The Big Ten’s 2012 Non-Conference Schedule
By Paul Myerberg // Feb 22, 2012
After looking at the non-conference schedules found in the SEC, let’s turn our attention to the Big Ten, where every school but one, Nebraska, has filled out its dance card for the coming season. The Cornhuskers are close: three games down, one to go. And considering how Nebraska’s scheduled trio of games look, there’s little doubt that the program will look to fill that open date with the easiest, most cupcake-like opponent available on that particular Saturday — that would be Sept. 22, by the way, if you’re a lower-level program looking to plop a six-figure check in the school coffers. And the F.C.S. is certainly in the conversation: Nebraska has played one such school in each of the last two years after not doing so from 2007-9.
You’ll see a number of differences between the Big Ten’s non-conference schedule and that of the SEC, with the primary difference coming in the simplest way possible: it’s tougher. It’s more difficult, with far more road games, more B.C.S. conference competition and fewer cupcakes — though I suppose that the latter qualification lies in the eye of the beholder.
The MAC isn’t a great league, but it certainly trumps the Sun Belt, where the SEC typically dives in with both feet to fill its non-conference slate. And the MAC’s presence is felt throughout the Big Ten’s non-conference schedule, as it is every year, particularly with Big Ten programs who share a state’s borders with one of the MAC’s 14 programs.
Keep three important notes about the SEC’s schedule in mind: one, that the conference as a whole will play 13 road games altogether, 10 of which are true road games, not games played at a neutral site; two, that the SEC will play nine games against Sun Belt competition; and three, that on Nov. 17, the league will play more than twice as many games against F.C.S. competition, seven, as it does actual conference games, three.
More notes on the Big Ten’s non-conference schedule, along with a few comparisons to what the SEC will feature this fall, after the list:
9/1 Western Michigan
9/8 at Arizona State
9/15 Charleston Southern
9/22 Louisiana Tech
9/1 Indiana State
9/8 at Massachusetts (at Gillette Stadium)
9/15 Ball State
10/20 at Navy
9/1 vs. Northern Illinois (at Soldier Field)
9/8 Iowa State
9/15 Northern Iowa
9/22 Central Michigan
9/1 vs. Alabama (at Cowboys Stadium)
9/8 Air Force
9/22 at Notre Dame
8/31 Boise State
9/8 at Central Michigan
9/15 Notre Dame
9/22 Eastern Michigan
8/30 at U.N.L.V.
9/8 New Hampshire
9/15 Western Michigan
Nebraska (one game T.B.A.)
9/1 Southern Mississippi
9/8 at U.C.L.A.
9/15 Arkansas State
9/1 at Syracuse
9/15 Boston College
9/22 South Dakota
9/1 Miami (Ohio)
9/8 at Virginia
9/1 Eastern Kentucky
9/8 at Notre Dame
9/15 Eastern Michigan
9/1 Northern Iowa
9/8 at Oregon State
9/15 Utah State
The Big Ten has scheduled 47 of its 48 allotted non-conference games; it’s only a matter of time before Nebraska closes out its non-conference slate. As of today — and the Cornhuskers could skew this total — the Big Ten as a whole will play as many games against F.C.S. competition, seven, as the SEC has scheduled on Nov. 17 alone.
The Big Ten will play nearly as many non-home games against B.C.S. conference competition, including Notre Dame in this category, as the SEC will play true road games altogether. The Big Ten has eight such road games scheduled, a list that includes marquee dates like Nebraska traveling to U.C.L.A., Wisconsin to Oregon State and Penn State to Virginia.
In all, 14 of the 47 games currently scheduled come against B.C.S. conference competition. California travels to Columbus to take on Ohio State on Sept. 15. Each of Northwestern’s first three games come against B.C.S. conference foes: at Syracuse, home for Vanderbilt and home for Boston College. Indiana is the lone school that doesn’t take on any B.C.S. conference competition, though the Hoosiers do balance that out with two road games against teams from a non-B.C.S. conference. And as we know, Indiana could use some help.
Ohio State is the lone program to not play a game on the road outside of Big Ten play. This isn’t that common, believe it or not: the Buckeyes played at Miami (Fla.) last fall, for starters, and have played at least one non-home game in six of the last seven years, if we count a 2009 game against Toledo played in Cleveland.
In all, the Big Ten will play those 14 games against B.C.S. conference competition, with eight of those coming either on the road or at a neutral site — of the latter list, Michigan’s game against Alabama, at Cowboys Stadium, looks like the most highly-anticipated game of the season’s opening weekend. Another 12 games will come against the MAC, with two, Indiana’s trip to Massachusetts and Michigan State’s to Central Michigan, coming on the road.
Another 14 games come against other non-B.C.S. conference programs, with three coming on the road: Indiana goes to Navy on Oct. 20; Minnesota to U.N.L.V. on Aug. 30, a game recently moved up to Thursday from Saturday; and Iowa plays Northern Illinois at Chicago’s Soldier Field. And, as noted, there will be seven games played against F.C.S. competition.
Michigan seems the most likely to benefit from a beefed-up non-conference schedule, should push come to shove in the B.C.S. standings. If the Wolverines go undefeated — stay with me — against the Big Ten and also beat Alabama, Air Force and Notre Dame in September, there should be no team in the country with a stronger case for the B.C.S. title game.
And as a whole, the Big Ten’s entire non-conference schedule should put the league in a place to have more than one team making news in September, should everything go according to plan. That plan involves Michigan unseating Alabama on Sept. 1; Nebraska and Illinois doing the same to U.C.L.A. and Arizona State, respectively, a week later; and the Wolverines, Michigan State and Purdue taking care of business against Notre Dame.
Tags: Big Ten, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, MAC, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, SEC, Wisconsin
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