These are the can't-miss games of what will be a different-yet-exciting season
The Big Ten released its second revamped 2020 college football schedule on Saturday morning, setting the stage for an eight-game, conference-only slate due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference also is planning for a unique schedule on Dec. 19, where every team outside of the two division champions will play a crossover opponent to add a ninth Big Ten matchup for all 14 programs. The Big Ten's 2020 season officially begins on Oct. 24 and continues with scheduled games until Dec. 12. As usual, Michigan-Ohio State takes place on the final Saturday, but the second weekend of action in the conference has a huge showdown between Penn State and Ohio State slated in Happy Valley.
Here are the best matchups each week of the revamped 2020 Big Ten football season.
Big Ten Football: Best Game Every Week of the Proposed 2020 Schedule
Oct. 24 – Michigan at Minnesota (Week 8)
Nebraska-Ohio State has more appeal in name value, but the Buckeyes won last year’s matchup 48-7 and another one-sided affair is likely in store. Michigan-Minnesota features the battle for the Little Brown Jug and also provides the first look at a couple of preseason question marks for both teams. How will quarterback Joe Milton fare in his first start for the Wolverines? And how will the Golden Gophers build off last year’s 11-win campaign with a new offensive coordinator and revamped front seven on defense?
Next Up: Nebraska at Ohio State; Penn State at Indiana; Iowa at Purdue
Oct. 31 – Ohio State at Penn State (Week 9)
Ohio State and Penn State both have one game to knock off the rust before this clash in Happy Valley on Halloween. The Nittany Lions held the Buckeyes to 5.02 yards a snap in last year’s matchup, which was the lowest total by coach Ryan Day’s squad in 2019. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields won’t have to contend with Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons (opted out), but coach James Franklin returns 12 other starters, including quarterback Sean Clifford and tight end Pat Friermuth. This game is likely to decide which team wins the East in 2020.
Next Up: Michigan State at Michigan; Wisconsin at Nebraska; Northwestern at Iowa
Nov. 7 – Purdue at Wisconsin (Week 10)
The Nov. 7 weekend doesn’t feature a marquee game, but as usual, there’s never a bad slate of matchups in the 2020 college football season. Wisconsin is the front-runner to win the West Division and hasn’t lost to Purdue since 2003. The Badgers should have one of the Big Ten’s top defenses and will be looking to fill in a few gaps on offense with the departure of running back Jonathan Taylor and receiver Quintez Cephus. Purdue receiver Rondale Moore opted out, but if he decides to return, there’s added intrigue for this game.
Next Up: Michigan State at Iowa; Michigan at Indiana; Nebraska at Northwestern
Nov. 14 – Wisconsin at Michigan (Week 11)
Penn State at Nebraska and Iowa-Minnesota deserve consideration here, but the Wisconsin-Michigan clash is the pick here. These two teams met in Madison last year, with the Badgers winning 35-14. Revenge will be on the mind of the Wolverines. And by the fourth game of 2020 for both teams, some of the preseason question marks should be sorted out. Michigan quarterback Joe Milton against a standout Wisconsin defense should be the matchup to watch on Nov. 14.
Next Up: Penn State at Nebraska; Iowa at Minnesota; Northwestern at Purdue
Nov. 21 – Iowa at Penn State (Week 12)
The last three matchups in this series have been decided by six or fewer points. In other words, a close game should be anticipated on Nov. 21. New Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras should be battle-tested going into this contest, especially with a road date at Minnesota on Nov. 14. Penn State hopes to fill out the weapons at receiver and restock a few spots on defense in hopes of making a run at the New Year’s Six bowl should it fall short against Ohio State in the East. The timing of this game is also crucial. Iowa hosts Nebraska, while Penn State hits the road to play at Michigan the following weekend.
Next Up: Indiana at Ohio State; Purdue at Minnesota; Wisconsin at Northwestern
Nov. 28 – Minnesota at Wisconsin (Week 13)
We can’t go wrong with Penn State-Michigan or Nebraska-Iowa here, but it’s hard to pass on the game that could decide the Big Ten West Division title. The Badgers won in Minneapolis last fall, while the Golden Gophers snapped a 14-game losing streak in this rivalry in 2018.
Next Up: Penn State at Michigan; Nebraska at Iowa
Dec. 5 – Nebraska at Purdue (Week 14)
The Dec. 5 weekend of games doesn’t feature a marquee contest. Northwestern-Minnesota or Indiana-Wisconsin deserves consideration here. However, let’s go with the Cornhuskers-Boilermakers in hopes of getting a high-scoring game between two offensive-minded head coaches. Two out of the last three meetings between Nebraska and Purdue were decided by four points or less.
Next Up: Northwestern at Minnesota; Indiana at Wisconsin
Dec. 12 – Michigan at Ohio State (Week 15)
The Game. Does this really need any explanation? Ohio State has won eight in a row over Michigan, including the last two meetings by a combined score of 118-66. The Wolverines are hungry to find a way to reverse their recent fortunes in this rivalry, but winning in Columbus against Justin Fields and a high-powered Ohio State offense is an uphill battle. And who knows, another huge performance against Michigan could be a boost to the Heisman hopes of Fields.
Next Up: Wisconsin at Iowa; Michigan State at Penn State; Purdue at Indiana
(Top graphic courtesy of bigten.org)