Rittenberg published a detailed (and slightly confusing) breakdown of the 2013-2014 Big Ten football schedule information over at ESPN, but here's a breakdown of the more salient points.
* The start dates. The start of the Big Ten season in both years is the final weekend of September, which is roughly in line with what we've seen the last few years (Iowa kicked off Big Ten play in September in both 2008 and 2009 but had October starts in 2010 and 2011). Over at OTE, FOTP Bama Hawkeye interprets this as a sign that the Big Ten is scheduling conference games earlier in the season, which would be a good thing since it (a) would give us (potentially) interesting (or at least meaningful) games earlier in the season and (b) hopefully spare us any more nightmarishly terrible weeks like this one in 2010, when we saw an unofficial Big Ten-MAC Challenge. I'm less certain of that, though; both 2013 and 2014 are weird years in that the season officially kicks off in August (8/31/13 and 8/30/14), meaning that there are still four weeks in which to schedule games before the Big Ten season gets underway. Unless Big Ten teams stop scheduling so many creampuffs, there's a chance of more pitiful slates to come.
For what it's worth, Iowa kicks off 2013 against Minnesota and 2014 against Wisconsin. Rivalry trophies ahoy! Also: both games are on the road because the Delanybot 9000 hates us (
Iowa is also scheduled to open the 2011 and 2012 seasons on the road). (EDIT: We actually open 2012 at home against Minnesota; I'm still pretty sure the Delanybot 9000 hates us, though.)
* The missing. The vagaries of creating an eight-game conference schedule in a league with twelve teams means that you miss out on playing three teams. In 2013 and 2014, those MIA opponents are Illinois, Indiana, and Penn State. That stretches the gap in the Iowa-Illinois series to a whopping six years; unless the two teams meet up in the Big Ten Championship game (ha), the only players on the current Iowa and Illinois squads who will play each other are incoming freshmen who redshirt and stay the full five years. Iowa and Illinois are the only teams dealing with such a six-year gap, due to
the fact that the world hates Iowa and is conspiring against us the quirks from changing scheduling rotations. The other notable absentee series are Indiana-Nebraska (Indiana won't meet Nebraska in football until 2015, later than any other Big Ten squad) and Michigan State-Penn State (Penn State won't have a chance to regain the illustrious Land Grant Trophy until 2015).
* The season-enders. As expected, the season finales in 2013 and 2014 remain Iowa-Nebraska. Other notable rivalries (Michigan-Ohio State, Indiana-Purdue) also remain season finales for their respective teams. The Big Ten improved upon the 2011 and 2012 schedules by getting another natural rivalry (Illinois-Northwestern) onto the final weekend. It remains a mystery they aren't scheduling the remaining four teams (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Penn State, Michigan State) with their natural rivalry partners (OK, faux-rivalary partners in PSU-MSU), although at least the Penn State-Wisconsin game we get instead should have the potential to be good.
* The schedules. (Now updated to include non-conference games, too.)
(click for embiggened version)
(EDIT: Another oops. The 2013 NIU game is in Iowa City. The 2012 one is in Chicago. Too many NIU games...)
This far out it's pure folly to project whether or not these are "good" or "bad" schedules or "hard" or "easy" schedules, although you'd have to think that missing Indiana and Illinois (two of the worst teams in the Big Ten over the past 20-30 years) in both years slides them closer to the "hard" end of the continuum. As noted above, the quirks of the calendar mean longer football schedules in 2013 and 2014 -- though that doesn't mean more football, just more bye weeks (two apiece for B1G teams). At least there it seems like Iowa might have caught a break: in both 2013 and 2014, the OSU game comes after a bye and having an extra week to prepare for the Buckeyes probably won't hurt. (Nor could having an extra week to prepare for Michigan in 2013, if Hokemania is truly running wild in Ann Arbor by then.) On the other hand, having two byes in three weeks in 2014 could make it hard to build much of a rhythm.