Measuring a team’s strength of schedule is about as inexact of a science as it comes, especially when you’re trying to do so a month before the season kicks off.

Essentially all of the measurements are based on last season’s results and a forecast of what is expected in the 2018 season. A team’s strength of schedule really can’t be measured until at least the midway point of the season.

But what’s the fun in that?

ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) already has the strength of schedules out for the upcoming season, leading to plenty of discussion and conversation regarding which teams and conference have the toughest paths and the easiest roads to the postseason this year.

We’ve taken a look at how ESPN’s FPI has ranked the B1G’s toughest (and easiest) schedules for the 2018 season. Here’s how it’s played out with less than a month remaining until kickoff.

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1. Michigan (5th)

The Wolverines bookend the season with road trips to Notre Dame and Ohio State, meaning Jim Harbaugh needs to have his team ready to go Week 1. Michigan also has incredibly difficult four-week stretch in the heart of the schedue, playing Wisconsin (Oct. 13) and traveling to Michigan State (Oct. 20) before a bye. Following the bye, UM hosts Penn State (Nov. 3).

2. Purdue (6th)

Hosting B1G West opponent Northwestern is how Purdue will begin the 2018 campaign. The only non-Power Five opponent on the schedule is Eastern Michigan, with the Boilers hosting Missouri and Boston College in non-conference play. The Boilermakers drew B1G East powers Ohio State (Oct. 20) and Michigan State (Oct. 27) in cross-division games and will play the two in back-to-back weeks.

3. Northwestern (8th)

A road trip against improving B1G foe Purdue is how Northwestern opens its season. The Wildcats also play Michigan and Michigan State in consecutive weeks in crossover matchups. There’s also a tough three-game stretch against Wisconsin (Oct. 27), Notre Dame (Nov. 3), and at Iowa (Nov. 10), that will test Northwestern’s talent.

4. Maryland (16th)

The Terrapins open the season at home against Tom Herman and Texas, a tough Power Five matchup. Maryland’s only notable crossover game comes against Iowa (Oct. 20) but playing in the B1G East is no treat. D.J. Durkin and company will end the season against the top two teams in the B1G, Ohio State (Nov. 17) and Penn State (Nov. 24).


5. Michigan State (22nd)

Michigan State has the luxury of playing two rivlary games at home this season, hosting Michigan (Oct. 20) and Ohio State (Nov. 10). The toughest road test comes on Oct. 13 when the Spartans travel to Happy Valley to battle Penn State. MSU does have a large gap between home games early in the year, opening on Aug. 31 against Utah State but not returning to East Lansing until Sept. 29 against Central Michigan.

6. Penn State (32nd)

The conference schedule is fairly tough for Penn State, getting tough draws in the crossover games. But it gets a huge benefit by playing most of those games in Beaver Stadium. Matchups against Ohio State (Sept. 29), Michigan State (Oct. 13), Iowa (Oct. 27), and Wisconsin (Nov. 11) will all be played in Happy Valley.

7. Nebraska (33rd)

All of Nebraska’s non-conference games will be played in Lincoln this fall before opening the B1G season on the road against Michigan (Sept. 22) in a real test for Scott Frost and the Huskers. Trips to Wisconsin (Oct. 6) and Ohio State (Nov. 3) are also on the schedule, as well as a crossover matchup against Michigan State (Nov. 17) at Memorial Stadium.

8. Rutgers (34th)

No team in college football has a tougher end to the season than the Scarlet Knights. Here’s what November looks like for Rutgers: at Wisconsin (Nov.3), vs. Michigan (Nov. 10), vs. Penn State (Nov. 17) and at Michigan State (Nov. 24). That’s going to be a brutal four weeks for Chris Ash and his staff.

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9. Ohio State (41st)

Everyone has the Sept. 15 clash against TCU in Arlington, Texas circled. That matchup is the highlight of the non-conference season for the Buckeyes. Ohio State will battle some tough teams in the B1G East, but most of those matchups are spread out. The Buckeyes open conference play on the road at Penn State (Sept. 29)  and won’t play Michigan State until Nov. 10. They then close the season at home against Michigan.

10. Indiana (42nd)

The Hoosiers don’t have much on the non-conference schedule, playing FIU, Virginia and Ball State. But wins are hard to come by in the B1G East, so who can blame IU for wanting to pick up as many wins as possible. Along with the traditional powers in the division, Indiana has crossover games against Iowa (Oct. 13), Minnesota (Oct. 26) and Purdue (Nov. 24).

11. Iowa (47th)

Once again, Iowa State is the only Power Five opponent the Hawkeyes have scheduled in non-conference play. Iowa is one of only a few teams to have an FCS team on the schedule, too, hosting Northern Iowa. The Hawkeyes got pretty lucky in their cross-division games, drawing Maryland and Indiana. The only tough crossover game comes against Penn State (Oct. 27).

12. Illinois (55th)

No Power Five opponents in non-conference play, no non-conference road games and an FCS foe (Western Illinois) hurt Illinois’ strength of schedule. The Illini also drew Rutgers, Maryland and Penn State in crossover games. The matchup against the Nittany Lions (Sept. 21) and Wisconsin (Oct. 20) are the two most challenging games ont the docket for Lovie Smith.

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13. Minnesota (62nd)

Minnesota opens the year against New Mexico State (Aug. 30), Fresno State (Sept. 8) and Miami (OH) (Sept. 15), hurting the team’s strength of schedule. The Golden Gophers’ toughest contests come in road trips to Ohio State (Oct. 13) and Wisconsin (Nov. 24).

14. Wisconsin (65th)

The weakest schedule in the B1G will surely be a topic of conversation surrounding the Badgers again in 2018. Though the non-conference schedule is pretty vanilla, Wisconsin does have two challenging road tests this fall, traveling to Michigan (Oct. 13) and Penn State (Nov. 10), both of which could have College Football Playoff implications.