College football’s 2020 season is surrounded in uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Big Ten took a big step forward in laying the groundwork for the upcoming year on Wednesday, as the conference released its complete schedule for the fall. The Big Ten announced earlier this summer its intention to have a 10-game, conference-only slate. The 10-game slate is expected to begin on Thursday, Sept. 3 and conclude on Saturday, Nov. 21. The conference has built-in flexibility to adapt as needed during the pandemic.
Here’s what you need to know about the revamped 2020 Big Ten schedule:
A Schedule Release Doesn’t Guarantee a Season
As indicated by the conference in Wednesday’s release, a schedule doesn’t mean a season is guaranteed. “While the Conference remains hopeful for a September 2020 start in all fall sports, including football, issuing a schedule does not guarantee that competition will occur.”
Flexibility is Word to Remember
With the day-to-day and week-to-week uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the potential for positive tests and the need to quarantine, flexibility is the key word to keep in mind this college football season. That’s why the conference has built-in bye weeks and extra time prior to the conference title game.
East and West Divisions Intact
The ACC is the only conference to modify its division set up for 2020. The Big Ten intends to stick with its East and West alignment this fall.
The Big Ten won’t play any non-conference matchups in 2020. Monster showdowns like Ohio State at Oregon, Michigan at Washington, Wisconsin vs. Notre Dame at Lambeau Field, and Penn State at Virginia Tech were canceled with the conference’s decision to play league matchups only this fall.
Kickoff is Slated for Sept. 3
Provided everything goes according to plan, the first Big Ten matchup of 2020 will be Ohio State at Illinois on Thursday, Sept. 3. Indiana is slated to play at Wisconsin on Friday, Sept. 4, followed by a full slate of contests on Saturday, Sept. 5.
The Last Weekend is Nov. 21... Maybe
As mentioned above, every team has two bye weeks during the regular season. However, the conference is leaving open Nov. 28 to reschedule contests and could push back its conference championship. In other words, while the final game of the season is listed as Nov. 21, don’t be surprised if that changes during the year.
Every team in the Big Ten will play five road games and five contests at home. In order for that to happen, the location of some games were switched for 2020 and will have an impact on the schedule going forward. The following games – Michigan at Indiana, Michigan State at Michigan, Indiana at Michigan State, Nebraska at Purdue, Wisconsin at Nebraska, and Purdue at Wisconsin – have changed location from the original schedule. These changes will be reflected in the schedule for 2021 and beyond as well.
Michigan-Ohio State Date Shifted
The Game won’t take place on the last Saturday of the regular season. Instead, the annual Ohio State-Michigan showdown is slated for Oct. 24. The Wolverines play at Indiana the week prior, while the Buckeyes hit the road for a trip to Michigan State.
Wisconsin and Minnesota are Winners in the Revamp
Wisconsin and Minnesota – the projected top two teams in the Big Ten West Division by most this offseason – caught a huge break in scheduling. Neither team will play Ohio State or Penn State in crossover play.
Only Crossover Games on Week 1 and Week 12
This year’s schedule is all about flexibility and the need to move games around if necessary. The Big Ten has strategically assigned some matchups, as Week 1 and Week 12 are all crossover (East vs. West) pairings, If needed, these games could be canceled and not factor into the division title picture.
Every Team Has Two Bye Weeks
Again, the word to remember is flexibility. All 14 teams have two standard bye weeks during the regular season and no game is scheduled after Nov. 21. If necessary, games that can’t be made up during a bye week could be moved to Nov. 28 or beyond. Of note: Teams that meet in Week 3 (Sept. 19) share the same bye week.
Conference Title Game Slated for Dec. 5 (For Now)
The Big Ten’s release indicates the conference title game is currently slated for Dec. 5 in Indianapolis. However, the league could move the title game to Dec. 12 or Dec. 19 if needed to play games or reschedule contests that may have an impact on the division winner.
No Lost Scholarships if Players Opt Out
If a player chooses to opt out for the 2020 college football season, the Big Ten will honor their scholarship for the 2020-21 year. Additionally, the player will remain in good standing with the team.
Fall Practice/Workouts Allowed to Start
The Big Ten indicated teams could begin fall practice on Friday, Aug. 7. However, for teams that play Thursday or Friday, those teams are allowed to begin workouts earlier for the 2020 season.
Protocols and Health Standards
The Big Ten released a complete guide of health standards and protocols for the teams to follow in 2020. The complete guide is here.
Of note from the release: A close contact of COVID-19 positive/suspected infection will require 14 days of quarantine and there is no ability to test of the quarantine. Additionally, a positive test – either symptomatic or asymptomatic – will require a 10-day isolation period. The protocols also call for a 20-day isolation period for severe illnesses or severely immunocompromised individuals.
In the schedule release, the Big Ten noted it planned to test players and staff a minimum of twice a week. Additionally, the testing will be monitored by a third-party laboratory. The third-party monitoring will ensure consistency across the conference. And as indicated in the conference release, the guidelines could be updated pending any advancements in testing technology.
New Opponents and Missed Games
As a result of the 10-game conference slate, each team picked up one opponent and will miss three others from the league in crossover play. Below is a chart indicating which opponent was added for each team, along with the three programs that will be missed on their respective schedule in 2020.
New Opponent Added
Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State
Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern
Indiana, Michigan, Rutgers
Nebraska, Illinois, Purdue
Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois
Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue
Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers
Indiana, Maryland, Michigan
Indiana, Ohio State, Rutgers
Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern
Wisconsin, Minnesota, Purdue
Maryland, Michigan State, Penn State
Minnesota, Iowa, Northwestern
Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State