The Big Ten will release its 2013 and 2014 conference schedules a little later today, but I've obtained the future slates and wanted to share them with you.
Several things stand out about these schedules.
START DATES/OPEN DATES
You'll notice two separate start dates for league play. In the past, we've seen one team have a bye for the first Saturday of Big Ten play, but all the other squads begin conference games at the same time. In both 2013 and 2014, we'll see two Big Ten openers on the final Saturday of September and the other four conference openers on the first Saturday of October.
Here's how the Big Ten will open league play ...
2013: Iowa at Minnesota, Wisconsin at Ohio State on Sept. 28
2014: Michigan at Indiana, Minnesota at Penn State on Sept. 27
The four Big Ten teams that open conference play in September will have two open dates after the first league contest. One open date falls on the first Saturday of October, and the other comes later. The other eight squads will have one open date after Oct. 1 and one before Oct. 1.
Each Big Ten team will have a four-year break from facing one of its conference foes. There's only one six-year break -- Iowa and Illinois, which resulted from two different scheduling formats blending after expansion -- but six pairings will not face each other between 2011 and '14.
Michigan State-Penn State
These breaks are unavoidable given the current scheduling setup: eight total conference games, five division games, one protected crossover game and two rotating crossovers.
"That's just the mathematics of it," said Big Ten senior associate commissioner for television administration Mark Rudner, who puts together the schedule. "While teams are still playing eight conference games, out of the total inventory of games available, we're playing a smaller percentage. We've added a 12th institution. Part of this could be solved if we went to a nine-game [Big Ten] schedule moving forward.
"It's not ideal, but hopefully moving forward it can be addressed."
We could have a final verdict on the nine-game league schedule at the Big Ten spring meetings next month in Chicago. If approved, the slate could go into effect for the 2015 season. The tricky part is ensuring certain teams maintain seven overall home games.
Back to the no-plays: I think Michigan State fans and Penn State fans will get over not having the Land Grant Trophy at stake for four years. The extended break for Iowa-Illinois is unfortunate, and I know I'll miss the Wisconsin-Michigan series during the span. Some exciting games between the Wolverines and Badgers. Breaks in the other three series are unfortunate, but none of those matchups has much pizzazz.
Rudner said the no-plays were decided randomly.
Four of the six Big Ten matchups to close the regular seasons in 2011 and 2012 will remain for 2013 and 2014. Michigan-Ohio State isn't going anywhere, and Iowa-Nebraska, Purdue-Indiana and Penn State-Wisconsin all will be played on the final regular-season Saturday.
The other closing games are Northwestern-Illinois, which has often been on the final regular-season Saturday, and Michigan State-Minnesota.
NONPROTECTED CROSSOVERS/TWO-YEAR NO-PLAYS
Here are the nonprotected division crossover games for each Big Ten squad in 2013 and 2014:
Illinois: Michigan State, Nebraska
Indiana: Minnesota, Michigan
Iowa: Wisconsin, Ohio State
Michigan: Penn State, Indiana
Michigan State: Illinois, Purdue
Minnesota: Indiana, Penn State
Nebraska: Illinois, Purdue
Northwestern: Wisconsin, Ohio State
Ohio State: Northwestern, Iowa
Penn State: Michigan, Minnesota
Purdue: Nebraska, Michigan State
Wisconsin: Northwestern, Iowa
A lot can change between now and 2013, but Northwestern, Purdue, Iowa and Illinois seemingly have the toughest nonprotected crossovers. Nebraska and Michigan State get a bit of a break with these.
Here's a look at the no-plays just for 2013 and 2014 (these teams will play in 2011 and 2012):
Illinois: Michigan, Minnesota
Indiana: Northwestern, Iowa
Iowa: Indiana, Penn State
Michigan: Illinois, Purdue
Michigan State: Ohio State, Wisconsin
Minnesota: Illinois, Purdue
Nebraska: Ohio State, Wisconsin
Northwestern: Indiana, Penn State
Ohio State: Nebraska, Michigan State
Penn State: Northwestern, Iowa
Purdue: Minnesota, Michigan
Wisconsin: Michigan State, Nebraska
It'll be tough not seeing matchups like Nebraska-Ohio State, Penn State-Iowa, Michigan State-Ohio State and Nebraska-Wisconsin. I'd say Nebraska, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin "benefit" the most from these no-plays.
The Big Ten championship game will take place on Dec. 7, 2013, and Dec. 6, 2014. The location is to be determined.
Some of the most exciting league openers include Wisconsin at Ohio State in 2013 and Iowa at Wisconsin in 2014.
That's a lot to digest. What are your thoughts on the future schedules?