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Analyzing Northwestern's 2014 Football Schedule

The Big Ten released its 2014 football schedule today, and Northwestern found out which divisional crossover games it will have in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Check out the schedule — including the non-conference games we know — and our analysis below:

The Schedule

Aug. 30 — vs. Cal
Sep. 6 — Empty
Sep. 13 — Empty
Sep. 20 — vs. Western Illinois
Sep. 27 — at Penn State
Oct. 4 — vs. Wisconsin
Oct. 11 — at Minnesota
Oct. 18 — vs. Nebraska
Oct. 25 — Bye
Nov. 1 — at Iowa
Nov. 8 — vs. Michigan
Nov. 15 — at Notre Dame
Nov. 22 — at Purdue
Nov. 29 — vs. Illinois


We're not going to try to break down the easiest and toughest games, because these teams will be entirely different in 2014. You can look at what some of the teams lose and bring back — Nebraska looks like it will lose a lot, while Iowa and Wisconsin should both be stronger in 2014 than 2013 — but overall, it's tough to project too far into the future.

Overall, from a fan perspective, it's a mixed bag. Getting Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, Illinois and Cal at home makes for an extremely attractive home slate, and games at Iowa and Notre Dame are both easy drives for NU fans in Chicago. NU fans on the East Coast have to be a little frustrated that the Wildcats won't be going to Maryland or Rutgers. I expected at least one of those teams to be on this initial schedule — everything changes when a ninth conference game is added in 2016 — because NU has so many alumni on the East Coast. However, a home crossover game against Michigan isn't a bad fan draw.

The conference schedule will flip in 2015, but the dates aren't set yet — they should be by June 1. Once that schedule comes out, we'll get a better idea of which game could be selected as the Wrigley game if NU plays there in 2015.

There also will be one more addition to the 2014 non-conference schedule. That game will be played in one of the two empty weeks in September. There's also the chance NU could get rid of Western Illinois because of the Big Ten's commitment to stop scheduling FCS schools, but it's also entirely possible — and probably likely — that the Wildcats will honor their current commitments against FCS opponents.