Remember that old line in the movie Airplane!, where tower supervisor Steve McCroskey (Lloyd Bridges) says, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking?’’

If Jim Harbaugh had a nicotine urge—and we’re certain he doesn’t—he couldn’t be blamed if he picked this season to start smoking.

In a year where Harbaugh needs to move the chains after three false starts, Michigan faces one of the nation’s toughest schedules—and maybe the toughest on the road.

Meanwhile, in the Western Division, rising star Scott Frost faces a brutal return to his alma mater that could leave Cornhusker Nation saying, `Oh, shucks.”

Looking for a Big Ten school that could over-achieve, aided by a kind road schedule? Keep an eye on Iowa.

It’s the Western Division’s turn to play five conference games on the road in this, the third year of the nine-game league schedule.

The Eastern Division schools all are playing five games away from home, if you count Ohio State’s “neutral-site’’ meeting with TCU at the Cowboys’ palatial estate in Dallas. And I most certainly do.

Disclaimer: The middle of these rankings is very subjective. The tough ones at the top, and the mild ones at the bottom, are easy to spot. In between? Don’t read too much into them.

But please, do read. . .

1, Michigan (5): at Notre Dame, at Northwestern, at Michigan State, at Rutgers, at Ohio State.

Talk about ristk-reward. In a year where Jim Harbaugh needs to prove a lot, this perilous schedule provides a lot of opportunity. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.