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The Big Ten Releases 2015 and 2016 Football Schedules

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Can Wisconsin manage to recruit a high school quarterback by the time the Badgers return to Nebraska's schedule in 2015?  (Photo by Mark Cunningham/Getty Images)
Can Wisconsin manage to recruit a high school quarterback by the time the Badgers return to Nebraska's schedule in 2015? (Photo by Mark Cunningham/Getty Images)
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On Monday, the Big Ten announced the conference football schedules for 2015 and 2016. The big news is that besides designated-rival Penn State, Nebraska will face Indiana and Wisconsin as the three games from the Big Ten's Eastern Division. (No, we're still not using "Leaders"; they are generally the eastern teams, so they are the Eastern Division.) Purdue and Illinois fall off the schedule, and Ohio State won't be seen again in a regular season game until 2017. Of course, conference realignment may make all of this a moot point, so don't make any travel plans based on this.

Looking that far in advance, it's really an exercise in futility to try and gauge schedule strength; the seniors on these teams either just signed their letter of intent or are still being recruited. A lot can change, and it's likely that many teams will have new coaching staffs by then. But gauging by past history, the cross-division games for the Western Division teams appear fairly balanced. Michigan draws Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio State; that has the potential to be tougher than Nebraska's draw. Michigan State draws Ohio State, Indiana, and Penn State; will Ohio State be better than Wisconsin by then? Buckeye fans hope so, but that's probably a wash. Iowa may get a bit of a break with Purdue, Illinois, and Penn State. Minnesota gets Purdue and both Ohio State and Wisconsin; that's probably a tough draw for the Gophers. On the basis of history, Northwestern looks to catch a break by drawing Purdue, Indiana, and Illinois.

Switching around and looking at who the Eastern Division teams draw from the West, Purdue may also catch a break by drawing Iowa, Northwestern, and Minnesota. Wisconsin gets Nebraska, Michigan, and Minnesota. Illinois gets Iowa, Michigan, and Northwestern. Indiana plays Michigan State, Nebraska, and Northwestern. Ohio State gets Michigan, Michigan State, and Minnesota. Penn State gets Iowa, Michigan State, and Nebraska.

Nebraska's 2015 Football Schedule

Sept. 5 BYU

Sept. 12 South Alabama

Sept. 19 @Miami

Sept. 26 Southern Miss

Oct. 3 @ Minnesota

Oct. 17 Northwestern

Oct. 24 @ Wisconsin

Oct. 31 Michigan State

Nov. 7 @ Michigan

Nov. 14 Indiana

Nov. 21 @ Penn State

Nov. 28 Iowa

I wouldn't call this the toughest football schedule ever, but it's a very competitive and probably one of the tougher schedules in the country in 2015. BYU should be good, and Miami has been a national power in the past. Southern Miss is a challenging mid-major opponent as well. If this schedule holds together, Nebraska fans should hope that strength of schedule is a component of any BCS/playoff evaluation, because the Huskers' schedule should rate favorably there.

Nebraska's 2016 Football Schedule

Sept. 3 Fresno State

Sept. 10 Tennessee

Sept. 17 Wyoming

(Nonconference game to be determined)

Oct. 1 @ Northwestern

Oct. 8 Wisconsin

Oct. 22 Minnesota

Oct. 29 @ Michigan State

Nov. 5 @ Indiana

Nov. 12 Michigan

Nov. 19 Penn State

Nov. 26 @ Iowa

Depending on who fills that final vacancy in the schedule, this one should be a slightly tougher than average schedule. Normally if Nebraska has a single vacancy in the schedule, you initially think that a 1-AA opponent would be chosen. That may not be the case here, as Nebraska already has three non-conference games scheduled. So I expect a road game in late September. Will Nebraska choose a mid-major to get a 2-for-1 deal? Or a BCS conference foe with another home and home? I tend to think it will be a mid-major and a 2-for-1, but you never know.

The Big Ten has tentatively penciled in the Iowa games for the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. I kind of expect those games to get moved to "Black Friday" to free up television windows and allow more focus to go on the Michigan/Ohio State game on Saturday. But nothing has been decided as of yet, and I wouldn't get too worried about that. Those are the types of decisions that don't need to be made for a long long time. Personally, I'm not a big fan of playing on "Black Friday." Not everybody gets the day off, and the forced rivalry with Colorado still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

That being said, there is an attraction to playing on the day after Thanksgiving as there are fewer games that day. Fewer games means more eyeballs watching your game, and it's a chance to showcase the Huskers in a national broadcast window.