Minnesota Gophers Football: 2016 & 2017 Schedules feature 9-game Big Ten Schedule

Leon Halip

The first years of the 9-game conference schedule for the Big Ten are 2016 & 2017. Those schedules were released giving us a glimpse into what the road to Indianapolis could potentially look like for our Gophers in just 3-4 short years.

How did we get so lucky?

Spending our time in the doldrums of the college football off-season, in a time when we only have baseball to pay attention to, we get two big, important days in a row if you are a Gopher football fan.

Yesterday we covered the hell out of Facilitiesmas (Which is different from Festivus. Not sure how I'm going to explain to Mrs. JDMill why I spent yesterday morning airing my grievances while she just looked at me with confusion). If you missed the TDG coverage of the new facilities vision you must have been sleeping. Or drunk. Or under a rock. But probably drunk.

Today the 2016 & 2017 Big Ten football schedules are released!

It's almost like a Facilitesmas Miracle!

While we were all a little miffed over the '14 & '15 schedules because the Gophers "drew" Michigan and Ohio State as divisional cross-over games for two years, the '16 & '17 schedules (well, the 2016 schedule, at least) provide as much of a reprieve as can be expected considering the move to a 9-game conference schedule.

As a refresher, the Gophers will be playing in the B1G's West Division (which is actually named the West Division and not something clever and over-thought) and will play every other member of the West Division on a yearly basis. The 6 other members of the West Division are:

Illinois
Iowa
Nebraska
Northwestern
Purdue
Wisconsin

This means that each team will play three cross-divisional games each year to round out the 9-game conference schedule.

The B1G's idea of parity based scheduling comes into play here. Again, as a refresher, Delaney described it as such:

If you look at the schedules, what you'll see is over time, the crossovers rotate. In the first 18 years, you're going to see a lot of competition between teams at the top of either division. We call that a bit of parity-based scheduling. You'll see Wisconsin and Nebraska and Iowa playing a lot of competition against Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan. But it will eventually rotate.

Essentially the idea is that Minnesota won't play Michigan and Ohio State every year like they do in '14 & '15 (which is why the fact that they DO play those two teams those two seasons feels a whole hell of a lot like gerrymandering... but I digress).

In reality, it should probably be called prediction-based scheduling because the idea is to schedule teams to face each other based on how good/bad the B1G muckity-mucks predict they will be in a few years. Again, I digress.

With all of that out of the way, the remaining piece to the schedule puzzle is who are the Gophers cross-divisional opponents?

2016: @Penn State, @Maryland, Rutgers

2017: Maryland, Michigan State, @Michigan

A few thoughts about the cross-divisional opponents:

  • We obviously don't know how good teams will be in 3 years, but the idea of parity based scheduling is basically that the B1G thinks they can predict kind of a "tier" that each team will fall into. It would seem reasonable that Maryland, Rutgers & PSU would be on par with the Gophers in the next 3 years.
  • How, exactly, does facing Michigan in 2017 play into parity-based scheduling? Um... yeah. I can't see any scenario in which the B1G would consider the Wolverines anything but a top tier team in the coming years. Perhaps this is more a commentary on where the scheduling folks think the Gophers will be in 2017?
  • If Jerry Kill builds programs on a 5 year trajectory, knowing how difficult ‘14/'15 are going to be, 2016 looks like a very important year for the Gophers and this schedule sets up very nicely.

On the full B1G conference schedules:

2016:

@PSU
Iowa
@Maryland
Rutgers
@Illinois
Purdue
@Nebraska
Northwestern
@Wisconsin

  • Interesting set up here. During the B1G regular season we don't play two home or two road games in a row throughout the entire schedule. We flip-flop home/away every week. The Gophers won't get a chance to get comfy at home in the B1G schedule.
  • The Gophers also play 5 away games in the conference vs 4 home games. More home games is always better, but the away slate has some manageability to it.
  • The cross-division games are front-loaded, all happening in the first 4 weeks of the conference schedule. This makes the back-half of the schedule of paramount importance if the Gophers are going to make a run at Indianapolis.
  • There is no bye-week scheduled in 2016. I'm not sure what that means or how I feel about it, but it's worth noting.
  • Lastly, the Gophers have tended to have a bit of a "murderer's row" stretch of schedule almost every year, but the 2016 schedule, at least on paper, doesn't have that. Part of that has to do with the fact that the home/away games flip-flop each week, I suppose. The final 3 games will be the most difficult and most important, but depending on what Gary Anderson does with Wisconsin in the coming years, it seems manageable.

2017:

Maryland
@Purdue
Michigan State
Illinois
@Iowa
@Michigan
Nebraska
@Northwestern
Wisconsin

  • The home/away flip-flop goes away and suddenly that "murderer's row" is back. The stretch of @Iowa, @Michigan then Nebraska at home is tough, but then also travelling to Northwestern won't be a picnic.
  • The bye-week returns in 2017 and the Gophers get theirs VERY late in the season, just one week before they travel to Wisconsin for the season finale. That bodes well for preparing for the Wisconsin game (although Sconie also get a bye that week), but it doesn't give the team a chance to heal mid-season which is sometimes needed. There is also no bye week in 2017. (Thank you bewilder2 for the correction.)

Overall thoughts:

  • I think we can ALL agree that no matter what happened with the schedule, it's good to have a traditional border-rival back on the schedule for the final week of the season. Personally I'm partial to having Iowa on the last weekend of the season, but I'm not about to be disappointed with having the drunken Sconies back on the last weekend of the regular season.
  • This 2017 schedule feels a little bit more reasonable as far as what we can expect going forward. I can't imagine that this parity based scheduling is going to be completely feasible every year, and getting Michigan on the schedule in just the second year of it is probably testament to that because I don't believe for a second that playing for the Little Brown Jug factored into this scheduling decision.
  • After getting just 4 home B1G games in 2016, the Gophers will get 5 in 2017. I'd suspect that trend (5 home games 1 year, 4 the next, and so on) will be the norm so we can probably expect to see the schedules released two years at a time like this going forward.
  • Speaking of home/away games, it's important to note that the Gophers will play all three of their non-conference games in 2016 (New Mexico State, Indiana State, Colorado State) at home, giving them the magic minimum 7 home games. The 2017 non-conference slate is incomplete right now, but both of the games currently scheduled (Oregon State, Middle Tennessee State) are at home. Again, this is important as the Gophers will have a minimum of 7 home games in 2017.

So what are your thoughts on the schedule? Let us know in the comments.

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