Doug Lesmerises at the Plain Dealer ranked our 2013 schedule from most difficult to least difficult game. When I was reading it, I almost fell out of my chair when I saw he had the SDSU game (at home, no less) ranked as our toughest game of next year. I mean, c'mon, I know the B1G is down, but that's ridiculous.
After watching SDSU in their bowl game, I don't care how many starters they have coming back, there is no way we should lose to that team. We should defeat them convincingly!
Here are my rankings for most difficult games next year:
1. at Northwestern
2. at Michigan
3. vs. Wisconsin
4. at California
5. vs. San Diego State
6. vs. Penn State
7. vs. Indiana
8. at Purdue
9. vs. Iowa
10. at Illiinois
11. vs. Buffalo
12. vs. Florida A&M
I think people are really sleeping on how much of a challenge NW could be next year and I think they have a legit shot at making the B1G title game out of the Legends Division. All of their big playmakers are coming back and their record could have been even better this year if not for some heart-breaking defeats.
Toughest teams for me to gauge are California, PSU, and Iowa.
Cal's record was bad this year but we struggled with them at home this year and next year we have to go to their place. First road test of the year so I think it will be closer than many will predict.
PSU surprised pretty much everyone this year with how good they were despite the sanctions and off season turmoil. O'Brien is returning as coach but they lost a lot of tremendous leaders and talent in their Senior class. However, their current recruting class is smaller due to the sanctions but it does have good talent. I don't think PSU falls off as much this year or during the sanctions as what people are predicting IF O'Brien sticks around for the long haul.
Iowa was a major disappointment last year and their fans are once again complaining about Coach Ferentz. I just don't see how they make a significant jump next year. They will be breaking in a new starting QB with Vandenberg graduating and they have to come to the Shoe. OSU will have half their season under their belt at that point and should be hitting their stride on both sides of the ball.
Overall, next year's schedule looks to be even easier than this year's undefeated run (no MSU or Nebraska), but winning 24 games in a row is a task all in itself!