These are the 10 biggest Big Ten football games that’ll define the championship chase for the 2016 season.
10. Nebraska at Ohio State, Nov. 5
Yeah, they’re Big Ten brothers now, but it’s just the fifth meeting between the two with the Buckeyes winning the first two to open up the 1955 and 1956 seasons, and won in 2012 in a 63-38 blasting. Nebraska won at home in OSU’s lost 2011 campaign.
9. Wisconsin at Michigan State, Sept. 24
Not all that long ago, this was one of the best new rivalry in the Big Ten with the two teams playing a few classics – including the 2011 Big Ten Championship. With several big conference games ahead for each, this becomes a huge early showdown.
8. Michigan at Iowa, Nov. 12
It might be among the biggest battles between the two since the America Needs Farmers classic of 1985. For an Iowa program that never got a whole lot of respect last season, this is it.
Outside of the home game against Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes should be a sure favorite against everyone else until this point. Outside of the road game at Michigan State and home date against the Badgers, Michigan should have no problems before going to Iowa City.
7. Nebraska at Wisconsin, Oct. 29
Iowa gets both the Badgers and Huskers at home, so while it might be a bit presumptuous to call this a Big Ten West elimination game, it might not be far off. Nebraska desperately needs this with a road game at Ohio State to follow, while this is a sandwich game for Wisconsin between road games at Iowa and Northwestern.
6. Wisconsin at Iowa, Oct. 22
The Badgers decided to give away the Big Ten West to the Hawkeyes last season with a turnover-fest gacking at home. This time around, they probably can’t win the division title without returning the favor. This is Iowa’s lone home game in a run of three road games in four dates.
5. Wisconsin at Michigan, Oct. 1
The two haven’t played since 2010 with a loaded Wisconsin team handing the Wolverines a 48-28 loss. It seems strange considering the Big Ten schedule, but the last Michigan win over Bucky came in 2008.
4. Ohio State at Wisconsin, Oct. 15
Is this a preview of the Big Ten Championship? Probably not – notice all the other big games Wisconsin is playing on this list? But it’s a huge moment for Ohio State considering its other large road dates against Oklahoma, Penn State and Michigan State on the schedule. Considering the Badgers play way too many huge games on the road, getting a big date like this at home should help a little bit.
3. Michigan at Michigan State, Oct. 29
No way, no how, no chance this is anywhere near the classic that last year’s miracle turned out to be. As good as Mr. Harbaugh has been so far, go 0-2 against Sparty, and all of a sudden the bloom is off the rose.
2. Ohio State at Michigan State, Nov. 19
It’s effectively been the Big Ten championship for the last three years – four if you want to count the OSU 12-0 2012 season. It’ll go a long way to deciding it again, and considering the other big battles the two have to face, it could be an elimination game.
1. Michigan at Ohio State, Nov. 26
2011 was the last time Michigan came up with a win over the Buckeyes, and that was the lone win since 2003. The last time the Wolverines won in Columbus? 2000.
Michigan State will be in the hunt again, and Penn State should make this interesting, too, but this might probably be for the Big Ten title. If Harbaugh really wants to get his era rolling, he needs to beat Ohio State.