Toughest, Easiest Schedules in Big Ten


The Big Ten schedule for the new 2020 season was released on Saturday morning. As schools now work through opt-ins as a result of the latest news, teams hit the field with just five weeks ahead of the season-opener. With the Big Ten season inching closer, we rank each Big Ten team's schedule from toughest to easiest, starting in Lincoln, Nebraska.

1. Nebraska

Home: Wisconsin, Penn State, Illinois, Minnesota

Away: Ohio State, Northwestern, Iowa, Purdue

The Huskers were originally slated to open the season against Rutgers and Illinois, but now they’ll open with a road matchup against Ohio State and a home-opener against Wisconsin. Quarterback Adrian Martinez will look to rebound as third-year head coach Scott Frost is still seeking his first winning season with the Huskers, but additional matchups against Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa will make that a tall task.

2. Indiana

Home: Penn State, Michigan, Maryland, Purdue

Away: Rutgers, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin

My sleeper pick in the Big Ten East, the Hoosiers will have a tough slate with the normal six divisional opponents while they’ll host Purdue and travel to Wisconsin. Indiana will play Penn State and Michigan in the first three weeks and will close with home matchups against Ohio State and Wisconsin with a road game against the Terps sandwiched between. The Hoosiers have their offensive mojo back with Michael Penix leading the show, but head coach Tom Allen will have to get his team prepared ahead of a tough slate.

3. Michigan

Home: Michigan State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Maryland

Away: Minnesota, Indiana, Rutgers, Ohio State

It’s officially the Milton Era in Ann Arbor as expectations are high yet again for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines. Offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield announced his return to the Wolverines, but Nico Collins and Ambry Thomas remain out for the upcoming season. While they have five weeks to determine who else is in or out, the Wolverines will prepare for a tough season-opener against Minnesota. Penn State and Ohio State will close out two of the final three games for the Wolverines, but don’t sleep on the early back-to-back against Indiana and Wisconsin.

4. Maryland

Home: Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan State, Rutgers

Away: Northwestern, Penn State, Indiana, Michigan

First road matchup for the Terps when they travel to Northwestern in Week One, though star offensive tackle Rashawn Slater has not opted back in as of September 19 to leave a question mark for the Wildcats moving forward. After that? Not much easier. Consecutive matchups against three preseason top-25 teams in Minnesota, Penn State and Ohio State is the grueling stretch of the latest slate. Consecutive road games against Indiana and Michigan won’t make matters much easier ahead of a much-needed matchup against Rutgers.

5. Michigan State

Home: Rutgers, Indiana, Northwestern, Ohio State

Away: Michigan, Iowa, Maryland, Penn State

Tough offseason for first-year head coach Mel Tucker and the staff as the inability to consistently work with the team in-person has complicated the staff’s efforts to implement the new schemes. They open with a favorable matchup against Rutgers, while Michigan State will now travel to Ann Arbor in Week Two this year in a scheduling update that was reversed earlier this summer. The Spartans won’t complain about the opportunity to host the Wolverines now in consecutive years, but a midseason stretch with Indiana, Maryland and Northwestern could give Tucker and company a more accurate gauge of the team. Tough finale with games against Ohio State and Penn State.

6. Northwestern

Home: Maryland, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois

Away: Iowa, Purdue, Michigan State, Minnesota

The Wildcats draw Maryland and Michigan State for their cross-divisional matchups as their toughest games come in the second half of the season when they take on Wisconsin and Minnesota in Weeks Five and Seven. What makes the schedule advantageous though? No games against Ohio State, Penn State or Michigan in 2020.

7. Rutgers

Home: Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Penn State

Away: Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Maryland

Head coach Greg Schiano has more talent to work with and will be tested right off the bat with games against Michigan State and Indiana, preparing them for the road game against Ohio State. Additional draws against Illinois, Purdue and Maryland give the Scarlet Knights a potential at more wins on the schedule while they’ll host both Michigan and Penn State in the latter half of the season.

8. Penn State

Home: Ohio State, Maryland, Iowa, Michigan State

Away: Indiana, Nebraska, Michigan, Rutgers

The new must-watch game of the year in the Big Ten will now take place in Week Two when Penn State travels to Columbus. Very possible the early season matchup paves the way for who wins the Big Ten East in 2020, but consecutive matchups in weeks five and six against Iowa and Michigan will prove to be another tough stretch. Winnable games to close the season against Rutgers and Michigan State.

9. Iowa

Away: Purdue, Minnesota, Penn State, Illinois

Home: Northwestern, Michigan State, Nebraska, Wisconsin

Road matchups against Minnesota and Penn State smack dab in the middle of the 2020 schedule will be the first tough test for the Hawkeyes in 2020 before they close their season against Wisconsin. Hawkeyes also draw Michigan State and will host Mel Tucker and the Spartans in the third game of the season, but Iowa should be favored in at least three games.

10. Minnesota

Home: Michigan, Iowa, Purdue, Northwestern

Away: Maryland, Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska

Favorable cross-divisional matchups against Maryland and Michigan as they’ll kick off the season against the Wolverines. A big question mark for Minnesota is whether star wide receiver Rashod Bateman will be deemed eligible in 2020, but the Gophers have a favorable slate ahead of their November 28 matchup against Wisconsin.

11. Illinois

Home: Purdue, Minnesota, Ohio State, Iowa

Away: Wisconsin, Rutgers, Nebraska, Northwestern

The Illini pulled off the stunner last year against Wisconsin. Do they have the magic in them in 2020? They’ll face Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio State and Iowa this season but consecutive matchups against Rutgers and Nebraska could give them the confidence ahead of the Buckeyes’ matchup.

12. Purdue

Home: Iowa, Northwestern, Rutgers, Nebraska

Away: Illinois, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Indiana

Indiana and Rutgers are favorable for the Boilermakers, but early season tests against Iowa and Wisconsin could prove just how dominant they can be in 2020. Star wide receiver has opted out of the 2020 season as of September 19, which could pave the way for David Bell as the next star receiver. If so, he’ll be needed and a household name by the end of 2020.

13. Wisconsin

Home: Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota, Indiana

Away: Nebraska, Michigan, Northwestern, Iowa

Very possible for the Badgers to enter their Week Four matchup against Michigan with a perfect 3-0 record. Wisconsin should have the firepower to get by the Wolverines before their Week Six matchup against Minnesota. They’ll close the season against Iowa, but favorable slate as expectations are high in Madison.

14. Ohio State

Home: Nebraska, Rutgers, Indiana, Michigan

Away: Penn State, Maryland, Illinois, Michigan State

If they can get through Week Two, the Buckeyes have a strong chance to close the 2020 season with an undefeated record. Ohio State is expected to be favored in each of their matchups before the season-finale against Michigan, but the Buckeyes could have added motivation for this year’s matchup.

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