Posted 05/12/2009 at 04:22 PM
The football season is a long ways off but it is never too early to start taking a look at the upcoming schedule. The Big Ten is losing ground in national stature with a couple of big game losses but Ohio State can get some credibility back with hosting USC early in the year. The Buckeyes are often criticized for their schedule but consider that the non-conference schedule this year will feature Navy (perennial bowl team), USC (national title contender), Toledo (decent MAC team), and New Mexico State (rising WAC squad) and no FCS teams. Ohio State plays at Penn State and at Michigan so leading the Big Ten may be tough.
The most favorable Big Ten schedule belongs to Wisconsin, a team that overachieved in 2006 and 2007 before falling well short of expectations last season. The Badgers will visit Columbus but will likely be favored in every other game and with road games at Minnesota, Indiana, and Northwestern and not having to play Illinois or Penn State the Badgers could have a shot at the Rose Bowl.
Minnesota was surprising bowl team last year but the schedule should send the Gophers back to earth, new stadium and all. Minnesota must play at Iowa, Penn State, and Ohio State, and home games against Illinois, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Purdue will all be challenges. The non-conference schedule that was very weak last year will be a beast this year playing at Syracuse and hosting Air Force and California.
Michigan could be a team that sees a big rise in improvement. The non-conference schedule is very weak which will make the Wolverines almost certain to reach bowl eligibility. Penn State and Ohio State will visit the Big House so the chance of a marquee win is there. None of the conference road games will be easy but the Michigan should deliver a much stronger overall record.
Penn State will have a good opportunity to repeat as conference champions as every game should be in the winnable category but a tough trip to Oregon, as well as back-to-back road dates with Wisconsin and Michigan could derail any BCS plans.