Best Matchups on Big Ten Teams’ Schedules
College football is less than two weeks away.
"Week Zero" matchups kick off on Aug. 26, but Big Ten teams don't begin play until the following Thursday with the Ohio State State Buckeyes traveling to Bloomington, IN. Minnesota also hosts Buffalo to start its 2017 campaign.
There are a lot of great matchups throughout the college football season, many of which include Big Ten teams. This got me to thinking: which are the best matchups in the Big Ten?
More pointedly, which are the best matchups on each Big Team teams' schedule?
Indiana Hoosiers: vs. Ohio State (8/31)
Indiana has played close games against the Buckeyes before, but most of those included Kevin Wilson as the Hoosiers' head coach. Now, Wilson stands on the opposite sideline as the Buckeyes' offensive coordinator. Plus, this is a primetime game with national exposure for an Indiana program trying to graduate to the next level in the Big Ten East.
Maryland Terrapins: at Michigan State (11/18)
Maryland found a way to "upset" Michigan State last season during the Spartans' tumultuous 2016. The Terrapins will have to do the same on the road this year if D.J. Durkin wants to truly announce his arrival in the Big Ten East. Until Maryland consistently makes bowl games, they'll be considered a Big Ten East bottom feeder.
Michigan State Spartans: at Michigan (10/7)
Little brother vs. big brother. An in-state rivalry battle is always near the top of the list for most important games in a season. But after the Spartans disappointing 2016, this year's showdown is a battle for a recruiting hold in Michigan. Another horrible showing or two from Michigan State and they'll find themselves falling deeper into the crevasse.
Michigan Wolverines: vs. Ohio State (11/25)
When isn't this the most important game on Michigan's schedule? The Wolverines haven't beaten the Buckeyes since 2011, and Jim Harbaugh is looking for his first win against the Buckeyes as a head coach. Put it this way: 9-3 with a win over Ohio State is a great year, but 10-2 or worse with a loss has Michiganders muttering expletives.
Ohio State Buckeyes: vs. Penn State (10/28)
I know, The Game not being No. 1 is crazy, right? But after last season's close yet disappointing loss in Happy Valley, the Buckeyes are looking for revenge and a leg up in the Big Ten East title race. A win against Penn State puts Ohio State in the driver's seat towards a College Football Playoff push; a loss directs them towards the Fiesta Bowl.
Penn State Nittany Lions: at Ohio State (10/28)
The Nittany Lions won the Big Ten last year, yet it was the Buckeyes who were granted a College Football Playoff birth. Penn State is looking to silence the doubters and restore the university's national championship pedigree. Until the Buckeyes and Wolverines are dethroned in back-to-back seasons, the "Penn State is back" talk will be placed on hold.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights: at Illinois (10/14)
Rutgers failed to snag a single win in the Big Ten last season. Arguably the low point of Chris Ash's first year at the helm came in a 24-7 loss in Piscataway, NJ, to Lovie Smith's Illini. If Rutgers is ever going to make headway in the Big Ten and grow as a program, it has to learn to beat the other bottom teams.
Illinois Fighting Illini: at Purdue (11/4)
Purdue and Illinois have been going at it for decades, and after last year's heartbreaking 34-31 overtime loss, Illinois is looking to reclaim the Big Ten West's portion of the state. Well, except for Northwestern. If Lovie Smith wants to keep his job and make Illinois relevant, he's going to need to make a bowl game. Soon.
Iowa Hawkeyes: at Wisconsin (11/11)
I don't care if Nebraska and Iowa State are bigger rivals. Iowa wants to make the Big Ten Championship game, and the path to Indianapolis runs through Madison, WI. The Badgers are Iowa's greatest threat for the Big Ten West crown, and the winner of their showdown will likely play at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Minnesota Golden Gophers: at Iowa (10/28)
The Floyd of Rosedale trophy; I'd place this pig among college football's elite non-championship trophies. But there's more than a trophy at stake here. P.J. Fleck wants to "row the boat" to Big Ten titles, and while that's incredibly unlikely in 2017, a rivalry win or two is a great place to start. Win some of those tough games and you'll win yourself some recruits.
Nebraska Cornhuskers: at Iowa (11/24)
Ah, the Heroes Game. A recently renewed rivalry has seen Iowa take two straight end-of-season showdowns from Nebraska, ending Husker seasons on sour notes. Nebraska probably won't win the Big Ten West, and it might not even contend, but a season-ending rivalry win against Iowa--potentially cruising the Hawkeyes' hopes for Indy--is enough to make any Husker smile.
Northwestern Wildcats: vs. Iowa (10/21)
Northwestern's been a trendy pick to finish second in the Big Ten West, and a win against Iowa is a must if such a prediction is to come true. Iowa crushed Northwestern two years ago, and the Wildcats battled back to take last season's showdown. Will Pat Fitzgerald continue to traverse new ground in Evanston, IL?
Purdue Boilermakers: vs. Illinois (11/4)
It's going to be awhile before teams start fearing Purdue again. In the meantime, Purdue just needs to make sure it doesn't fall beyond the likes of Rutgers and Illinois. Another win against in-state rival Illinois could help pad that distance.
Wisconsin Badgers: vs. Iowa (11/11)
Wisconsin's only real challenger for the Big Ten West is Iowa. A few other schools could make things difficult, but it's the November 11 bout with the Hawkeyes that could clinch a spot in Indianapolis for the Badgers.