2. The most fun aspect of the 2021 Big Ten season is …
The Big Ten season is going to sort things out in a whole lot of ways right out of the gate.
But first, start with the big change that things are going back to normal – we hope.
It’s forgotten now, but when the Big Ten came out with its first revised 2020 schedule after the COVID concerns kicked in, Ohio State and Michigan – along with some of the other key rivalries – were supposed to be played early in case they had to be rescheduled. There was some wiggle room.
And then came the cancellation, and then came the rebirth, and then came the new schedule that had almost no way to adjust if teams had to postpone or cancel. Sure enough, that screwed everything up.
Wisconsin and Minnesota were able to rework things and play late because neither one was in the Big Ten Championship, but the Buckeyes and Wolverines didn’t happen.
So yes, this is hopefully going to be a campaign like normal, and yes, the big rivalry games are scheduled for the very end on the weekend of November 27th.
Wisconsin is at Minnesota, Penn State is at Michigan State, Purdue is at Indiana, Iowa is at Nebraska on that Friday, and of course, Ohio State and Michigan play at the end.
However, even though the biggest games for most fans come at the end of all of the fun, the season is going to be shaped by what happens early.
No one’s out of anything with an early Big Ten loss, but if you’re in the East and you lose a conference game right away, any dreams of going to the CFP or likely the Big Ten Championship are gone if you still have Ohio State and/or Penn State ahead.
The same goes in the West. With an early loss, it’s asking a whole lot to roll through the rest of the way cleanly if you have Wisconsin and/or Iowa to play.
Nebraska and Illinois are kicking things off in Dublin, Ireland on August 28th. It’s not like anyone is thinking the Illini will take the Big Ten West, but the loser of this is all but out of any conference title hopes before September even stars.
It’s an interdivisional game, but Indiana has to go to Iowa in the season-opener. Again, the loser of this is in big, big trouble with the divisional big boys still to face.
Also starting out the year with a Big Ten conference game are Ohio State at Minnesota, Penn State at Wisconsin, and Michigan State at Northwestern. All six of those schools have some thought of playing for a Big Ten title, and they’re all coming in cold without a tune-up.
On the flip side, that’s why Rutgers catches a break – really, it’s its only break – with Temple to start the year and the first Big Ten game at Michigan at the end of September. Michigan gets to host Western Michigan, but Purdue has to face a good Oregon State team and Maryland gets West Virginia.