As a schedule-maker, you’ll never make everyone happy when you’re scheduling teams to play eight conference games in a 14-team league.
You can’t. Unless you give a team eight home games and none on the road. But that probably wouldn’t fly with the rest of the conference.
The Big Ten released its 2014 football schedule Thursday, and Iowa’s set of games is notable for who isn’t on it. Namely, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State.
Now, with the Hawkeyes only playing two of the seven East Division teams, there were going to be omissions no matter what. And Iowa didn’t play Wisconsin or Ohio State in 2011 or 2012, so it’s not like it’s a new thing to miss out on facing top programs. But it’s striking — to me, at least — to see on paper that Iowa won’t play Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State or Penn State.
Here is who Iowa does play, and when:
Aug. 30 Northern Iowa
Sept. 6 Ball State
Sept. 13 Iowa State
Sept. 20 at Pittsburgh
Sept. 27 at Purdue *
Oct. 11 Indiana
Oct. 18 at Maryland
Nov. 1 Northwestern *
Nov. 15 at Illinois *
Nov. 22 Wisconsin *
Nov. 28 Nebraska *
* – Divisional game
Two more things stood out to me. One, Iowa will have two bye weeks in October. That’s a freaky calendar thing. Normally, the 12 games will fit into 13 Saturdays, but not so this year and next.
Two, the Hawkeyes won’t play any of what I consider the league’s top six programs of the moment until Nov. 22. The six are the four aforementioned teams not on the schedule, and Wisconsin and Nebraska. By the heart of the 2014 season, Penn State may not be held in such high regard, competition-wise. Those scholarship-limits will come with a cost eventually. Northwestern may be added to the discussion.
In any case, the three best Big Ten programs (as of now) that Iowa will face in 2014 will all be at home.
OK, there’s a third thing that stands out. That’s only playing one home conference game before November.
And there’s a fourth: Closing with Wisconsin and Nebraska at home within a 6-day period. That will be interesting.
Looking at the Big Ten schedule for ’14, you notice Wisconsin also misses Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State. The only difference between its opponents and Iowa’s is that it plays Rutgers instead of Maryland.
As for newbie Rutgers, it not only gets to play all the East teams, but its two games against the West are with Nebraska and Wisconsin. It’s reminiscent of the power-packed schedules the Big Ten gave Nebraska in its first two league-seasons. Unlike the Cornhuskers, however, Rutgers is unlikely to reach a league title-game in its second Big Ten season.
The final weekend of the Big Ten season is interesting. It contains Nebraska-Iowa, Illinois-Northwestern and Michigan-Ohio State, as usual. But now Minnesota-Wisconsin is a season-finale. That’s good stuff for the conference.
Before the summer’s over, I’ll look at the 2013 schedule. In that one, Iowa plays Michigan and Ohio State, Wisconsin and Nebraska.