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Early schedules to hurt top Legends clubs?

Colleague Ryan McGee takes a look today at 10 teams who could be hurt by their early-season schedules in 2012, and 30 percent of that list involves what are expected to be the top contenders in the Big Ten Legends Division.

McGee ranks Michigan State No. 4, Michigan No. 5 and Nebraska No. 6 among teams that could lose ground early because of their schedules.

He highlights three tough opening-stretch home games for the Spartans -- Boise State (Aug. 31), Notre Dame (Sept. 15) and Ohio State (Sept. 29) -- and says that "by the time they hit a brutal mid-October stretch, they could be worn down." Of course, didn't we say Michigan State would have a difficult time getting through this past October, when they went 3-1 on the way to a division title?

Michigan's early-schedule tests are pretty well known. The Wolverines open against defending BCS champion Alabama in Dallas, then play Air Force at home before going to Notre Dame later in September. McGee says "that has trouble written all over it."

As for Nebraska, McGee says the fans "are getting antsy" in Lincoln, and home games against Southern Miss and Arkansas State could be trickier than they appear. The Huskers also have to go to UCLA before opening Big Ten play against Wisconsin and Ohio State. All three of those nonconference teams will be breaking in new coaches during the first month of the season, which could give Nebraska an edge. But it will also make those teams a bit harder to prepare for in the offseason.

It's awfully early to get worried about how early-season schedules might affect a team's performance in 2012. But one thing's for sure: if the top teams in the Legends Division want to make an impact nationally, they will have to successfully navigate some challenging slates in the first month of play.

To read all of McGee's story, click here.