In case you haven't noticed, we've reached the part of the offseason where schedules are ranked ... and ranked ... and ranked. I dove in earlier this week by ranking the division crossover schedules for teams in the Legends Division and Leaders Division.
But before the division crossover games begin, most Big Ten teams will have completed or nearly completed their nonconference schedules in 2012. Several nonconference schedule rankings have come out in recent days, so let's take a look.
The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel on Monday took on the Herculean task of ranking the nonconference schedules for all 68 teams from the big six conferences (Big East still included). Although the Big Ten often gets heat for scheduling MAC opponents and the like, two Big Ten squads make Tramel's top 5. The bad news: no other team makes the top 25.
Here's where the Big Ten teams came in:
1. Michigan: Alabama (at Arlington, Texas); Air Force, Massachusetts, at Notre Dame
4. Michigan State: Boise State, at Central Michigan, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan
28. Northwestern: at Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Boston College, South Dakota
30. Nebraska: Southern Mississippi, at UCLA, Arkansas State, Idaho State.
42. Penn State: Ohio, at Virginia, Navy, Temple
43. Purdue: Eastern Kentucky, at Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Marshall
46. Ohio State: Miami-Ohio, Central Florida, California, Alabama-Birmingham
49. Illinois: Western Michigan, at Arizona State, Charleston Southern, Louisiana Tech
54. Wisconsin: Northern Iowa, at Oregon State, Utah State, UTEP
59. Minnesota: at UNLV, New Hampshire, Western Michigan, Syracuse
60. Iowa: Northern Illinois (at Chicago), Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Central Michigan
67. Indiana: Indiana State, at Massachusetts, Ball State, at Navy
Thoughts: It's always interesting to get an outside perspective on Big Ten scheduling, and Tramel is mostly spot on with his analysis. Michigan's schedule is off the charts, and Michigan State has two marquee nonleague games at home (Boise State, Notre Dame). Ohio State's overall schedule is hurt by Cal's recent downturn and no road games. Iowa's schedule might be a little underrated, as Northern Illinois has been a good program, Iowa State is on the rise and Northern Iowa is a very solid FCS team. Nebraska's schedule is deceptively good, despite UCLA's recent struggles. Southern Miss comes off of a Conference USA championship, and new Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn injects some spice into that matchup. Penn State's schedule lacks big names but could be tricky if Navy improves and Temple continues to surge.
CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman ranked the nation's 10 easiest nonconference schedules, and Indiana comes in at No. 3, behind Mississippi State and Texas Tech. After a 1-11 season, Indiana needs all the wins it can get, but none of the Hoosiers' nonleague matchups moves the needle outside Bloomington.