Big Ten makes newcomers’ debut tough

OK, I know it’s over a year away yet, but the Big Ten 2014 football schedule was released Thursday.

And since it’s the first one with Maryland and Rutgers in the conference as well as the league split into two geographically-correct seven-team East-West divisions replacing the absurdly-named Legends and Leaders, I thought I’d take a crack at disseminating any trends in the overall composite schedule.

One thing’s for certain and that’s without looking very far. The Big Ten may have welcomed the Scarlet Knights and Terrapins with open arms, but it sure didn’t do them any favors or treat the newbies with kid gloves when it came to giving them a little-easier entrance to conference play.

Rutgers may want to reconsider its decision to come on board the Big Ten after having to face – let alone in order – to kick off the conference season – now get this -Penn State (Sept. 13) and Michigan at home, followed by consecutive road games at Ohio State and Nebraska, then a home matchup versus Wisconsin. It’s like facing the 1927 Yankees’ Murderers Row on a college football scale.

Maryland’s initial Big Ten grid season isn’t quite as bad to start with, although the Buckeyes visit on Oct. 4, but is not a walk in garden either by a longshot.

The Terps’ tough stretch of games comes a little later on in late October through most of November when they tangle with Wisconsin and Penn State on the road in back-to-back weeks, then have Michigan State at home and travel to Michigan on successive Saturdays.

Welcome to the Big Ten, guys!

Of course, the release of the revised schedule for the 14-team league in just another year means OSU’s complete 2014 slate of games is also out now.

And the Buckeyes get to face the two new conference members right off the bat when league play begins – at Maryland as mentioned earlier before welcoming in Rutgers to Ohio Stadium on Oct. 18.

So with the entire Ohio State schedule out now, it reads like this: Aug. 30, at Navy (in Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the NFL Ravens); Sept. 6, Bye; Sept. 13, Kent State; Sept. 20, Virginia Tech; Sept. 27, Cincinnati; Oct. 4, at Maryland; Oct. 11, Bye; Oct. 18, Rutgers; Oct. 25, Penn State; Nov. 1, Illinois; Nov. 8, at Michigan State; Nov. 15, at Minnesota; Nov. 22, Indiana; Nov. 29, Michigan.

With OSU in the East Division then, it’s two games against West teams will be Illinois and Minnesota.

  • Phil Steele, who puts out an inch-thick college football preview every year with so many stats it’s almost overwhelming, has come out with his projected pre-season AP top 25 for this fall.

Leading the list is two-time defending national champion Alabama, which has also won it all three of the last four years, although a USA Today sports poll that asked ‘Will the Crimson Tide repeat as national champions?’ saw 67.7 percent of respondents vote ‘No.’

Then came Ohio State, Oregon, Stanford and Texas A&M to round out the top five, followed by Georgia, Notre Dame, Florida, South Carolina, Louisville, Clemson, LSU, Florida State, Oklahoma, TCU, Boise State, Nebraska, Texas, Michigan, Northwestern, Oregon State, Oklahoma State, UCLA, Wisconsin, USC and a 26th team with an asterisk, noting “because I feel one of the bottom three or four teams could slip due to injuries, suspensions, transfers or pre-season magazine projections” – especially the latter. I love it!

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