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Southern Cal to Cal Poly: The Big Ten Out Of Conference Schedule

Matt Hays at Sporting News is doing a fairly solid review, conference by conference, of out of league games.  While most of the work involves a simple compilation of schedules and comments like "[insert D1aa team here], really?", seeing a team by team comparison is still interesting.

Big Ten
1. Michigan State: at California, Eastern Michigan, Florida Atlantic, Notre Dame
2. Michigan: Utah, Miami (OH), at Notre Dame, Toledo
3. Purdue: Northern Colorado, Oregon, Central Michigan, at Notre Dame
4. Penn State: Coastal Carolina, Oregon State, at Syracuse, Temple
5. Ohio State: Youngstown State, Ohio, at USC, Troy
6. Illinois: at Missouri (St. Louis), Eastern Illinois, Louisiana-Lafayette, at Western Michigan (Detroit)
7. Northwestern: Syracuse, at Duke, Southern Illinois, Ohio
8. Iowa: Maine, Florida International, Iowa State, at Pittsburgh
9. Wisconsin: Akron, Marshall, at Fresno State, Cal Poly
10. Indiana: Western Kentucky, Murray State, Ball State, Central Michigan
11. Minnesota: Northern Illinois, at Bowling Green, Montana State, Florida Atlantic

The one thing that really stands out is the fact that the three traditional Notre Dame opponents, Michigan State, Michigan and Purdue, come in one-two-three.  I understand Notre Dame usually plays the role of a legit opponent, but keep in mind they were one of the worst teams in D1a last season.  Notre Dame's appearance will improve due to one of the softest schedules in the program's history (San Diego State, Stanford, Washington, North Carolina, Pitt, Navy and Syracuse), but winning crap games isn't going to change the fact that you are returning an offense that didn't score a touchdown until their fourth game of the season. 

Penn State comes in at #4.  It's troubling to think that a schedule comprised of a fringe Top 25 team and three lay-ups will get you in the 64th percentile but I guess that's how things go these days.  Although to be fair, I would rather play the current PSU schedule than any four team lineup that includes USC, so I'm not sure that Ohio State really belongs at #5.  A gimmie is a gimmie, and Oregon State at home is not the USC Trojans on the road. 

I would take a bit of a different approach.  Trying to discriminate between Montana State and Maine doesn't seem to actually matter on the field: both teams are going to get walked all over.  What is more interesting, I think, is to try and evaluate the schedule based on an average team's chances of getting through undefeated.  The obvious problem here is "what is an average team?", but rather than define that I'm just going to get to work and hope it doesn't become a problem.

The three toughest games appear to be, in order: at USC, vs Missouri, at Cal.  That would put OSU, Illinois and Michigan State at the top.  I think the next spot needs to go to Purdue, with games against Oregon and at ND, but after that it gets a little trickier.  The next decision that needs to be made is this: does playing at ND and against a not-horrible Utah team pose a bigger threat than vs Oregon State and at Syracuse?  Oregon State did beat Utah last year, handily, but the Orangemen won two games last season.

The remaining five teams combine to play three BCS opponents: Duke, Iowa State and Pitt.  Iowa actually plays two of these teams so I suppose they get the nod as best of the worst.  From there you might as well list the teams alphabetically, although it is probably more fun (and maybe even more insightful) to rank them based on the number of characters the school name of their opponents: Wisconsin (33), Northwestern (44), Indiana (54), Minnesota (59).

So without further ado, your BSD Big Ten OOC Rankings:

1. Ohio State
2. Illinois
3. Michigan State
4. Purdue
5. Penn State
6. Michigan
7. Iowa
8. Wisconsin
9. Northwestern
10. Indiana
11. Minnesota