will play Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin those seasons. Who will be the Huskers two crossover opponents from the East Division? I'll immediately rule out Penn State out of consideration. When Jim Delaney announced the division splits, he suggested that the Big Ten wanted to make sure each team played each other at least once every four years, and that he wanted to make sure that the top teams in each division played each other more often.

With Penn State both being on the Huskers schedule for the preceding three seasons and in the middle of NCAA sanctions, this matchup fails both criteria. So put that on the doubtful side. Michigan and Michigan State are crossing over from the west to the now-official East division, so I suspect those matchups aren't as likely to be repeated in 2014 and 2015.

That leaves Indiana, Maryland, Ohio State, and Rutgers as the most likely Husker opponents from the East. If the Big Ten wants to make sure everybody plays everybody else, Indiana would be an obvious choice. If the Big Ten wants the top teams to play each other more often for television purposes, then Ohio State would be the obvious choice.

Rivalries are a big deal in the Big Ten, and with only eight conference games for the first two years, the cross-division rivalries are going to be tough to keep going. I suspect that the priority is going to be to maintain as many "Big 11" rivalry games going forward. For Indiana, that means they'll definitely play cross-state rival Purdue (for the Old Oaken Bucket) and probably Michigan State (for the Old Brass Spittoon). So cross Indiana off the list, because the Nebraska-Indiana game wasn't a priority for the 12 team Big Ten. You don't want to break the Indiana-Purdue series (played every year since 1920), and you shouldn't skip the Indiana-Michigan State rivalry for two years after it took a two year hiatus in 2009 and 2010.

Showcasing the newest members of the Big Ten would seem to be a natural, so I expect either Rutgers or Maryland to be on Nebraska's schedule in 2014 and 2015. I lean towards Rutgers; the Scarlet Knights are the stronger of the new teams. And for the other game, I suspect that Ohio State makes the most sense. Television would seem to demand that game be played.

If the Big Ten is willing to reshuffle the schedule for both 2014 and 2015, you could see Indiana replace Rutgers (or Maryland) and Michigan replace Ohio State for one of those seasons. But as long as the Big Ten is looking for a two year home-and-home arrangement, Ohio State and Rutgers would seem to make the most sense for Nebraska's schedule in 2014 and 2015.

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