If the Wisconsin Badgers are going to make a run at a Big Ten title, or even a berth in the College Football Playoff, they will have certainly earned it by playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Wisconsin will play the most challenging schedule among Big Ten teams this season, which is impressive when you consider Ohio State travels to Oklahoma and Nebraska hosts Oregon this season. But take a look at who Wisconsin plays and when they play them, and you may also agree the Badgers will be put to the test early and often.
I broke down the schedules of Big Ten teams for Athlon Sports recently. I started off expecting to suggest Ohio State would have the most challenging schedule with a road game against Big 12 favorite Oklahoma and playing in the same division as Michigan State and Michigan. To be fair, Ohio State is playing one of the toughest schedules there is this season. Wisconsin’s is just a tad tougher.
Just take a look at the schedule Wisconsin has in front of them this coming fall. It all starts with a bang in Lambeau Field against Leonard Fournette and LSU. The Tigers appear to have a pretty good team heading into 2016 and could push Alabama in the SEC West. They also just added Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator to the staff (Dave Aranda), which could not have happened at a better time for the Tigers. The game may be played in Green Bay, giving Wisconsin a perceived home field advantage, but the Tigers will still be tough to take down in one of their rare trips north.
After Wisconsin gets by LSU, for better or worse, the Badgers get a couple of much easier games with home games against Akron and Georgia State, but the Big Ten schedule kicks off with back-to-back road games at Michigan State and Michigan. That is followed by a bye week and a home game against Ohio State. Because there is no rest for the weary, the Badgers head back on the road the following week to take on last year’s Big Ten West champion, Iowa. October wraps up at home against Nebraska. That is one heck of a September and October gauntlet to run through.
By the end of October we will then have a better sense for what the rest of the Big Ten West looks like too, allowing us to get a better feel for the difficulty to come with games against Northwestern, Illinois and Minnesota (glossing over Purdue).
With all of that in mind, this is why I feel Wisconsin has the most difficult schedule of any Big Ten team. The Badgers draw the short straw having to play road games at Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa while also getting Ohio State on the division crossover rotation. Good luck to the Badgers. They may need all the luck they can get in the first couple of months.
Check out my ranking of the Big Ten schedules for Athlon Sports.