I realize that there are many caveats with this. We are still early enough in the season that we don’t know how good (or bad) the teams are this year, let alone trying to predict how good the teams will be next year, especially since we don’t know what changes in players and coaches will happen after the 2023 season. And the order of the games, including when each team has a bye, would also factor in. But, this should give us an idea about the competition for the BigTen Championship in 2024.
For this early look, I looked at the composite rating (as of Oct. 3rd) for the teams that will be in the BigTen in 2024. This is a composite of SP+, FEI, KFord, Beta Rank, and CFBWinning Edge. The numbers are how much better (or worse) each team would be against an “average” team. You can find them here.
Week 6 Composite Ratings!— Nate Manzo (@cfbNate) October 3, 2023
#1 Ohio St
#5 (?!) Georgia
3-9 separated by about 2 points
Florida State peaked at 23.5 in Week 3 and has fallen 5.8 pts since then@ESPN_BillC@bcfremeau@beta_rank_fb@KFordRatings@CFBWinningEdge pic.twitter.com/x8N3iJRcko
I had to do some estimation based on the graph for the teams outside of the top 25, but the estimations are likely going to be more than close enough for this.
I also decided to give an advantage to the home team by giving them 3 extra points. Then I compared the values for the teams in each of the games and compiled win-loss records based on those values.
Projected BigTen Standings
Based on the conference schedule, Ohio State and Oregon could be the teams at the top of the BigTen in 2024, although Michigan, Penn State, USC, and UW will be close enough that it wouldn’t take much to change the rankings at the top. One note on Oregon’s 2024 schedule. They are currently scheduled to play 13 games in 2024. Their first game is at Hawaii, which gives them the ability to play an additional regular season game. Their other opponents are Idaho, Texas Tech, and Boise State (all three of those at home).
Interestingly, the one loss projected for Ohio State is their away game at Oregon. Oregon’s one loss is their away game at Michigan. This projection has Michigan’s two losses to Ohio State and UW. Penn State’s losses are at USC and at home to Ohio State. USC’s two losses are at Michigan and at UW.
UW has a difficult schedule, playing 4 of the 5 other teams at the top (Oregon, Penn State, Michigan, and USC), plus UCLA. Fortunately, 3 of those games are at home. This projection has them winning road games at Indiana, Iowa, and Rutgers, plus winning home games over Northwestern, Michigan, UCLA, and USC. (Two or three wins in those games seem plausible; winning all 4 may be stretching things a bit.) And UW’s two losses are at Oregon and at Penn State.
There are a few surprises among the other teams.
- Maryland may be a surprise to many, but they have been playing well so far this season. They also have a somewhat favorable schedule. There are wins at Indiana, at Minnesota, and against Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, and Rutgers with losses at Oregon, at Penn State, and to USC.
- UCLA is another surprise, but in the other direction. They have a more difficult schedule. There are wins at Nebraska and at Rutgers plus wins at home over Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota. But they have losses at Penn State and at UW, plus losses at home to Oregon and to USC. But if they continue to improve, especially Dante Moore, it is easy to see them finish a little better than 5-4.
- Iowa had been a power in the BigTen West, but they’ve dropped a bit this year. And their schedule does them no favors. There are wins at Michigan State, and at home against Nebraska and Northwestern. The losses are at Maryland, at Minnesota, at Ohio State, at UCLA, and at home to UW and Wisconsin.
Based on the predicted records, there appears to be 3 levels within the BigTen: the top, middle, and the bottom. The teams at the top are Ohio State, Oregon, Michigan, Penn State, UW and USC. The middle includes UCLA, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Rutgers (?). And the rest are in the bottom.
But there are many teams that are in the bottom that could easily move up with some improvements. A team like Michigan State could move into the middle with a good new coach. Nebraska and Iowa could also easily move up with improvements. They may not be able to move up to the top level-at least not in just one year-but they could move up to the middle level, and it’s possible that those middle teams could provide an upset of one of the top teams.
Among the 6 teams at the top, it wouldn’t take much to change who the top 2 teams are. One misstep by Oregon or Ohio State and there would be a different top 2. It isn’t hard to see Oregon losing on the road to UCLA or Wisconsin, or at home to UW or Ohio State. And Ohio State could lose at Penn State or at home to Michigan.
The good news for Husky fans is that they could easily be in contention for the BigTen championship next year, although it won’t be easy without Michael Penix, Jr. and some of the other top players on the team this year. Their schedule doesn’t help since they play so many of the other teams that are projected to be at or near the top of the BigTen next year. But that is part of the reason to join a conference like the BigTen-so you have that high level of competition each year.
This was just looking at the conference schedules. But there are some intriguing non-conference games scheduled for next year in the BigTen, and these could impact if any teams other than the top 2 make it to the CFP. Both USC and UCLA are scheduled to play LSU. Michigan plays Texas. Penn State plays at West Virginia. And Wisconsin plays Alabama.
With an expanded playoff, even if UW doesn’t make the conference championship game, they could still have a good shot at making the playoffs. It could depend on who they schedule for their 3rd out-of-conference game and how those other top teams do in their out-of-conference games.
Again, this is a VERY early look at the BigTen conference schedule for 2024. A lot can change with all of the teams between now and the start of the 2024 season.