The Big Ten Spring meetings are in Chicago this week, and on the docket for discussion was the release of the 2014 conference schedule. That is the first year that Maryland and Rutgers are (reluctantly) in the Big Ten and the new divisional alignments take place. It will also likely play a large role in the 2015 schedule.
Since the Big Ten is going to a nine-game league slate in 2016 this next two-year cycle will be the last in which the conference has an eight game late. The 2014 schedule will likely be reversed in terms of home-and-home games in 2015.
Here is what we know in terms of the four non-conference games in 2014 and 2015:
Aug. 30 Western Michigan
Sept. 6 Central Michigan
Sept. 13 at Notre Dame
Sept. 20 Southern Illinois
Sept. 5 at Marshall
Sept. 12 Indiana State
Sept. 19 Notre Dame
Sept. 26 Bowling Green
2016, the first year of the 9-game Big Ten schedule is also set with home games against Cincinnati and Nevada and a road game at Notre Dame, but the Notre Dame game could be affected according to multiple reports as Purdue wants to maintain 7 home games in a year and would need to be on the 5-home game plan in 2016 from the Big Ten.
Thanks to the expanded Divisions and new alignment we know that Purdue will play the following in 2014:
Minnesota - Possibly in West Lafayette since the last game in the series was up there.
Nebraska - Purdue's first trip to Lincoln could come in 2014 since Purdue hosts the Cornhuskers this year.
Wisconsin - The Badgers come to Ross-Ade this season, so Purdue could rotate there.
Iowa - Iowa also comes to Purdue this year, so Purdue could head to Iowa City.
Illinois - The same is true for Illinois as the Fighting Illini come to Purdue this year.
Northwestern - The Wildcats have been off the schedule for three years now and we last played in Evanston, so I could see them coming to Ross-Ade.
That leaves two crossover games with the East Division, and the Big Ten was kind enough to give us the gift of Indiana as the only protected crossover game in the league. Purdue goes to Indiana this year, and I would bet that the Big Ten does not disrupt the alternating nature of that series. Also bear in mind that Purdue and Rutgers have never played, while Maryland owns a 1-0 lead for winning the 2006 Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando.
None of this is set in stone. Purdue played Minnesota at home in consecutive seasons during the last rotation in 2010 and 2011. Let's say they don't however. That leaves the games as follows:
That means the one unknown crossover game would likely be a home game, but I can see the Big Ten going the other way. I can see them dividing the six divisional games evenly for everyone in the league with three at home and three on the road. That would send Purdue to Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland, or Rutgers for the eighth game with Indiana coming to Ross-Ade in their usual even-year rotation.
I have proposed the following protected rivalries to make things easier, but I doubt they would get accepted:
Northwestern-Rutgers - The natural New York City/Chicago rivalry, only not really.
Michigan-Minnesota - The Little Brown Jug, not that Minnesota ever wins it.
Ohio State-Illinois - The Illibuck (yes, it is a turtle trophy. No, it does not involve Maryland. No, I have no idea why, either.)
Nebraska-Penn State - I think we all agree this just seems natural.
Michigan State-Wisconsin - This also seems rather natural based on recent seasons.
Iowa-Maryland - Someone had to be leftover.
Regardless of what happens we know that some teams in the East will be off the schedule for a long, long time. With Purdue playing Indiana every year that locks in seven of our eventual nine opponents. Hopefully the other six will rotate on and off at two-year intervals, but at minimum at least two teams will be gone from the schedule for four years at a time.