Five Games That Will Shape The Big Ten
We’re just a couple of weeks away from the kick off of the 2017 college football season, and the Big Ten is expected to be lights out again. Here are five games that will shape who comes out as champion of the heartland.
No. 5 – NOV. 18, Michigan AT Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Badgers are heavily favored in the West Division, and for good reason. The team should be stellar again with a healthy offensive line, nasty defense and the improvement that goes along with Alex Hornibrook’s second season under center. And … then there’s the much lighter schedule than the brutality version we saw last year. Wisconsin could very well be favored in every game it plays this year. There is no Ohio State, no Penn State, and the Wolverines come to Madison.
Michigan, on the other hand, comes in with wholesale losses — most notably on the defensive side of the ball. But there is young talent ready to step in for Mr. Khakis thanks in large part to some fantastic recruiting classes. If Wisconsin can hold serve at home, a trip to Indy may be waiting, and who knows — maybe more. Michigan would love to win in order to keep pace with Ohio State and Penn State.
N0. 4 – OCT. 7, Wisconsin AT Nebraska
The other formidable challenge for the Badgers comes by way of an all expenses paid trip to Lincoln, Nebraska. The ‘Huskers feel like they’ve gotten things figured out up front on the O-line, and there should be an infusion of talent waiting to try and get Nebraska back among the top of the league. Hosting the Badgers will be a great way to see where the program is.
For Wisconsin, it’s arguably the biggest hurdle to clear on the road, and maybe the stiffest challenge to keeping the dream of getting back to Indy alive and kicking. Win, and things stay on track for a dream season.
N0. 3 – OCT. 21, Michigan AT Penn State
Time to turn our attention to the East Division where there are a trio of teams that have a shot at some lofty goals nationally. Penn State is finally back among the nation’s elite and looking to defend its improbable Big Ten title from last year.
It’ll need to get by a Jim Harbaugh led Michigan team that’s looking to show everyone that rebuilding is no longer a daunting task in Ann Arbor. For all intents and purposes, this will be game one of the three team round robin in the East that will decide many things among the landscape of college football in 2017.
N0. 2 – NOV. 25, Ohio State AT Michigan
The Game seems to always have Big Ten and national title implications, and it’ll likely be the same this year. Ohio State has beaten Michigan five-straight, and won twelve of the last thirteen against their arch rivals. That includes Harbaugh’s 0-2 record against his ultimate measuring stick.
If history has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected in this Rivalry. Michigan is replacing almost everyone on defense and Ohio State has experience in key spots across the board, and is expected to make a run towards the College Football Playoff yet again.
But the game is in Ann Arbor where the stadium will be ready to explode. You can bet the Maize and Blue will be fired up and intent on turning the tide of this rivalry that has been so one-sided for over a decade. If things fall right, the winner could go to Indianapolis where a win could potentially garner a ticket to the Playoff.
No. 1 – OCT. 28, Penn State AT Ohio State
We all remember what happened last year in Happy Valley. Penn State’s dramatic win against the Buckeyes proved to be a springboard to great things the rest of the season. Ohio State still found its way into the College Football Playoff, but the game exposed some warts that ultimately doomed chances at another national title.
You can bank on Urban Meyer using the revenge card in this one, and with the game being in Columbus, the crowd will be oiled up and ready to give the Scarlet and Gray a lift. There are other potential land mines on the schedule for both teams, but the winner likely has an inside track to winning the East Division. And after that, there could be much bigger fish to fry.