What are the five biggest Big Ten games you’ll care about – even if you don’t care about the Big Ten?
Daily Five: 5 Biggest Big Ten Games of 2018
It’s all about the Big Ten East when it comes to the biggest of the big games. Of course the West matters, but the top games – at least in conference – involve Wisconsin dealing with the East. Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern vs. the Badgers could all be on here at some point once the season gets rolling.
Where are the top non-conference games? Ohio State at TCU? Okay. Michigan at Notre Dame? Fine. But these five Big Ten games are all stronger and more important to how the 2018 college football world will shape up.
5. Michigan at Michigan State, Oct. 20
If Michigan State is really back to being good enough to shoot for big things, it should be 5-0 going into the road trip to Penn State. That’s big, but getting the Wolverines in East Lansing might be an elimination game.
Michigan will have already played at Notre Dame, dealt with Nebraska, and gone to Northwestern. It’s a tough start, and then comes the showdown against Wisconsin to add to the mix. Even with all of these nasty games, Michigan has to be good enough to be – at worst – 6-1 by the time they go to East Lansing. And no matter what, Jim Harbaugh really, really, REALLY can’t blow this.
Losing to Ohio State is one thing – that’s Ohio State; it’s one of the elite, national title programs going right now. But to lose on a regular basis to “little brother?” Oh no … that’s not okay. At least the Wolverines get a week off before …
4. Penn State at Michigan, Nov. 3
42-13. As rough as Michigan’s 2017 season was, at least it played tough in the losses to Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State and South Carolina. There were chances to win all four of those games. Against Penn State? Nope. Before that, Michigan won the previous three games with the Nittany Lions.
This might be it for Penn State. It’ll already have played Ohio State and Michigan State, and while it gets Wisconsin the following week, this could be the moment when it takes down the East depending on what happens in the battles with the Buckeyes and Spartans.
3. Ohio State at Michigan State, Nov. 10
An always unpredictable and occasionally strange matchup, last year, Ohio State came off the Iowa debacle to throttle the Spartans 48-3. However, the year before, the awful MSU team pushed a CFP-bound Buckeye team hard in a 17-16 loss.
This year, Ohio State has to come to East Lansing after getting Nebraska the week before. The Buckeyes will have already dealt with Penn State, and they still have Michigan to go, but it’s not a stretch to stay they might need this to have any hopes of going to the College Football Playoff.
The Spartans will have already played Penn State and Michigan – they’ll know where they stand in the West race after this.
2. Ohio State at Penn State, Sept. 29
These two combined to play the best back-to-back games of anyone in the Big Ten, with Penn State beating the Buckeyes on a miracle blocked kick for a score in 2016, and Ohio State coming roaring back to win last year’s thriller late.
This year, as long as Ohio State gets by TCU on the road, it’ll be 4-0 and likely ranked in the top five when it makes the trip to State College.
As long as Penn State doesn’t whiff against Pitt or choke to Illinois on the road, it’l be 4-0 going into the showdown. It’ll follow it up with a week off to prepare for Michigan State.
1. Michigan at Ohio State, Nov. 24
2011. That was the last time Michigan got past Ohio State, and it was the only win since 2003, going 1-13 since then. But that doesn’t matter as much as Jim Harbaugh being 0-3 against one of the two teams has HAS to beat – Michigan State being the other.
With Wisconsin, at Michigan State and Penn State over the second half of the season, the pressure will be on if Michigan doesn’t come into this with at least a shot at the Big Ten West title. No, Harbaugh won’t get fired with another loss – it’s asking a lot to beat Ohio State in Columbus no matter what – but …
Harbaugh and Michigan have to beat Ohio State.
The Buckeyes should roll through seven of their first nine games. As long as they at least split the road games against Penn State and Michigan State, they should be just fine with the Wolverines come to town.