On Thursday the Big Ten released the 2014 football schedules, the first season for the conference under the new East-West divisional alignment.
Nebraska’s new schedule is as follows: 9/21 Illinois, 10/4 at Michigan State, 10/11 BYE, 10/18 at Northwestern, 10/25 Rutgers, 11/1 Purdue, 11/8 BYE, 11/15 at Wisconsin, 11/22 Minnesota, 11/28 at Iowa.
Assuming that 2013 plays out as expected, this looks like a pretty favorable slate of games for the Cornhuskers next year for a number of reasons:
1) Nebraska likely will be favored in all of its non-conference games, opening with Florida Atlantic and McNeese State at home before traveling to Fresno State and then returning home to host a rebuilding Miami program.
2) That should give Nebraska time to bring along its new quarterback, whoever that may be, under pretty favorable conditions.
3) The Huskers catch a huge break by avoiding both Ohio State and Michigan from the East division. Few would’ve predicted that based on some of Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s comments following the announcement of the new divisional split.
4) Nebraska will play Rutgers for the first time since 1920 and only the second time ever. The Scarlet Knights have to make the longest possible trip in the Big Ten right away in year one.
5) Michigan State, the Huskers’ cross-division road game next year, is loaded with senior talent in 2013 as well as a few juniors who are legitimate NFL prospects. The Spartans should be relatively young in 2014.
6) The byes come at opportune times. Nebraska’s only back-to-back road trip, at Michigan State and at Northwestern, is broken up by an off-week. The Huskers also get a crucial bye in November when the wear and tear of a season starts to really take its toll. It’s Nebraska’s first November bye since 2008.
7) There are no new road trips for the Huskers in 2014. Nebraska’s already visited Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Iowa.
8) Speaking of which, Nebraska gets its too longest road trips of the season (Michigan State, Northwestern) out of the way early. The last two road games are at Wisconsin and Iowa, two of the three shortest trips the Huskers can make.
All of the above relies entirely on the perceived strength of the teams right now and that could easily change over the season to come, but for now it looks like you could put Nebraska in the “winners” category. Ohio State is too, drawing Illinois and Minnesota from the West division. In fact, if you consider Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska, and Wisconsin to be the league’s top four — and recent history clearly supports that idea — all of them made out pretty well as none of them will face each other in cross-division play.
Who were the losers? There aren’t many as the schedules appear pretty balanced but Rutgers could be in for a rude welcome in year one. The Scarlet Knights got one of the two worst cross-division draws, playing both Wisconsin and Nebraska. Minnesota’s draw might be even worse. (And Jerry Kill, in year four, might be coaching for his job by next year.) The Gophers get Ohio State and Michigan for their crossover games.
Click here for the complete 2014 Big Ten schedules.