Big games happen in the Big Ten almost weekly, so trying to potentially narrow down the Big Five is no easy task.
For the sake of discussion, we will remove any non-conference matchups. That’s tough, because there are some good ones, starting with Saturday’s top-five matchup between No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 3 Ohio State in Columbus.
Of course, there are others, like Iowa hosting Iowa State on September 10, and a busy day on September 17 with Michigan State heading to Washington, Nebraska playing Oklahoma and Penn State hosting Auburn.
But that only helps a little bit, because the Big 10 aren’t wasting time chasing him, as Northwestern and Nebraska showed by kicking things off in Dublin, Ireland, last weekend. Hardly a week goes by that there isn’t a significant game, and by October 1, when all the conference games are all the time, things really start to roll.
With that, we’ll do our best to deliver some of the biggest games of the season in the Big Ten:
Penn State at Purdue, September 1
Like we said, it doesn’t take long before the games get serious, and the Nittany Lions heading to West Lafayette to kick off the season in prime time is pretty cool. In the wild (Big Ten) West, the Boilermakers hope to make a title run behind quarterback Aidan O’Connell, while the Nittany Lions hope to make a similar impact in the competitive East. Getting off to a good start is critical and neither team wants to be in the hole after a week.
Wisconsin in the state of Ohio, September 24
Another early-season upset is in store in Columbus, as the Badgers have their first chance to take down the Big Ten heavyweight while also proving they’ll be a factor, as they often are, in the West. Each team will have more tests on the way, but this could not only be an entertaining game, but perhaps a preview of things to come to close out the season in Indianapolis with the conference title on the line.
State of Ohio in the state of Michigan, October 8
The start of a three-game streak that will determine whether the Spartans are a contender in the East — and the Big Ten overall — or are playing for second place. They’ll start by hosting the Buckeyes, a team that embarrassed the Spartans a year ago. Pull out the upset and who knows where things are headed, but lose again and subsequent games against Wisconsin and Michigan lose some of their luster.
Michigan State at Michigan, October 29
There is little doubt about the significance of this game in these places, but what makes the rivalry even more intense these days is the fact that it will likely have a huge impact on the East championship race. Michigan State coach Mel Tucker is 2-0 against the Wolverines, and while Michigan broke through with a Big Ten title and a trip to the playoffs last season, you can bet they’ll be looking to settle the score this time. .
Ohio State at Penn State, October 29
There aren’t many easy weeks when playing in the East, and the Buckeyes will be heading to Penn State having played back-to-back games against Michigan State and Iowa. This seems like the perfect place for Beaver Stadium to be caught up in a blackout, and if the Nittany Lions have beaten Michigan and Minnesota in the past two weeks, this game could be a monster.
Minnesota at Wisconsin, November 26
The final week of the season will have its share of big games, but there’s a good chance this will determine which team heads to the Big Ten championship game. Whether either team will be in a position to think about the college football playoffs seems like a stretch, but it won’t diminish the atmosphere at Camp Randall Stadium as the Golden Gophers try to make it to Indy for the first time.
Michigan in the state of Ohio, November 26
Of course this game has to be on the list. Even though last year’s game was the first in a long time to have championship implications, it has hardly diminished in importance to teams and fan bases. Add in the fact that last year, the Wolverines finally won and made it to the Big Ten title game because of that and it took this game to another level. The stakes will most likely be high again this season, as the Buckeyes look to avenge last year’s loss in Ann Arbor.
Honorable Mention: Minnesota at Michigan State, Sept. 24; Michigan at Iowa, October 1; Iowa in the state of Ohio, October 22; Wisconsin in the state of Michigan, October 15; Wisconsin at Iowa, November 12; Iowa at Minnesota, November 19; Michigan State at Penn State, November 26