On Tuesday afternoon the Big Ten dropped the complete conference schedules for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. We aren’t even beyond one single conference game in 2017, but we know what the schedule will look like in four and five years time now.
So, as everyone races to see whom their favorite team is playing deep in to the future, here is a look at the games you should have circled on your calendar.
Here is a full look at the 2020 Big Ten football schedule:
So, which games am I circling on the calendar? Here are my top 5 cross-over games for the 2020 season.
5. Ohio State @ Illinois (Nov. 21)
While the Illibuck seems a bit trivial, after a two-year hiatus it will be good to have one of the longest-running trophy games in the Big Ten back. These two cross-divisional rivals certainly aren’t on the same playing field in 2017, but could the Lovie Smith revolution be in full swing by the time this game happens? Rivalry games being played more often than not is always a positive for me. Plus, this is the last cross-divisional game to be played in the 2020 season and it could have implications on the Big Ten race (or not).
4. Michigan @ Minnesota (Oct. 17)
Once again, we have a traditional rivalry game back on the docket after a two-year hiatus. The biggest question involved here is whether or not this will still be a matchup that includes the two biggest names on the marquee in the Big Ten — P.J. Fleck at Minnesota and Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. I mean, what if Fleck is an instant winner or Harbaugh still hasn’t reached a Big Ten championship?
3. Wisconsin @ Michigan (Sept. 26)
I believe talkingBadgers put seeing Michigan and Wisconsin on the schedule for 2020 and 2021 about as best as anyone could on Twitter. So, I’ll just drop that here:
— talkingBadgers (@talkingBadgers) September 12, 2017
We are assuming this will be a matchup of classic smash-mouth football teams in four year’s time. If that is still the case, expect some good football to be played and a defensive struggle to ensue. In today’s game, I’ll take that over mistake-prone, sling it anywhere offense. Call me old-fashioned.
2. Iowa at Ohio State (Oct. 10)
Take your pick of the cross-divisional games for the Hawkeyes in 2020, because the Big Ten did a Wisconsin on them — not only putting Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State on the schedule, but doing it in back-to-back-to-back weeks as well. I’ll take the game sandwiched in the middle of it all, because by our calculations this should be the year on the Ferentz calendar where the Hawkeyes win a Big Ten championship (or at least a division crown). That could set up a huge matchup in Columbus between these two teams.
1. Nebraska @ Penn State (Nov. 7)
These two old Legends division rivals will meet again. Of course these two programs are different today than back in 2011-2013 and Penn State may be more powerful in 2020 than they are now. Plus, who knows if Mike Riley will be there. But, these are two of the bigger “brand” names in college football. Having them not play in the same conference for seven years is just awful, and that gets corrected in this two-year series. This game could have big implications for both teams and their divisional championship aspirations in this early November matchup.
That brings us to the next season and some very interesting movement of games.
Here is a full look at the 2021 Big Ten football schedule:
Top 5 cross-over games for 2021:
5. Michigan State at Northwestern (Sept. 4)
Both of these programs are likely in transition (either Dantonio is gone due to retirement or firing and Fitz seems likely to not be in Evanston much longer if you ask me). But, I have a feeling this game is going to be entertaining and vital. The two teams wouldn’t have met since the 2017 season at this point and seem likely to be needing this cross-over game to kick-start seasons where they will be searching for bowl eligibility.
4. Ohio State at Minnesota (Sept. 4)
A potential P.J. Fleck vs. Urban Meyer matchup is just simply fascinating to me. I don’t know about you, but these two personalities going up against each other in Week 1 of the college football season is one heck of a way to keep attention on the Big Ten all day long. Of course, that requires both personalities to be at their respective schools at the time of this game. Time will tell, but this could be one juicy game to open the season.
3. Iowa at Maryland (Oct. 23)
I know, right now this game doesn’t hold a marque spot or anything remotely resembling that. However, I have a distinct feeling that the Terps are on a huge trajectory up under D.J. Durkin and will be on solid footing by the time this game comes around. Let’s just call this game a hunch, as I believe both teams will need a win to keep pace in their respective divisions. What many would pass over on the schedule will become a massive matchup.
2. Michigan at Nebraska (Oct. 30)
If we’re talking about insane schedules, Michigan has it coming in 2021 to say the least. Not only do two of its cross-over games come on the road, but they come to Nebraska and Wisconsin and the Big Ten threw in an always interesting Northwestern to the mix as well. Nebraska and Michigan used to occupy the same division and both were in the doldrums for part of that time. The Huskers own a 2-1 advantage since joining the Big Ten, so we’ll see where these two programs are when this matchup happens, but it could be a massive one with title implications.
1. Penn State at Wisconsin (Sept. 4)
Last we left these two teams off, Penn State was still passing all over the Badgers secondary en route to the Rose Bowl. Penn State has gotten the better of the Badgers in the last few meetings overall, owning a three-game win streak in a series that now stands 9-9 overall. Those three games have all ended with PSU winning by a touchdown or less. Talk about a fun way to open up the season. But, could this Week 1 matchup also be between division contenders? That is the question only time will be able to answer.