On the calendar

Sylvan Lane provides the biggest takeaways from Northwestern's recent schedule release.

Just in case the mounting anticipation of the 2013 football season wasn't enough for you to handle, Northwestern's 2014 schedule was released for the especially eager.

While it's difficult to make accurate predictions for any of these games about 15 months in advance, there are some interesting points we can take away from the new slate of games right away.

The bare bones

The Cats will kickoff conference play against Penn State on Sept. 27 in Happy Valley, and open the Big Ten season at home the next week, Oct. 4, against Wisconsin.

Northwestern will also face off with Nebraska, Michigan and Illinois at home, and will travel to Minnesota, Iowa and Purdue. The Cats will travel to West Lafayette for the first time since 2009 for what the PW staff likes to call the 1st annual Chris Emma Classic.

All roads lead to Evanston

Northwestern sits in the relative center of the conference, and won't have to travel too far from Evanston during the 2013 season. While the Cats' non-conference schedule is still subject to change, Northwestern won't have to travel any further State College, Penn. during conference play. Aside from a trip to Minneapolis, every other road game is within a 3.5-hour drive of campus.

Not only is Northwestern saved from trips to Nebraska, Rutgers and Maryland, but each road game is also buffered by a home game or bye week on each side, which may help ease the weariness of travel.

There are only 11 games so far

12-1=11. That "-1" is Vanderbilt, which pulled out of its long-term scheduling deal with Northwestern about a month after the Wildcats beat them in Evanston earlier this season. This left gaps in both this upcoming schedule, which was filled with a Sept. 14 home game against Western Michigan, and the 2014 slate.

With several teams to choose from, Jim Phillips likely won't have a hard time filling the gap, so the quirk is nothing more than exactly that at this point.

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