B1G to face eight repeat foes in non-con

June, 11, 2012
6/11/12
11:00
AM ET
Thanks to reader Erik from Waco, Texas, for inspiring this post.

He writes:
Adam, there are seven teams matched up in two or more games against Big Ten opponents this season: Syracuse, Northern Iowa, Central Michigan, Navy, Massachusetts, Notre Dame, and Western Michigan. Two questions. 1) Which team(s) do you think will fare the best against the Big Ten. 2) With most of these games being strongly in Big Ten favor, does a school use "we play Big Ten schools" as a recruiting factor even if they don't win many? Is there a hidden advantage here?

To answer Erik's question, there are actually eight teams facing multiple Big Ten opponents -- the seven listed above, plus Eastern Michigan. Notre Dame has the best chance to rack up some wins against Big Ten competition, namely because the Irish play two Big Ten squads (Michigan and Purdue) on their home field in South Bend. Syracuse also is positioned for success against the Big Ten. The Orange open the season by hosting Northwestern, which has some question marks on both sides of the ball. In Week 3, Syracuse visits Minnesota, which has won just six games the past two seasons. Navy also has a good opportunity for a win against Indiana in October, while Western Michigan has two winnable road games (Illinois and Minnesota).

Regional teams like Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Northern Iowa undoubtedly use their games against Big Ten foes in recruiting. Although they're underdogs, all three teams have been competitive against the Big Ten and can sell the chance to play in Big Ten stadiums to recruits from the Midwest.

With the season less than three months away, let's take a closer look at the eight teams that will face multiple Big Ten opponents in nonconference play this fall.

Syracuse
Sept. 1 vs. Northwestern; Sept. 22 at Minnesota

The Orange come off of a 5-7 season under Doug Marrone, who closed most of the team's practices this spring in an effort to eliminate distractions and foster team chemistry. Syracuse plays just five true home games this season, which puts a premium on the Northwestern game. Northwestern is 6-0 in season openers under coach Pat Fitzgerald. Minnesota and Syracuse both are looking for a boost on offense after finishing 110th and 90th, respectively, in total yards in 2011.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 1-1

Northern Iowa
Sept. 1 at Wisconsin; Sept. 15 at Iowa

Anyone who follows the FCS knows Northern Iowa boasts a very solid program. The Panthers come off of a 10-3 season and have won seven or more games every season since 2002, recording 10 or more wins four times. UNI gave Iowa all it could handle in the 2009 season opener and will face two Big Ten squads going through some personnel transition at key positions.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 0-2

Central Michigan
Sept. 8 vs. Michigan State; Sept. 22 at Iowa

After a terrific run under Brian Kelly and Butch Jones, Central Michigan has backslid under former Michigan State assistant Dan Enos. The Chippewas have gone 3-9 in each of Enos' first two seasons in Mount Pleasant. They get Michigan State at home, and it'll be interesting to see how the Spartans respond after their blockbuster opener against Boise State. Central Michigan stunned Michigan State in East Lansing in 2009 but has lost its only two meetings against Iowa.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 0-2

Navy
Sept. 15 at Penn State; Oct. 20 vs. Indiana

After seven consecutive bowl appearances and seven consecutive Commander-in-Chief trophies, Navy's run ended last season with a 5-7 mark. The Mids haven't faced a Big Ten opponent since nearly stunning Ohio State in Columbus in the 2009 opener. Indiana is the first Big Ten team to visit Annapolis since Northwestern in 2002.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 1-1

Massachusetts
Sept. 8 vs. Indiana; Sept. 15 at Michigan

After winning 23 games combined in 2006 and 2007, Massachusetts has hovered around the .500 mark in the FCS. Now UMass is moving to the FBS and the MAC, beginning with the 2012 season, and will play its home games at Gillette Stadium. The Minutemen went 5-6 last season and hired Notre Dame offensive coordinator Charlie Molnar as their new head coach. Molnar brought in Purdue assistant Phil Elmassian as his defensive coordinator.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 0-2

Notre Dame
Sept. 8 vs. Purdue: Sept. 15 at Michigan State; Sept. 22 vs. Michigan

The Irish begin Year 3 of the Brian Kelly era after a disappointing finish to 2011. Their quarterback issues are well documented, and highly touted recruit Gunner Kiel enters a crowded mix this season. Notre Dame has won three straight against Purdue and five of six but struggled against both Michigan and Michigan State in recent years. The Irish play arguably the nation's toughest schedule, so the two home games against Big Ten foes are huge for Kelly's crew.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 1-2

Western Michigan
Sept. 1 at Illinois; Sept. 15 at Minnesota

The Broncos are no stranger to Big Ten foes, having faced both Michigan and Illinois in the 2011 regular season and Purdue in the 2011 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Bill Cubit's squad always airs it out and returns talented senior quarterback Alex Carder. Record-setting wide receiver Jordan White departs and the receiving corps will have a new look to it, but the Broncos should be able to test the secondaries of both Illinois and Minnesota.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 1-1

Eastern Michigan
Sept. 15 at Purdue; Sept. 22 at Michigan State

Eastern Michigan is on the rise under former Michigan assistant Ron English, as the Eagles went 6-6 in 2011, snapping a streak of 15 consecutive losing seasons. What had been one of the worst programs in the FBS seems to be showing some life, and EMU should once again boast a strong rushing attack in 2011 after finishing 14th nationally last season.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 0-2

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