Our Big Ten Football Rankings - Weather Edition
Labor Day has come and gone and that means two things: the shores and pools empty out and the college football stadiums fill in. And at WeatherWorks, we love the Big Ten! Not only do we have eight Rutgers and four Penn State meteorology graduates, but our service area spans from New Jersey and Rutgers University to Chicagoland, the home of Northwestern. In addition, our Certified Snowfall Totals are nationwide. Interestingly, we took a look at the weather pattern during football season and we found some noteworthy trends, not just between the Big Ten and other Power 5 (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC) conferences but also among the Big Ten schools themselves. Read on to find out the climate breakdown during the football season.
At the start of the season, in early September, highs are warm, ranging from the upper-70s to the mid-80s throughout the B1G conference. Temperatures then begin a slow decline downward during the month and by the end, average highs cool into the upper 60s for the Golden Gophers of Minnesota while most other Big Ten schools fall comfortably into the mid-70s.
However, during October, colder air from Canada infiltrates into the Northern Plains, Great Lakes and Northeast, bringing in crisp days. Each Saturday average high temperatures drop about 2-3 degrees per week, leading to a 10 degree drop between the 1st and 31st for the Big Ten. While schools in other conferences such as Boston College (ACC) and Iowa State (Big 12) also become plenty chilly, other schools like Miami (ACC) and Baylor (Big 12) keep the overall average high temperature of these conferences warm. The temperature drop for the Big Ten especially becomes evident during those evening October games, with average lows creeping into the 30s by mid-October for the Michigan Wolverines and Wisconsin Badgers. Meanwhile, Maryland and Purdue average lows are milder in the 40s.
Moving into November, the temperature gap between the various conferences grows even greater. As seen in the graphs above, high temperatures average 10-15 degrees lower in the B1G than the other Power 5 Conferences, with Wisconsin and Minnesota experiencing the sharpest drop off, losing 4-5 degrees per week! Night games become difficult to sit through during the heart of conference play as well as the conference’s average low dips below the freezing mark during the tail end of the Big Ten regular season (week of November 12th). While schools in the Western Conference see November lows on average in the 20s, Big Ten newcomers Maryland and Rutgers usually remain above 32F overnight, thanks to their proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Comparatively, no other conference even averages a low below freezing all season! When the last Power 5 regular season game kicks off, there typically is a 19 degree difference in average high temperatures between the B1G conference and other conferences, more than double the 7 degree difference on Labor Day weekend.
Not only do temperatures change between the start and end of the football season, but so does precipitation type and frequency. If you’re a Cornhusker fan at the game in Lincoln, NE, the chances of a wet day are slim, with about a 1 in 5 chance of having measureable rain or snow through the season. Meanwhile, Michigan and Michigan State are rivals on the field, but their climates are in sync. Thanks to the vicinity to the Great Lakes and cool air running over the still warm lakes, there is an over 1 in 3 shot of having some form of precipitation over the Mitt. In fact, there is an increased likelihood of consecutive wet and cloudy days as the autumn season progresses due to lake effect precipitation.
So which B1G school has the best chance for good weather during the season? Those who want it warm should watch the Terps in College Park, MD while those who like it cool should travel up to Minnesota. If you care more about staying dry, be sure to go to Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, NE while those rooting for Michigan should keep an umbrella handy. Either way, football season is one of the best times of year and not even Mother Nature can ruin it for us.