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2016 and 2017 Northwestern Football Schedules Announced

It's early July and the Big Ten was apparently bored of watch lists, so today the conference announced its 2016 and 2017 football schedules. Here's a closer look:

Oct. 1 — at Iowa
Oct. 8 — vs. Nebraska
Oct. 15 — at Michigan State
Oct. 22 — vs. Indiana
Oct. 29 — at Ohio State
Nov. 5 — vs. Wisconsin
Nov. 12 — at Purdue
Nov. 19 — at Minnesota
Nov. 26 — vs. Illinois

Sept. 30 — at Wisconsin
Oct. 7 — vs. Penn State
Oct. 14 — at Maryland
Oct. 21 — vs. Iowa
Oct. 28 — vs. Michigan State
Nov. 4 — at Nebraska
Nov. 11 — vs. Purdue
Nov. 18 — vs. Minnesota
Nov. 25 — at Illinois

(The above release also has the 2014 and 2015 schedules)


We're not going to try to predict how difficult these schedules are, because that's ridiculous to do this far out. Four years ago, Iowa was in the Orange Bowl and Wisconsin was in the Champs Sports Bowl. Two years ago, Ohio State and Northwestern were both 6-6. There are many more examples. College football is cyclical and people tend to have way too short of memories, then apply that very short-term history to the future. However, there are a few important things to note:

We already knew six of NU's opponents — they'll play Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Purdue, Illinois and Minnesota every year as members of the West Division — so the only important things to note are the non-division opponents. Starting in 2016, the Big Ten will play nine conference games each year, meaning each team will play three non-division games. In even-numbered years, the West teams will have one non-division home game, while the East will have two (and then vice versa in odd-numbered years). So in the first cycle, the only East teams that NU won't play are Rutgers and Michigan (though NU does at least get Michigan in 2014 and 2015).

The second thing to look for is potential Wrigley Field games. Those games will be held in November and the opponent will alternate. So here are the possibilities, as pointed out by Jon Davis of NUHighlights:

We're not going to guess which teams NU will choose to play at Wrigley, because it would be nothing more than that — a guess. There are still a lot of questions left to be answered. However, it will be interesting to see what NU looks for in its Wrigley opponents as we go forward, especially whether Jim Phillips and company will choose prime match-ups for that game, or if they'd prefer to keep those match-ups in Evanston.