We've still got more than three months to go before the 2013 season kicks off, but the Big Ten has already released its schedule for the 2014 season, which is the first year that Rutgers and Maryland will join the conference. That also means it is the first schedule to feature the new East and West divisions -- RIP Legends and Leaders -- and as you would expect, some teams will have it easier than others in 2014.
Which schools are which? Well, we'll start with the losers first.
Rutgers -- Well, hello, Rutgers, and welcome to the Big Ten. As a reward for moving from the Big East to the Big Ten you get a conference schedule that begins with home games against Penn State and Michigan before road trips to Ohio State and Nebraska. But don't worry, if that seems excessively difficult, you return home in early November to play current three-time defending conference champion Wisconsin. Yes, that's right, you'll only be playing two games against the West Division in 2014 and you get the two best teams in that division. But don't worry, the check will clear.
Maryland -- While Maryland's initial welcome to the Big Ten isn't as difficult as Rutgers', it's not exactly easy. Iowa at home and a road trip to Wisconsin is a tough cross-divisional draw, as is getting both Penn State and Michigan on the road. But this is to be expected since Rutgers and Maryland are the new kids in class and therefore they must be picked on.
Indiana -- Life is never going to be easy for Indiana in the East Division, but 2014 will be especially difficult. The three traditional powers of the East are Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, and of those three only Penn State will be making the trip to Bloomington. The Hoosiers will have to hit the road for both Ohio State and Michigan. While Indiana will always play a cross-divisional game against Purdue -- Indiana and Purdue is the only protected cross-divisional rivalry in the new Big Ten -- the Hoosiers' other West opponent is a road trip to Iowa. Not as bad as it could be, but going to Kinnick Stadium and beating Iowa is seldom easy.
Illinois -- Since its trip to the Rose Bowl in 2007, Illinois has gone 11-29 in Big Ten play, including a current 14-game Big Ten losing streak. Well, 2014 likely won't help that record much. Illinois has cross-divisional games against Ohio State and Penn State, and its four road games are Nebraska, Wisconsin, Northwestern and the Buckeyes. Ouch.
Minnesota -- Of all the teams in the West, Minnesota has the toughest cross-divisional draw as it's the only school that gets both Michigan and Ohio State. And along with the trip to Ann Arbor to open conference play the Gophers also finish conference play with both Nebraska and Wisconsin on the road.
Wisconsin -- I'm just going to go ahead and proclaim that Wisconsin is the West Division favorite in 2014. It's the only school in the Big Ten to get both Maryland and Rutgers in its cross-divisional matchups, and it also gets Nebraska at home. If the Badgers can get by a conference-opening trip to Northwestern and a road trip to Iowa in November, they have a good chance of going 8-0 in Big Ten play.
Iowa -- The Hawkeyes also benefit from a nice cross-divisional draw, as they get Indiana at home and a trip to Maryland. However, what truly makes this schedule workable is that the Hawkeyes get all the toughest West Division foes at home. Wisconsin, Nebraska and Northwestern will all have to make the trip to Kinnick. Of course, while that's great for 2014, keep in mind it also means that Iowa will have to face all those teams on the road in 2015.
Ohio State -- The Buckeyes are generally always the class of the Big Ten and their 2014 schedule should mean business as usual. Neither Illinois nor Minnesota should worry Ohio State fans as cross-divisional opponents, and the Buckeyes also get the Wolverines in Columbus to end the season. However, road trips to both Penn State and Michigan State in the middle of the season could prove problematic.