The Wild Wild B1G West

wills mith

 

It’s game week. I honestly can’t believe it’s really here. Northwestern has a game on Saturday. Life is good.

This time of year is rampant for wild speculation about who will be in the playoff, who will win their division, which teams are dark horses, how long Lovie Smith will continue to cash checks at Illinois, etc. What’s fun is that no one really knows for sure, so you can really say whatever you want and bet that somewhere out there, there is someone that will agree with you (and an army of people who will disagree).

Much has been written about the B1G West race this year – not in the context of the CFP title race or even really in the context of competing for the B1G title, but because the division seems so up for grabs.

We’ve made the joke many times about the B1G “Wild Wild” West, and I can think of a few instances where our Thursday Pump Up Jam featured the sweet sweet tenor of Will Smith from the late 90’s. Rarely has the B1G West seemed as wild and open as it does this year.

There is a clear basement on our side of the conference, with Illinois having won a total of four B1G games in the last three years. But, aside from Lovie’s crew, you can make a case (and people have) for every other team in the division to take the West. Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Purdue and the ‘Cats all have been talked about as a potential West champ.

A lot of the B1G West race will, as it does every year, come down to each team’s schedule and specifically who they face on the other side of the division. I’ve done a highly scientific analysis to look at how difficult each team’s schedule is based on two key factors: 1. who they play in the East, and 2. how many road games they have against their fellow B1G West competitors (I eliminated Illinois from this mix because, well it’s Illinois).

In the East, there is a pretty clear hierarchy of teams. You’ve got Ohio State and Michigan on the balcony popping some Veuve Cliquot, Penn State and Michigan a floor below sipping some Burgundy, Maryland and Indiana on the first floor drinking some Miller High Life and then Rutgers chilling in the basement with Natty Ice and a pack of Malboro Reds. For the purposes of our scientific schedule analysis, I’ve assigned games against Ohio State or Michigan a value of four, PSU or MSU three, Indiana or Maryland two and Rutgers one point.

Then, I’ve assigned one point to every road game the B1G West ‘contenders’ have against the other set of contenders in the division. The more points a team has, the more difficult their schedule – let’s see how it shakes out:

Iowa – 11 points

Rutgers (1), @Michigan (4), PSU(3), Purdue, @NU (1), @Wisconsin (1), Minnesota, Illinois, @Nebraska (1)

 

Nebraska – 10 points
@Illinois, OSU (4), NU, @Minnesota (1), Indiana (2), @Purdue (1), Wisco, @Maryland (2), Iowa

 

Purdue – 11 points
Minnesota, @PSU (3), Maryland (2), @Iowa (1), Illinois, @Nebraska (1), @Northwestern(1), @Wisconsin(1), Indiana (2)

 

Minnesota – 9 points
@Purdue (1), Illinois, Nebraska, @Rutgers (1), Maryland (2), PSU (3), @Iowa (1), @Northwestern (1), Wisconsin

 

Wisconsin – 13 points
Michigan (4), Northwestern, MSU (3), @Illinois, @OSU (4), Iowa, @Nebraska (1), Purdue, @Minnesota (1)

 

Northwestern – 11 points
MSU (3), @Wisco (1), @Nebraska (1), OSU (4), Iowa, @Indiana (2), Purdue, Minnesota, @Illinois

 

What does this mean? Based on this very subjective taxology, Minnesota has the easiest schedule, Nebraska second easiest, Purdue, NU and Iowa are fairly even, and then Wisconsin has the most difficult schedule. Wisconsin is the only team that has to face both Michigan and Ohio State…plus they also get a fun home game against Sparty. That is brutal. Meanwhile Minnesota gets Penn State at home, and then has very manageable crossover games at home against Maryland and on the road against Rutgers.

 

What does this really mean? I have no idea. The ratings could be way off – maybe Michigan State will have a down year while Indiana could take a step forward. We won’t know until the games are played.

 

We can only hope that, once the dust settles on the Wild Wild B1G West, our ‘Cats are riding off into the sunset with Will Smith.

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