A few notes before I begin. First of all, this is a highly subjective process, because it has to be. I have general outlines, but every team has to be judged on its own merits. It would be foolish, for example, to expect the exact same schedules out of Alabama and Kansas. Obviously, a College Football Playoff contender has to be held to a higher standard.
Second of all, I will give a grade for each game and an overall grade. The overall grade is not simply an average of the individual grades. It is a grade in its own right looking at the totality of a team’s nonconference schedule. Every game against an FCS team earns an automatic F. But if a Power 5 team schedules one FCS team and two other really good games, the one FCS game won’t really hurt the overall grade.
Finally, the Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac 12 are relatively simple as to how to judge the schedules. There are only three games. I expect one game against a Power 5 team of relatively equal standing. The second game should be against at least a challenging Group of 5 team, and I’ll accept one cupcake as the third game. The ACC and SEC–who each play four nonconference games–present a very different challenge in grading.
Big Ten West Nonconference Schedule Grades
Sept. 1st, Northern IllinoisPlaying Northern Illinois is always a bit of a risk, and Iowa has some rough history against good lower-tier teams. Scheduling the Huskies took guts.Grade: B+
Sept. 8th, Iowa StateThis rivalry often provides us with good games, and this year both teams are mid-to-top P5 teams. Should be great.Grade: A
Sept. 15th, Northern IowaThis is an FCS game, but Northern Iowa is a good program that is often competitive in these quasi-rivalry games against Power 5 Iowa teams.Grade: F
Overall:This schedule should honestly contain three competitive and entertaining games. Iowa is a program that seems to pull out great seasons every once in a while, and this team has the seniors to do it. This schedule sets up nicely for this.Grade: A