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The Minimalist Schedule: Big Ten Edition

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Choose one Legend and one Leader to fill out your year.

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports. Banner Society Illustration.

The principles of the Minimalist Schedule are very simple. Every team only gets two games (one home and one away), which means we must do our utmost to make sure those games adhere to each program’s aspirations and preferences as best we can. It’s not a perfect setup by any means, but no scheduling system is, and at least this one means most teams don’t have to play Maryland at 11 A.M. Central time.

Having already laid out the two game schedule for each Big 12 school, we now move to the Big Ten. This is a particularly challenging conference, as many of these teams have played each other for decades and long-held traditions are important to many of the schools and their fans. Fortunately, we have a guide here: keep as many cool traveling trophies in play as we can.


Game 1: Northwestern

Game 2: Purdue

With this schedule, Illinois will get the chance to win a metal top hat (the Land of Lincoln Trophy, at stake against Northwestern) and a small cannon (the Purdue Cannon). I did not intend to give the Illini the Most Monopoly Season possible, but that’s where we wound up and I’m okay with it.


Game 1: Michigan State

Game 2: Purdue

Indiana’s playing for the Old Brass Spittoon and the Old Oaken Bucket, which I guess makes this season an episode of Antiques Roadshow? This is all very confusing.


Game 1: Iowa State

Game 2: Minnesota

Having already filled one of Iowa’s spots with El Assico, I wasn’t sure who to assign as their second opponent. The Hawkeyes have played Wisconsin almost every year since 1924, and most of the recent games have been close. The Nebraska game is a newer revival, but when Iowa wins (as they often do), it’s a very funny dessert course on the wholly unsatisfying meal we call a Huskers season.

But Minnesota and Iowa play for a bronze pig named Floyd. I can’t walk away from that.


Game 1: Northwestern

Game 2: Rutgers

Look, I know this schedule sucks. But what was I supposed to do? Your “rivalry” game with Penn State is brutally one-sided. You spent sixty years in the ACC and your most meaningful conference opponent there was...Virginia? Virginia is Northwestern, But With Good Basketball.

As for Rutgers, well, you should have chosen a better dance partner when you jumped to a new conference.


Game 1: Michigan State

Game 2: Ohio State

Let’s assume you’re not worried about Michigan State, a team you’ve beaten handily the last two years dealing with a leadership change on very short notice. Because this is just a two game schedule, that leaves Jim Harbaugh and his staff weeks to prepare for Ohio State. Surely that means everything will go well!


Game 1: Michigan

Game 2: Indiana

A very workmanlike pair of games. Win both and you will have a Paul Bunyan and a spittoon into which he can expectorate. (The Paul Bunyan trophy comes alive at night and watches reruns of Criminal Minds.)


Game 1: Iowa

Game 2: Wisconsin

This schedule allows the Golden Gophers to do two things, if they finish undefeated. First, they’ll have strong enough wins that we will have to wonder aloud “is Minnesota good?” without ever knowing the answer for sure.

Second, they’ll have an axe and a pig, which means they can explain the food supply chain and the benefits of finding a local butcher. Sure, it’s a little dark, but Minnesota kids can handle it.


Game 1: Wisconsin

Game 2: Colorado

The combination of Nebraska and Wisconsin uniforms is the most consistent wait-who-has-the-ball experience college football has to offer. It helps that both coaches frequently feel annoyed that they have to let their quarterback pass the ball, and the fans mostly agree with that sentiment.

Colorado gives Nebraska fans a safe and supportive place to talk openly about how, yes, college football was much better in the 1990s.


Game 1: Illinois

Game 2: Maryland

Prove to me that this is less pleasant than any other modern Northwestern schedule. It cannot be done.


Game 1: Penn State

Game 2: Michigan

Ohio State gets its most cherished rival and the conference opponent that’s most consistently given it trouble. They will likely go 2-0, after which Buckeye fans will complain ESPN is keeping them out of the Playoff. When we explain that there is no Playoff because it’s only a two game season, they will insist we are part of the conspiracy.


Game 1: Ohio State

Game 2: Pitt

Listen, I know you don’t want to play Pitt. I know that game offers you nothing but frustration and anxiety, and me pointing out you’re usually much more talented than the Panthers doesn’t help. In fact, it makes things worse. I’m aware you would rather go to the dentist every day for a month than play Pitt. At least then you’d have clean teeth; the Pitt game is like going to a dentist who numbs your mouth, says “boy, that’s quite a cavity!” and then makes buzzing noises without ever fixing anything. The Pitt game is not fun for you.

But it’s fun for the rest of us, and that’s why it’s on here.


Game 1: Illinois

Game 2: Indiana

Quickly, fill out this poll:


What would Purdue’s final record be if they only played Illinois and Indiana?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    (168 votes)
  • 65%
    (525 votes)
  • 13%
    (109 votes)
802 votes total Vote Now

You already want to change your answer, and then change it back again, don’t you? That’s the kind of intrigue you only get from Boilermaker Football.


Game 1: Maryland

Game 2: Syracuse

New Jersey has one Power 5 team. New York also only has one. But since Syracuse left the Big East for the ACC in 2013, they haven’t played Rutgers a single time. How are Giants Fans Who Don’t Root For Michigan Or Notre Dame Or Penn State supposed to know which team deserves their love if they don’t battle it out on the field?


Game 1: Minnesota

Game 2: Nebraska

If Wisconsin loses to Minnesota, Barry Alvarez will happily step in and coach the Nebraska game.