Winners, losers from the B1G's revised schedule
Let’s get the obvious statement out of the way, shall we? All of us were winners on Saturday when the B1G released its revised fall schedule for the 2020 season. Those announcements made it feel even more real that the season is coming back.
But, when it comes to the actual schedule part of it, there were definitely some teams that are happier than others.
There were some obvious winners and losers from Saturday’s schedule release in the B1G. Let’s take a look at which teams got the benefit of a favorable schedule, and which are going to have to grind it out in 2020.
Winner: Ohio State Buckeyes
You could kind of feel it coming, couldn’t you? As much as the B1G would attempt to deny it, the conference appears to have protected its top College Football Playoff contender with the revised schedule. Sure, a Week 2 matchup with Penn State on Halloween won’t be an easy task, but the Buckeyes get Nebraska and Illinois in cross-division contests. They’ll bypass the three best teams from West last season — Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.
After that bout with the Nittany Lions in the second week of the season, the Buckeyes have pretty smooth sailing until the season finale against Michigan, and we know how that’s gone the last eight years.
Ohio State already had a really good opportunity to run the table in the B1G for a second-straight season. If they survive Penn State, the Buckeyes are looking at an 8-0 mark heading into Champions Week.
Loser: Nebraska Cornhuskers
Well, the program that was the most outspoken about the postponement of the fall season now has the most difficult schedule in 2020. Weird how that works, isn’t it?
Not only does Nebraska draw Ohio State and Penn State — the two best teams from the East — but the general layout of the schedule is brutal, too. The Huskers will play Ohio State, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Penn State in consecutive weeks, with three of those teams having won 10-plus games a year ago. The Huskers close it out with Illinois, Iowa, Purdue and Minnesota, with three of those teams having played in bowl games last fall.
There’s really only two ways for Nebraska to view this — 1) a nightmarish schedule for Scott Frost’s third season or 2) an incredible opportunity for the program to prove it’s heading in the right direction. Your choice, Huskers.
Winner: Purdue Boilermakers
The B1G was going to protect the Old Oaken Bucket game, so we already knew one of Purdue’s cross-division opponents for the revised schedule. And the Boilers lucked out with their second East foe, with the conference keeping Rutgers on the slate.
Jeff Brohm would never admit that going 4-8 is a good thing, but in this case, it might be. Purdue is one of two teams in the B1G West to avoid the bluebloods of the B1G East — Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan. With the division being a wide-open race this year, having two manageable cross-over games could help keep the Boilermakers in the running.
The first half of Purdue’s schedule is difficult, having to play Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota in the first five weeks, but that weaker cross-division slate makes life just a little bit easier for Brohm and company.
Loser: Michigan Wolverines
If Nebraska got the shortest stick in the hand, Michigan’s was the second-smallest. Not only do the Wolverines have to compete in the brutal B1G East, but Minnesota and Wisconsin are both still on the schedule. Those two West teams both hit double-digit win totals in 2019 and are expected to be top contenders for the division title again this year.
The good news for Michigan is that all of its toughest games are spaced out, and they won’t have to play Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State or Ohio State in any back-to-back setting in 2020. That should be somewhat of a relief.
Nonetheless, the Wolverines have a lot to replace offensively and would’ve benefited from a weaker cross-division schedule this year. Unfortunately for Jim Harbaugh, that isn’t going to be the case.
Winner: Northwestern Wildcats
Northwestern was the second team from the B1G West to avoid the trio of beasts in the East, along with Purdue. Instead, the Wildcats will play Maryland and Michigan State. That’s a helpful draw for a team coming off a 3-9 campaign a year ago.
Another positive for Pat Fitzgerald’s bunch is that the toughest portion of the schedule comes in the second half of the season. The Wildcats open the first four weeks against Maryland, Iowa, Nebraska and Purdue — with the Hawkeyes being the lone team to finish above .500 in 2019. It gives Northwestern an opportunity to build some early momentum.
That does make for a difficult final four games, with Wisconsin, Michigan State, Minnesota and Illinois on the docket to close out the year. All four of those teams played in a bowl game last year, by the way. Typically, Fitzgerald’s teams improve as the season goes on and are playing much better at the end of the year. This format sets up nicely.
Loser: Maryland Terrapins
The bookends to Maryland’s 2020 schedule are manageable — playing Northwestern on Oct. 24 and Rutgers on Dec. 12. Those could both be considered winnable games. The problem is the six games in the middle.
From Halloween through Dec. 5, the Terrapins will play six bowl teams from the 2019 season. There’s a three-week stretch that’s particularly brutal, in which Maryland will play Minnesota (Oct. 31), Penn State (Nov. 7) and Ohio State (Nov. 14). Last year, those three squads were a combined 35-5 last season. Good luck with that, Mike Locksley!
Maryland could be a much-improved team from the 3-9 season it had in 2019. But it’ll be tough to know with such a brutal schedule.