Takeaways from the Big Ten's updated 2020 football schedule

Sam Cooper
·6-min read

Hopefully the third time will be the charm for the Big Ten.

After a whirlwind month, the conference announced on Wednesday that it will indeed play football in the fall. The Big Ten’s eight-game regular season schedule will begin on Oct. 24 and the full slate was unveiled Saturday morning. It marked the third time the conference had to assemble a schedule for the 2020 football season.

With rapid daily testing for COVID-19 on the way, the conference is attempting to cram nine games for each team over a nine-week span. The ninth game for each team is slated to be played on Dec. 19, the day of the Big Ten title game. For the teams not in the title game, they will play that day against the corresponding team in the other division. That means second-place team in the East will play second-place team in the West, the third-place team in the East will play the third-place team in the West, and so on and so forth.

But before we worry about those Week 9 matchups, let’s take a look at what the Big Ten unveiled Saturday with our initial reactions to each week’s slate.

Week 1 (10/24)

  • Nebraska at Ohio State

  • Michigan at Minnesota

  • Penn State at Indiana

  • Iowa at Purdue

  • Illinois at Wisconsin

  • Rutgers at Michigan State

  • Maryland at Northwestern

Nebraska wanted football? Well, how about starting the season on the road against Ohio State? Nebraska made a ton of noise to try to get Big Ten football back in the fall. There were even Nebraska players who sued the conference. Congrats, you get to go to Columbus in Week 1 to face the conference’s best team.

The most competitive game of the weekend could be Michigan’s trip to Minnesota. Minnesota won 11 games in 2019 and was one of the stories of the season in its third year under P.J. Fleck. Hosting Michigan in Week 1 will be a good litmus test for the Gophers as they try to stay among the top teams in the conference. Meanwhile, UM enters Year 6 under Jim Harbaugh without a whole lot to show for it. Maybe this is the year? Joe Milton should bring the Wolverines a new look at quarterback.

Penn State, the Big Ten’s second-best team, opens its season against a sneaky-tough team in Indiana. IU went 8-5 last year and returns quarterback Michael Penix Jr., one of the conference’s most underrated players. This could be a tough one for PSU, especially with what lies ahead in Week 2.

Week 2 (10/31)

  • Ohio State at Penn State

  • Michigan State at Michigan

  • Wisconsin at Nebraska

  • Northwestern at Iowa

  • Minnesota at Maryland

  • Purdue at Illinois

  • Indiana at Rutgers

The Big Ten’s top two teams meeting in Week 2 on Halloween? Ohio State’s trips to Happy Valley are always really competitive games. This should be no different, even without the usual “white out” crowd in attendance. This is a game that should have an impact on the College Football Playoff picture.

Throwing the Michigan vs. Michigan State rivalry into the mix adds even more intrigue to Week 2. Michigan State is entering its first season under Mel Tucker after 13 seasons under Mark Dantonio.

Nebraska gets another tough opponent in Week 2 with Wisconsin coming to Lincoln.

The Ohio State vs. Penn State atmosphere at Beaver Stadium just won't be the same without fans in the stands. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
The Ohio State vs. Penn State atmosphere at Beaver Stadium just won't be the same without fans in the stands. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Week 3 (11/7)

  • Michigan State at Iowa

  • Maryland at Penn State

  • Purdue at Wisconsin

  • Rutgers at Ohio State

  • Michigan at Indiana

  • Minnesota at Illinois

  • Nebraska at Northwestern

Wisconsin has won the Big Ten West in three of the last four seasons and has the chance to open the 2020 season 3-0. The Badgers should be favored at home against Purdue once again after playing Illinois and Nebraska in Weeks 1 and 2. Iowa, its Big Ten West counterpart, will also likely be favored in its first three games.

After what has the looks of the biggest game of the Big Ten schedule, both Ohio State and Penn State have a bit of a respite in Week 3. The Buckeyes will host Rutgers, now coached by Greg Schiano once again. Penn State, meanwhile, hosts Maryland, a team it beat 59-0 in College Park in 2019.

Week 4 (11/14)

  • Penn State at Nebraska

  • Wisconsin at Michigan

  • Ohio State at Maryland

  • Iowa at Minnesota

  • Indiana at Michigan State

  • Northwestern at Purdue

  • Illinois at Rutgers

Two teams in particular have very difficult crossover games. Michigan drew Wisconsin and Minnesota out of the Big Ten West while Nebraska drew Ohio State and Penn State from the East. Brutal.

Iowa at Minnesota could prove to be a critical game in the Big Ten West pecking order. Minnesota’s loss in Iowa City last year was a blow to Minnesota’s Big Ten West title hopes, ultimately opening the door for Wisconsin.

Ohio State gets the two worst Big Ten East teams, Rutgers and Maryland, in back-to-back weeks.

Week 5 (11/21)

  • Iowa at Penn State

  • Indiana at Ohio State

  • Purdue at Minnesota

  • Michigan at Rutgers

  • Wisconsin at Northwestern

  • Michigan State at Maryland

  • Illinois at Nebraska

Penn State gets its two West crossover opponents in back-to-back weeks. Iowa usually gives PSU very tough games, with the last three in the series being decided by a combined 13 points, all PSU victories.

Week 6 (11/28)

  • Penn State at Michigan

  • Minnesota at Wisconsin

  • Nebraska at Iowa

  • Ohio State at Illinois

  • Northwestern at Michigan State

  • Maryland at Indiana

  • Rutgers at Purdue

Another tough game for Penn State, which has a much more difficult schedule than the Buckeyes. Ohio State lucked out with Nebraska and Illinois as its crossover games.

Minnesota’s game against Wisconsin decided the Big Ten West in 2019. It could happen again in 2020.

Minnesota wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell (7) is tackled by Wisconsin cornerback Semar Melvin (20) during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Minnesota wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell (7) is tackled by Wisconsin cornerback Semar Melvin (20) during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

Week 7 (12/5)

  • Ohio State at Michigan State

  • Maryland at Michigan

  • Northwestern at Minnesota

  • Indiana at Wisconsin

  • Iowa at Illinois

  • Penn State at Rutgers

  • Nebraska at Purdue

This might be the most underwhelming group of games on the slate, but it sets up for what could be an epic final weekend of the regular season. Iowa’s trip to Illinois, though, could be a sneaky look-ahead spot for the Hawkeyes. Illinois upset Wisconsin last year, so the Hawkeyes don’t want to get caught looking ahead to their home finale against the Badgers.

Week 8 (12/12)

  • Michigan at Ohio State

  • Wisconsin at Iowa

  • Michigan State at Penn State

  • Minnesota at Nebraska

  • Illinois at Northwestern

  • Purdue at Indiana

  • Rutgers at Maryland

The headliner, of course, is The Game: Michigan at Ohio State. OSU has won eight straight games in the series, including back-to-back blowouts the last two seasons. Michigan has not defeated the rival Buckeyes during Jim Harbaugh’s tenure. This could present a chance to ruin the Buckeyes’ College Football Playoff hopes.

It’s not the only rivalry game on Dec. 12. There is also Wisconsin-Iowa, Illinois-Northwestern and Purdue-Indiana.

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