The Gophers football team won’t play either of their new Big Ten opponents, Maryland or Rutgers, in the regular season until 2016.
The immediate impact for the Gophers comes from the divisional realignment. The Big Ten has scrapped the Legends and Leaders, replacing them with East and West.
The Gophers are in the West, which looks less potent on paper, but Minnesota’s two East Division crossover games the next two years come against Ohio State and Michigan. Wisconsin, however, will play crossovers against Rutgers and Maryland.
It evens out in 2016, when the Big Ten moves from an eight- to a nine-game conference schedule. The Gophers will play crossovers that year at Maryland, at Penn State and home against Rutgers.
Rutgers went 11-2 in 2006 under then-coach Greg Schiano, but he left for the NFL in 2012. Kyle Flood went 9-4 in his first season, but the Scarlet Knights slipped to 6-7 last year, including 3-5 in the American Athletic Conference (AAC).
Flood has since added former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen as offensive coordinator. Beginning Oct. 4, the Scarlet Knights face this four-game stretch: Michigan, at Ohio State, at Nebraska, Wisconsin.
“We know that the Big Ten style of play is real physical, and we’re going to welcome that,” Rutgers defensive tackle Darius Hamilton said.
Maryland went 7-6 last year, despite several key injuries, and appears better suited to succeed this year than Rutgers. Senior quarterback C.J. Brown was third in the ACC last year in total offense, and Stefon Diggs and Deon Long could become two of the best receivers in the Big Ten.
“We know it’s an outstanding conference,” fourth-year Terrapins coach Randy Edsall said. “But we have all intents and purposes of being able to come in and compete.”