Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Ranking Big Ten football schedules for 2024, from Michigan (hardest) to Rutgers (easiest) | Sporting News

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The Big Ten is now an 18-team super conference. 

Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington are the new additions from the Pac-12, and that makes for a super schedule – one that can be tough to sort out when trying to diagnose which teams have the easiest and hardest path to the new 12-team College Football Playoff.

That is when you have to look at the tough games. Sporting News sorted out those schedules by each team based on three factors. 

– Ranked opponents. This is the easiest metric. How many opponents in Sporting News’ Preseason Top 25 does each team face? Then we gave points for each opponent in AP Poll style (25 for No. 1, 1 for No. 25). So, Michigan plays No. 3 Texas. That’s 23 points for the Wolverines. 

– Home or road games? We added four points to a school’s total for each road game against a ranked opponent. We subtracted four points from that total for a home game against a ranked opponent. Neutral-site games are zero points.

– Totals from hardest to easiest. We totaled those two columns and ranked the 18 Big Ten teams. Teams with the highest point total have the toughest schedules. Teams with the lowest point total have the easiest schedules. 

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Big Ten’s toughest schedules in 2024 

Michigan 

Sherrone Moore will not have an easy task. The defending national champions have the toughest non-conference matchup with Texas visiting Ann Arbor in Week 2. The Wolverines are the welcoming committee for USC and Oregon – who also come to the Big House – and Washington – where the Wolverines travel for a CFP championship rematch. That all leads to the finale at Ohio State. Michigan’s opponents have a combined winning percentage of .624. There are few breaks on this schedule. 

Purdue 

The Boilermakers face three top-five teams – Ohio State, Oregon and Notre Dame. At least the only road game of the three is at Ohio State – where Purdue has not won since 2000. The renewal of the rivalry with the Irish is a nice touch. The Boilermakers also play Penn State at home. Wisconsin and Nebraska are unranked for now, but Purdue faces those teams on back-to-back weeks in late September. This just isn’t a friendly schedule for second-year coach Ryan Walters. 

USC

USC reportedly tried to back out of the season opener with LSU, and with good reason. Their first run through the Big Ten will be very difficult. A home game against Penn State and road games against Michigan and Washington are part of their first tour, and they maintain the season finale against Notre Dame.

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Big Ten’s easiest schedules in 2024 

Rutgers 

No Ohio State or Michigan? That’s huge for the Scarlet Knights, who were 1-19 against those schools in the Big Ten East. Losing that divisional tag means Rutgers has just two games against ranked teams, a trip to USC and a home game against Washington. The Scarlet Knights do travel to Virginia Tech in non-conference play, which has potential to get into the Top 25 this season.

Iowa 

The Hawkeyes have just two games against teams that are ranked in SN’s Preseason Top 25. That does include a trip to Ohio State – where the Hawkeyes have not won since 1991. Washington is the only other ranked team on the schedule, and the traditional rivalry game with Iowa State is at Kinnick Stadium, too. Don’t be surprised if Kirk Ferentz keeps Iowa in that Big Ten championship hunt. 

Penn State

The Nittany Lions no longer have a protected rival on the schedule, and that will be an advantage. Michigan is not on the schedule this year – a game that was essentially replaced by a trip to USC. The Nittany Lions also get Washington at home. It comes down to Ohio State. James Franklin is 1-9 against the Buckeyes, with the only victory coming in Happy Valley in 2016. A non-conference matchup with West Virginia – who could be ranked in the AP Preseason Top 25 – won’t be easy. 

Big Ten 2024 football schedule rankings 

Using that formula, here are the Big Ten schedule rankings for the 2024 season, which includes a look at those games against ranked opponents. We ranked those scheduled from the hardest to easiest: 

RANK SCHOOL RANKED OPPONENTS TOTAL
1 Michigan at No. 2 Ohio State, vs. No. 2 Texas, vs. No. 4 Oregon, vs. No. 21 USC, at No. 22 Washington 74
2(t) Purdue vs. No. 2 Ohio State, vs No. 4 Oregon, at No. 5 Notre Dame, vs. Penn State 73
2(t) USC vs. No. 5 Notre Dame, at No. 8 Michigan, vs. No. 10 LSU, vs. No. 12 Penn State, at No. 22 Washington 73
4 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Ohio State, at No 4. Oregon, at No. 8 Michigan 68
5 UCLA vs. No. 4 Oregon, at No. 10 LSU, at No. 12 Penn State, vs. No. 21 USC, at No. 22 Washington 65
6 Washington at No. 4 Oregon, vs No. 8 Michigan, at No. 12 Penn State, vs. No. 21 USC, at No. 22 Washington 59
7 Ohio State at No. 4 Oregon, vs. No. 8 Michigan, at No. 12 Penn State 58
8 Illinois at No. 4 Oregon, vs No. 8 Michigan, at No. 12 Penn State, vs. No. 23 Kansas 57
9(t) Wisconsin vs. No. 4 Oregon, vs. No. 9 Alabama, vs. No. 12 Penn State, at No. 21 USC 50
9(t) Northwestern vs. No. 2 Ohio State, at No. 8 Michigan, at No. 22 Washington 50
11 Maryland at No. 4 Oregon, at No. 12 Penn State, vs. No. 21 USC 45
12(t) Indiana at No. 2 Ohio State, vs. No. 8 Michigan, vs. No. 22 Washington 42
12(t) Oregon vs. No. 2 Ohio State, at No. 8 Michigan, vs. No. 22 Washington 42
14 Nebraska at No. 2 Ohio State, at No. 21 USC 37
15 Minnesota at No. 8 Michigan, vs. No. 12 Penn State, vs. No. 21 USC 33
16 Penn State vs. No. 2 Ohio State, at No. 21 USC, vs. No. 22 Washington 29
17 Iowa at No. 2 Ohio State, vs. No. 22 Washington 28
18 Rutgers at No. 21 USC, vs. No. 22 Washington 9

Three more Big Ten schedule takeaways 

– Ohio State is 93-7 in Big Ten regular-season play since Urban Meyer took over in 2012 – the best conference winning percentage of any team in the FBS. Can anybody disrupt that with the new schedule? Road trips to Oregon and Penn State are true tests, and the Wolverines are the only ranked team on the home schedule. The Buckeyes have lost two Big Ten home games in that stretch. 

Ohio State Big Ten losses since 2012                                          

DATE TEAM SCORE
Nov. 21, 2015 vs. No. 9 Michigan State 17-14
Oct. 22, 2016 at Penn State 24-21
Nov. 4, 2017 at Iowa 55-24
Oct. 20, 2018 at Purdue 49-20
Nov. 27, 2021 at No. 5 Michigan 42-27
Nov. 26, 2022 vs. No. 3 Michigan 45-23
Nov. 25, 2023 at No. 3 Michigan 30-24

– Oregon has the easiest schedule among the new Pac-12 schools in the conference because they have the fewest games against ranked teams, but that might be a glitch. This is tougher than it looks. The in-state game with Oregon State is bumped up to Sept. 14 – and it’s a road game this year. The Beavers will be all-in for an upset. The Oct. 12 matchup with the Buckeyes could be a Big Ten championship preview. The Ducks do have November matchups at Wisconsin and Michigan before a new regular-season finale against Washington. 

– Wisconsin is 1-3 against ranked opponents at Camp Randall Stadium the last three seasons. There is a chance for Luke Fickell to reverse that trend against a home schedule that includes Oregon, Alabama and Penn State. The Badgers also are one of four schools who will not play Ohio State or Michigan along with Maryland, Rutgers and UCLA.

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