Brandon Peters and Illinois could play spoiler once again this season
So you think you have the Big Ten figured out, do you? Nothing could possibly prevent Ohio State from playing for another Big Ten championship this unique season, right? Of course there is. Ohio State has seen their pursuit for perfection dented over the years with a handful of key losses on the road in Big Ten play, and the Buckeyes will have some possible hurdles they may have trouble clearing this season.
But the Buckeyes are certainly not alone in having some spoiler alerts on the schedule. The Big Ten West could be a wide-open race to the finish, and no team appears to be safe in 2020. The Big Ten West also is the division with the most teams that could throw a wrench in the plans for Big Ten East Division contenders Ohio State and Penn State.
While predicting what may happen this season is as much of a guessing game as it has ever been, let's attempt to pick out the 10 most intriguing upsets that could play out in the Big Ten in 2020.
Note: Schedule subject to change.
10. Purdue over Michigan, Oct. 24
If Rondale Moore is healthy, then the Boilermakers could be trouble for just about any team they face this season. Moore is a true game-changer, and Michigan will have some new faces leading the way in the secondary this season. If they aren't on the same page, Moore could go off and lead Purdue to a win in the Big House.
9. Michigan State over Minnesota, Oct. 31
The Gophers are no longer flying under the radar after P.J. Fleck's program took a giant step forward last season. The Spartans may be looking to rebuild a bit under new head coach Mel Tucker, but a good defensive showing at home against Minnesota should not be unexpected. If Michigan State can just get something out of its offense, Minnesota could be going home with a loss.
8. Northwestern over Wisconsin, Nov. 7
Northwestern should be improved after a tough 2019 season. The addition of Indiana transfer quarterback Peyton Ramsey gives the Wildcats offense a good boost, and getting the Badgers at home in early November could end up being a frustrating experience for Wisconsin at the worst possible time. Northwestern scrapping its way to a win could open the Big Ten West race down the final stretch.
7. Nebraska over Minnesota, Nov. 27 (Friday)
Nebraska will close out its regular season at home against Minnesota. While the Gophers could be in a position to capture the Big Ten West crown, the Huskers could still be dangerous as they potentially fight for a winning record and a possible bowl berth. Nebraska could be a fun spoiler team this season.
6. Iowa over Wisconsin, Nov. 28
Sorry, Wisconsin fans. We're not done with the Badgers just yet. A day after Nebraska potentially upsets Minnesota, Wisconsin may have to avoid its own road perils with a regular-season finale at Iowa. The Hawkeyes lost a tough one to Wisconsin last season and could possibly have their own division hopes on the line.
5. Michigan over Wisconsin, Sept. 26
Early in the season, Wisconsin also has to be careful with a road trip to Michigan. The Wolverines may not have an offense ready to take off against a solid defensive team like Wisconsin, but the home-field advantage has been a significant factor in this series each of the last four meetings. The home team is 4-0 in the last four years. Michigan will keep that trend going to 5-0.
4. Illinois over Minnesota, Oct. 24
Remember last year when an upset of Wisconsin fueled Illinois to a second-half run that resulted in a bowl trip? This year's victim at home could be Minnesota, a week prior to the Illini heading to Wisconsin. The Illini were roughed up by Minnesota last year and will be ready to hand out some revenge.
3. Indiana over Penn State, Oct. 31
This is one of those classic bad spots on the schedule for Penn State. The Nittany Lions face off with Ohio State the previous week and then head to Bloomington for this game. The Hoosiers can be dangerous, especially at home. James Franklin's Nittany Lions cannot afford to be caught in a slow start on offense here, otherwise, they could be looking at a very tough loss.
2. Nebraska over Penn State, Nov. 7
And don't look now, but the worst-case scenario for Penn State could see the upset trend follow them out to Lincoln. Another game in a bad spot for Penn State, Nebraska could be reaching their full potential by the time this game rolls around in early November.
1. Illinois over Ohio State, Nov. 21
Ohio State may have been able to avoid the so-called bad road loss last season. Can they do it again this season? A week after visiting Maryland, which ended up be a shootout victory for the Buckeyes two years ago, Ohio State will play their final road game of the season at Illinois in late November. And this one could get dicey. The Illini have an experienced offense returning this season, led by quarterback Brandon Peters, and could be ready to make a statement late in the year. And an Illini win over the preseason favorite Ohio State would not only change the entire Big Ten landscape but the entire College Football Playoff picture.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Patreon, on Twitter @KevinOnCFB, and Like him on Facebook.
(Top photo by Derek Neal, courtesy of fightingillini.com)