How Weak is the Big Ten’s Strength of Schedule Mandate?

By Amy Daughters -

After announcing that BYU and Notre Dame would count as Power opponents last summer, the Big Ten subsequently added Army, Cincinnati, Navy, UConn and Air Force to the list last fall.

As outrageous as subjectively classifying certain non-Power programs as Power opponents seems on the surface, what does it mean for the Big Ten in terms of future wins and losses?

Take a look.

Army Black Knights

All-Time vs. Current Big Ten Members: 43-50-3 (46.3%)
Since 1990: 4-15 (21%)

Army played Penn State and Rutgers in 2015, both losses. The most recent win over a Big Ten foe came in 2011 vs. Northwestern, a 21-14 result at West Point.

The Black Knights have played only three Big Ten opponents since 1990; Northwestern (1-0), Penn State (0-1) and Rutgers (3-14).

It’s also worth noting that 66 of the 96 all-time games Army has played vs. current Big Ten opponents (69%) came against Penn State (10-14-2) and Rutgers (18-22).

Army’s Future Big Ten Opponents: 2017-at Ohio State (the Buckeyes also have Oklahoma scheduled that season) and 2019-at Michigan (the Wolverines also have Arkansas scheduled).

Cincinnati Bearcats

All-Time vs. Current Big Ten Members: 19-52-3 (27.7%)
Since 1990: 10-19 (34.5%)

Cincinnati last squared off with a Big Ten team in 2014, when it traveled to Columbus and got zapped 50-28 by No. 22 Ohio State. The last time it beat a current Big Ten member was in 2013, when it opened up with a 42-7 win over Purdue.

Though the Bearcats have split their all-time series with Illinois (1-1), Michigan State (1-1), Purdue (1-1) and Rutgers (9-9), they don’t hold a winning record vs. any Big Ten member.

Since 1990, Cincinnati is 0-2 vs. Indiana, 0-1 vs. Iowa, 0-5 vs. Ohio State and 0-3 vs. Penn State. They are 7-4 vs. Rutgers, but those games were all played before the Scarlet Knights joined the Big Ten in 2014.

Future Big Ten Opponents: 2016-at Purdue, 2017-at Michigan (the Wolverines also have Florida that season), 2019-at Ohio State (the Buckeyes also have TCU that season), 2020-at Nebraska, 2021-at Indiana, 2022-Indiana and 2025-Nebraska.

Navy Midshipmen

All-Time vs. Current Big Ten Members: 53-63-4 (45.8%)
Since 1990: 7-17 (29.2%)

Navy last played a Big Ten foe in 2014 when it clashed with No. 5 Ohio State in the season opener in Baltimore. The Buckeyes won 34-17. The last win came in 2013, when it opened up with a 41-35 victory at Indiana.

The bulk of the Midshipmen’s Big Ten resume comes against Maryland (14-7), Penn State (17-19-2) and Rutgers (11-13-1). The trio accounts for 84 games, or 70% of the 120 total contests that Navy has played against the current Big Ten field.

Since 1990, Navy is 2-0 vs. Indiana, but holds losing records vs. Maryland (0-2), Northwestern (0-1), Ohio State (0-2), Penn State (0-1) and Rutgers (5-11).

Future Big Ten Opponents: None scheduled.

UConn Huskies

All-Time vs. Current Big Ten Members: 14-26 (35%)
Since 1990: 9-9 (50%)

UConn’s most recent action vs. a current Big Ten member came in 2013 when it upended Rutgers 28-17. That counted as a conference win as the Scarlet Knights were still American Athletic members at the time.

The most recent win over a Big Ten opponent who was an actual member at game time came in 2006, when the Huskies traveled to Indiana and won 14-7.

UConn has only played four current Big Ten members all-time; Indiana (2-0), Maryland (1-2), Michigan (0-2) and Rutgers (11-22). Other than 21 games of the series with Rutgers, all of the Huskies’ Big Ten experience has been since 1990.

Future Big Ten Opponents: 2019-Illinois & at Indiana and 2020-at Illinois & Indiana.

Air Force Falcons

All-Time vs. Current Big Ten Members: 7-15-2 (33.3%)
Since 1990: 3-5 (37.5%)

Air Force played a Big Ten member as recently as 2015 when it lost 35-21 at No. 4 Michigan State. The last win came all the way back in 2003 when it edged Northwestern 22-21 in Evanston. Prior to that you have to go back to the 1990 Liberty Bowl, a 23-11 win over No. 24 Ohio State.

The only Big Ten member the Falcons have a winning record against is Northwestern (4-2). They have never beaten Illinois (0-1-1), Iowa (0-0-1), Maryland (0-2), Michigan (0-2), Michigan State (0-1), Minnesota (0-1), Penn State (0-3) and Wisconsin (0-1).

Future Big Ten Opponents: 2017-at Michigan (the Wolverines also have Florida that year).

The Bottom Line

Combined, Army, Cincinnati, Navy, UConn and Air Force are 136-206-12 (40%) vs. the current Big Ten programs. Since 1990, the number drops to 33-65 (33.7%).

Compare that to the ACC’s (arguably the weakest of the Power conferences) all-time record vs. the current Big Ten; 636-690-36 (48%). That number includes the entire league top-to-bottom, from a 17-41-1 all-time mark vs. Ohio State, to a dominating 110-45-2 record vs. Rutgers.

At minimum, based on history, Big Ten members have a 10-15% better chance of scoring a win over Army, Cincinnati, Navy, UConn and Air Force than they would against an ACC member. It’s a number that grows vs. the heavier-hitting Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.

It adds up to a tremendous advantage for those teams who chose to schedule one of the five teams. To illustrate, when Purdue plays Eastern Kentucky, Cincinnati and Nevada this season, it’s technically, in the Big Ten’s eyes, the same thing as Michigan State playing Furman, Notre Dame and BYU.

From a nationwide perspective, Purdue’s non-conference schedule counts the same as Pitt’s. Only the Panthers have Villanova, Penn State, Oklahoma State and Marshall.

Historic data courtesy of College Football Data Warehouse and

Comments (45)

So basically what the article is saying is that playing UCONN, Army, Navy, Air Force & Cincinnati is really no different then play an FCS school, almost guaranteed wins (cupcakes) as a lot of non SEC fans would call them. Geezz, I hope the CFB playoff committee will take note….lol

Anyone who thinks an AAC team (Navy, UConn, and Cincinnati) is the same as playing an almost guarenteed win, is shortsighted. Similarly, anyone who thinks that playing a team you have a 33-40% chance of losing (as the article states) is the same as playing an FCS team (which is like a 96% win rate) is equally shortsighted.

The article isn’t saying what you want it to say at all. It’s just saying that scheduling these five teams and counting it as P5 as opposed to other AAC teams is arbitrary. The same can be said of actual P5 scheduling. For instance, Washington State and Kansas (or Rutgers to stick B10) are far bigger cupcakes than a LARGE number of G5 schools.

Funny that you mentioned Wash St that lost to a Portland St & Kansas which lost to South Dakota St last year. That’s my point, I can compare these teams to a FCS team like, N.Dakota St, Jville St, Richmond, Sam Houston St, III St, N. Iowa…all teams that have beaten a P5 team from the SEC, B10, Big-12 & ACC. Shortsighted? Not by much.

Air Force defeated Ohio State in the 1990 Liberty Bowl. I’m not sure if that’s the only time the teams have played, but if so, it would give the Falcons a 1-0 record against Ohio State

Playing 5 FBS 1-A is worst then playing any 1-AA schools?
And you are writing a story on B1G bottom feeders. There is a loss of creditability here.

I see what you are doing. Since 1990? Four of those team wasn’t a part of the B1G then so why include them in your article? I understand you are referring to current. but you can’t carry over wins and losses from a different conference. (Level of competition)

How about doing the same thing of all Power 5 Conferences or change the title to something else.

Also should mention the B1G no longer schedules FCS schools while other power conferences do.

In all fairness to BIG programs, Ohio St. schedule is that of Alabama. 3 cupcakes & an “off week” strategically placed.

You are right Pete. They might earn the ranking this year. Atleast they get a couple warm-up games first, then a bye before the conf. starts against Rutgers. Hope they dont confuse those folks in Norman with NIU. Lol

Well tOSU plays 10 games with P5 teams in the regular season. Bama only plays nine games with P5 teams and a game with an FCS team. That amounts to an extra bye week. Think Baylor and you have an idea how games with WKU, Kent State and Chattanooga look.

This issue is schedule accountability. Dont think anyone is gonna perpitrate fraud here. The same reason an undefeated Iowa didn’t command a better ranking. A P5 victory does not translate to quality wins. A “cupcake”is a cupcake no matter what kind of topping you prefer. Thus, the eye test. We are splitting hairs here. Unless talking about going to the “new” Jerkwater No Exemption Bowl in Bucksnort, Tn. Lmao

I would not really count playing any team as being an extra bye week, injuries still do a occur, plays still have to be established & made, coaching is still taking place. I truly don’t think Auburn took an “extra bye off” when they played J’ville St last year. You can bash the FCS teams if you like but they can run some game on P5 teams sometimes.

As a B1G alum, adding all of those other schools was weak. ND absolutely, BYU eh I can see it, but the others no way Jose.

Upgrade schedule strength by removing FCS schools.
Downgrade schedule strength by adding 5 G5 teams as P5 teams, so no “real” OOC P5 team must be scheduled.
So, teams who schedule at least 1 FCS team and 1 P5 team will now be able to schedule 2 G5 teams in their place. Sounds like the Big Ten didn’t really change the strength of schedule.

Twelve of the fourteen Big 10 teams will play 10 games with P5 teams. And I did not count any of the above named teams in being a P5 team.

However that list is weak as being “P5” teams. No one should be buying that mirage by the Big 10.

So, we’re making a big deal out of the fact that after adding a 9th conference game (making it tougher for your bottom teams to get to six) Indiana, Purdue, and Illinois are really not going to play a 10th P5 team? These are the B1G teams least likely to be in the playoff conversation, and often struggle to get six wins. Nebraska using this loophole is inexcusable, but their Cincinnati games are out a ways. Hoping that they schedule a real P5 those years.

While Cincinnati is on the Nebraska schedule 2020 and @ Cincinnati in 2025, in those years Nebraska still has open dates. Other than those years Nebraska has a legitimate P5 team on the schedule through 2031. I might hold off on making evaluations on Nebraska schedule

Tully, I agree with you 100%. That was my point in the last two sentences. Nebraska *could* be taking advantage of the loophole, but still has time and slots to schedule a legit P5 team. The ones that might be getting away with an extra G5 game here are three teams that struggle to get to six wins. They were likely hurt the most (and then the conferences ability to fill bowl slots) by the increase from 8 to 9 conference games. This might take them out of the conversation for a playoff or even a New Years Six bowl slot, but they were unlikely to be in that conversation anyway.

The change in the mandate is a joke. As a B10 fan, I can easily admit that. I am glad they implemented one P5 game plus 9 conference games plus a CCG. That’s a good scheduling practice but you can’t go back on it and change your mind to pick and choose certain teams that qualify. You also can’t act like other conferences don’t do scheduling advantages in different ways.

And that is probably (just a guess) because certain conferences rarely get articles posted about them in a negative light.

The change in the mandate was a stupid move and I do not support the B10 doing it. So I agree with the articles main point.

Stop looking at the number of Power 5 teams being played. It’s apples and oranges.

The SEC is loaded, top to bottom, with teams that are full of NFL-level talent. The Big Ten isn’t. So, playing nine SEC games, against some of the best athletes in the game, is tougher than playing in the Big Ten where you may go weeks without seeing an NFL-calibur player even though they play ten Power Five teams. Who you play matters much more than what level they are. Playing Kansas and Iowa State are basically off weeks for Oklahoma.


I forgot that all of that NFL talent only exists in the SEC. That SEC East is pretty brutal as well ;)

That’s not what I said, Travis. But you know that. What I said was that week in and week out in the SEC you are playing teams that have four or five of the next NFL draft class on them.

The SEC had SIX teams with at least five players drafted. The Pac 12 had two with at least five, the Big 10 and Big 12 had three with five and the ACC had one, two if you count Notre Dame.

It’s pretty simple, really. When you play in the SEC, you are playing teams with NFL-level guys all over the field.

Just for giggles, I pulled Michigan State and Alabama’s schedules from last year. In ten games against Power 5 teams, Michigan State payed against 32 draft picks. 12 of those came when they Played Ohio State. Three teams they played didn’t have a single draft pick at all. Only twice did they play against teams with at least five draft picks.

In the ten games against Power 5 schools Alabama played, they played against teams with 38 draft picks. Alabama played five teams with at least five draft picks.

See, it’s not even close. Just admit it… you’re wrong… We all see it.

So, Joe, since when is Oklahoma a Big Ten team?

And the assertion that all of the SEC teams are all full of pro-caliber players is a bit much, even for an SEC fan. The SEC had 51 players drafted this year, the Big Ten 47. That’s not a statistically significant difference.

So that’s your goal, to always be right?

I am not wrong in the meaning behind my post. Yeah, the SEC has more NFL draft picks almost every single year. That alone cannot be your basis for why the conference is better though. Tons of NFL talent doesn’t always translate to success on the field, having a good “team” focus and chemistry is what matters more. Some NFL talented players don’t even peak in college, while some who don’t make the NFL have a great college career but hit their peak. Some of those non-NFL guys can be more meaningful to a team than the ones who make the NFL. Plus, comparing opponents for draft picks doesn’t tell the whole story. You have no idea how many will be future stars in the leagues you are comparing. Some teams are loaded with lower classmen as opposed to upper classmen. Overall, the SEC usually has more, I sure as heck am not denying that. But to act like they are some sort of Holy grail way above the rest of college football isn’t true.

I’ll say this. My main annoyance with this whole “SEC SEC” mindset:

When it comes to SCHEDULING. Not one single person on the entire planet, including the athletic department who makes the schedule, knows how tough their schedule will pan out to be. You have your conference games that you cannot control and then you have a few you get to manage yourself. It seems like most of SEC land already has this pre-conceived notion that their schedule is ALREADY A GUANTLET BEFORE A GAME HAS EVEN BEEN PLAYED. They use this notion to claim superiority and as an excuse to schedule weak OOC games. When the fact of the matter is you really have no clue if your conference/division is really going to pan out. You think it’s so great because it has so many big “names” but that doesn’t mean a team is really as good as it’s projected to be. What I am saying here to some fans is take off the blinders, stop and think for a second. You play in the SEC but that shouldn’t excuse most of your teams from scheduling 3 cupcake games every single season. Which is more than most. Now I know ALL P5 conferences have cupcakes, but overall as a whole, P5 programs have more talent, more money, more resources, and better facilities than most G5 and FCS schools. So playing them as a whole is usually more competitive. Your premature conference outlook shouldn’t stop you from scheduling more teams that will actually be competitive with you. Everybody knows the likelihood of those 3 FCS/G5 games are easy wins. My biggest beef is I really think 2 of those games is plenty and 3 is really pushing it into chicken territory. You don’t have to agree with me though.

Other conferences have their arguments against them too, including the B10, like in this article. But quit acting like the SEC’s practices are high and mighty because of the NFL talent they have. I hear your points and respect them but don’t necessarily agree on some. And I am not going to sit here claiming I am right either because I know it’s simply a difference of opinion. Have a good day!

My goal isn’t to always be right, but I be darned if it doesn’t work out that way…

And, yeah, a big part of the strength of the teams you play comes from the talent of the players on the field. It’s more difficult to go against a good player than it is to go against a player that isn’t as talented. And make no mistake, the NFL is the best judges of talent on the planet. They put their money on every decision they make. They aren’t going to pass up a guy that can help them win. So, you’re in fact wrong. Non-NFL guys aren’t more meaningful.

While I selected a single year for my analysis, it holds over multiple years. Alabama, Georgia, Florida, LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas A&M, Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi State all produce multiple NFL draft picks each and every year.

The Big Ten is Ohio State and usually one other team making the league look better than it is. The SEC, the wealth is spread over a dozen or so teams. Every year. So, if you played Alabama this year, you faced a team that has, more than likely, 20-30 players that will eventually be drafted by the NFL over the course of the next four years. If you played Purdue, you might have faced a team with five.

Again, there is no comparison.

As for the schedule being a gauntlet, it just works out that way and the facts prove it every single year. When the SEC goes out of conference, they win. Plain and simple. And then those teams beat up on each other, make each other better, and the proof is in the results. Look, the SEC didn’t win seven straight National Titles because they were lucky. They haven’t dominated this century by chance.

If you look at your schedule and you see you’re playing LSU, Auburn, or Georgia, you know you are playing against a team that’s going to give you a fight. Every year. It’s not about projections or what people think will happen. It’s what happens. You can’t argue it.

The difference between the SEC and everyone else is there are no cupcakes in the conference. Every other conference gets a cupcake or three on their conference schedule. You don’t have that luxury in the SEC. So, sure, the Big Ten plays 9 conference games… who cares when you are playing three teams that won’t have a player drafted? Look at the history of these conference games…. Most SEC series’ are competitive. Auburn can beat Alabama any year they meet. You really think Minnesota can beat Ohio State? Ever? Please.

The bowl games speak for themselves Joe. 10 of 14 teams in the big10 went. 2 of them needed exemptions to qualify, 3 finished the season with loosing records, and the lot of them 5-5 only because Minn. held off Central Michigan 21-14. The two teams in thier championship game got… well you know. The Big10 can call teams what ever it wishes, its all about bowl revenue. Let Travis cherry pick those facts. Delusional folks seem insufferable when they require validation. The selection committee will do good to choose based on merit rather entitlement by any conferance affiliation/entitlement lest money supersede the integrity/spirit of the game these young men play.

Crimson and Joe,
So when did I cherry pick facts? I said the SEC had more draft picks. Besides that, the rest were just opinions. Yeah, you know what opinions are right? I forget with some of you folks, you must be wrong if you disagree.

I love SEC football as a fan but it’s very annoying when people come on here and live in pretend land. Opinion statements like “there are no cupcakes in the conference” or “NFL guys are more meaningful” and present them like they are non arguable facts.

I mean come on, you don’t really believe that do you? How can you even look in the mirror and say that those comments might be stretching it a little bit. Honestly, it just sounds like you like to argue just to argue. I mean you’re going to tell me that some of the best players and leaders in the locker room that don’t make the NFL are less important? You’ve obviously never played the sport. I am sure the NFL stars who have been doing this their whole life would laugh and disagree with you on that. Everybody is crucial on a TEAM. And no cupcakes? The bottom four of the SEC East were total beasts I guess according to your logic? And every team had a juggernaut schedule I suppose? And I’m not allowed to have a different opinion? I must agree with yours or else I am cherry picking?

Some of you people who always think you’re right on everything are comical. Look at the difference here. I am sharing opinions but not claiming I am right. They are simply just my views. You are stating opinions and claiming them to be facts.

Maybe you’ll eventually learn the difference between fact and opinion then you can have a good adult discussion where you might actually learn something from someone who has a different opinion than you! Just maybe!

Glad to see you remain open-minded Travis. I would hate to think you were overly sensitive about your assumptions and opinions. That adult you are talking about wouldn’t be your mommy would it? Have a good day… Lmao!!

Ohh and by the way, I do agree the SEC was better than the B10 in 2015 by a good margin. But your arguments for why are comical.

That’s all I guess. I’d much rather continue chatting with an adult who can hold a productive conversation and doesn’t always think all his view points are right.

LOL @ Crimson

I forgot that you’re so valuable to this conversation. You haven’t been able to present any points, instead just childish name calling. Keep up the good work ;)

I am stating FACTS to support my OPINION that the SEC is clearly the better conferences. And the facts are pretty clear. I don’t really understand how this is difficult for you.

No. Wait. On second thought, i do understand why this is so difficult for you.

I mean, you’ve had to get used to the fact that the question isn’t WILL an SEC team play for the national championship… It’s WHICH SEC team will play for the national championship. That’s gotta suck for you.

What actual FACTS did you share besides the amount of NFL draft picks?

I am waiting.

You think that bothers me? I love watching SEC football, it’s one of the most exciting on the planet as a huge CFB fan. The rivalries and the passion of the people in the south. I also just want to see the best teams battle in the title game, doesn’t matter what conference they are from.

It’s obvious you will argue to the death in favor of the SEC no matter what. If there is somebody out there that doesn’t claim the SEC is the best at everything, they must be wrong!! The SEC can do no wrong in your eyes. Keep it comin and I’ll keep on laughing!

Nobody claimed Oklahoma was a Big Ten team. This kind of statement is pretty typical of SEC haters… they aren’t capable of understanding the debate, much less refuting it.

But, I’ll humor you… the math is still on my side.

The Big Ten had one team with 12 players drafted. The highest SEC team was Alabama with 7.

Take those two out of the mix… and the SEC still averaged over three players per team drafted. The Bit Ten? Less than three.

Alabama played one Power Five team with no players taken in the draft (Tennessee). Michigan State played three.

Again, it’s not even close. The level of competition in the SEC is heads and shoulders above what anyone else is playing.

The Gators and Hawkeyes bowl bids were the result of conference associations, playing P5 teams, and money. Not to mention thier divisions were weak. As long as we continue to choke on numbers and blindly follow systems, bowl bids will be based on entitlement, politics, and money, not merit. Would have liked to see the Vols play Mich. and the Buckeyes play Stan. Too many bowls. No child left behind. Our sport is in a transition with the play-off. What happens when we have 5, P5, champs undefeated? Or 5, P5 champs with 1 loss and an undefeated team? I am an advocate of 8 team playoff and let the other kids walk across the stage too if the political/commercial side of this revenue generating industry mandates it.

Good for the Big Ten for no longer playing FCS opponents but counting Army, Cincinnati, Navy, UConn and Air Force as Power opponents without including all the other G5 conference members, like Houston, Boise State and Southern Miss, is ridiculous; either all G5 or none.

Completely agree. They should have never resorted to changing the definition. Either all or none.

The author if they weren’t trying to run a hit piece on the B10 would have looked at future schedules and realized that the non P5 exemptions are not being used often and only by the bottom programs, even many of them have scheduled actual P5’s OOC most years. Ie…2016 the only schools without a real P5 OOC are Purdue and MD. ..but Purdue plays Louisville and Mizzou in 2017. 2017 only IL is using an exemption but plays UNC in 2016 and has other P5 series scheduled. Nobody in future schedules is using an exemption regularly or yearly.

I think instead of arbitrarily labeling schools, I wish P5 leagues would just pick a standard, so that it’s a goal for G5 schools to achieve. Some G5 schools have shown that they are capable of upper P5 ability, by showing that they can qualify for BCS/CFP bowl games. So I would take those. I would also add the military schools, I think it’s important for those schools to have high-profile games.

So my list would be:
Boise St., Cincinnati, UConn, Hawaii, Houston, Central Florida, Northern Illinois
Army, Navy, Air Force

It’s not perfect but at least everyone would know what it takes to get considered for scheduling

I agree Drew, and would add W.Kentucky this year. G5, fcs schools seem to be the farm teams of P5 like baseball. So many are 1 hit wonders any given year. They should earn thier stripes like everyone else and apply to a P5 for membership like the rest. But this is a start. We all know the Big 12 could use a couple of teams and a championship game.
We alo know that there is such a tool called power rating that the committee utilizes to hold teams accountable for thier selections. The conferances can label a team how ever they choose. But nationally, a team will be evaluated on its own merit for that year alone.
I think this recognition by the Big 10 can be a start to parity and expansion in top level college football. Hopefully the decision makers won’t be deluded with revenue issues, and keep the spirit of this game in mind.

Indeed the headline infers B1G is scheduling weak OOC compared to other conferences. Its another one of those fluff ‘analysis’ pieces for click bait purposes during slow time for the website. Now I expect this post get deleted as Kelly cannot accept any public criticism.

The headline reads “how weak is the mandate,” not their SOS overall. It’s not click bait by definition and was a piece backed up by numbers.

Don’t know what your problem is or why it even matters. And my name isn’t Kelly.