Michigan State could have a large say in how the Big Ten East standings turn out
You may think you know how the Big Ten is going to play out this season, but what if you don’t? What if chaos erupts within the Big Ten season and title contenders and College Football Playoff candidates slip up? It is entirely possible given what the schedule is looking like in 2018.
Big Ten favorites Ohio State and Wisconsin have some good challenges ahead of them, and there are a handful of teams capable of scoring some key wins that have the potential to drastically change the outlook for the conference championship picture this fall.
Here is a look at 10 potential upsets that could create chaos around the Big Ten in 2018.
10. Purdue over Missouri, Sept. 15
The Boilermakers took down the SEC program on the road last season, but Missouri will return a dangerous offense this fall. If Purdue can score back-to-back wins against the Tigers in the home-and-home series, that would be a nice win for the Big Ten as a whole.
9. Purdue over Iowa, Nov. 3
Much later in the year, Purdue could throw a wrinkle into the Big Ten West Division standings with a win against Iowa. Purdue gets the Hawkeyes at home a week after Iowa plays at Penn State (Purdue is coming off games against Ohio State and Michigan State though).
8. Northwestern over Notre Dame, Nov. 3
Another non-conference game to keep a close eye on will be Northwestern’s home game against Notre Dame. It’s been a long time since the Irish stepped foot on Northwestern’s campus, so this will be a statement opportunity for Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats.
7. Iowa over Wisconsin, Sept. 22
Early in the season, Iowa will get a chance to score revenge on the Badgers in a game that could impact the Big Ten West Division hunt for the remainder of the season. The winner will take the early lead in the division, and Iowa will look to make up for an ugly performance against the Badgers last season.
6. Nebraska over Michigan State, Nov. 17
Nebraska has plenty of reason to be optimistic under Scott Frost, but this season will be a work in progress. Despite the rebuilding the Cornhuskers must do, they may be able to score an upset win against somebody this season. A late November game at home against Michigan State looks to be the best chance for that to happen.
5. Northwestern over Wisconsin, Oct. 27
A week before getting Notre Dame at home, don’t be stunned if the Wildcats score a pivotal Big Ten win against Wisconsin. The Wildcats can be pesky in division play and are even tougher when at home. Wisconsin may find that out the hard way.
4. Michigan over Notre Dame, Sept. 1
The season will kick off for Michigan on the road in South Bend, and the Wolverines are already considered an underdog. But what if Ole Miss transfer quarterback Shea Patterson truly is the fix the offense needed, and Michigan looks much more competent all-around this fall? This could be a statement win that puts the Big Ten on notice for the rest of the season right from the jump.
3. Michigan State over Penn State, Oct. 13
The Spartans likely cost Penn State a playoff shot last fall with a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation in a weather-delayed game in East Lansing. Penn State gets a week to prepare for this game after hosting Ohio State two weeks prior, but Michigan State is fully capable of pulling off another win over the Nittany Lions and derail Penn State’s Big Ten title hopes as a result.
2. Michigan State over Ohio State, Nov. 10
The Spartans could strike twice this season when they later host the Buckeyes in November. Ohio State steamrolled Michigan State last season, so this is quite the revenge situation for the Spartans, and playing at home will carry a bit more pride in this one. If Michigan State can pull off these two upsets, they could be heading to the Big Ten Championship Game.
1. Penn State over Ohio State, Sept. 29
Arguably the game of the year in the Big Ten, at least in the East division, before the season gets started. After a fast start in Columbus last season, Penn State let a win against Ohio State slip away, and thus a shot at a Big Ten title eluded the Nittany Lions down the line. Both teams have some questions for the new season, but and Trace McSorley will be under pressure from Nick Bosa and company, but a win at home against Ohio State could catapult Penn State up the rankings and into the playoff conversation before the midway point of the season.
-- Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.