Back in mid-August, the Big Ten canceled its football season for 2020 because of the coronavirus and planned to play in the winter/spring of 2021. However, that decision didn’t go over well with coaches, players, fans, even President Trump. The ACC, Big 12 and SEC started their seasons in September and finally the pressure was too much for fairly new Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren.
Big Ten Football | 2020 Expert AnalysisA little over a month later, Warren announced the Big Ten would indeed play in the fall with the league’s presidents and chancellors unanimously voting to resume competition. The conference kicks off this weekend.
Each team will attempt to play eight games in eight weeks, leaving no wiggle room during the coronavirus pandemic before the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 19 in Indianapolis. That date will also feature an extra cross-division game for each school, with seeded teams in each division squaring off. Normal Big Ten schedules consist of teams playing a nine-game conference slate. The marquee Ohio State-Michigan game, one of the most watched in college football each season, will be played on Dec. 12 instead of its normal late November slot.
There will be daily testing of players and as we have seen lately, there are going to be problems at some point and likely cancellations. In addition, some star players could be sidelined for a while. Any Big Ten p players who test positive for COVID-19 must wait at least 21 days to return to competition, as they will undergo “comprehensive cardiac testing” before being cleared by a cardiologist. Each Big Ten team will designate a chief infection officer to report data about testing to the league.
Ohio State is the -400 favorite to win yet another Big Ten title and is clearly the most talented team in the conference. The Buckeyes open Saturday at home vs. Nebraska and we will have a preview of that later this week.
Penn State is the +500 second-favorite to win the Big Ten but lost its best overall player and one of the top linebackers in the nation, Micah Parsons, to an opt out. Parsons racked up 109 tackles, including 14 tackles for loss, and five sacks as a sophomore last season while earning consensus All-American honors and the Big Ten’s Linebacker of the Year award. He was also a Butkus Award finalist. Penn State as at Indiana on Saturday.
A few other big-name players who opted out in the Big Ten did choose to opt back in, though. The two most notable being All-American receiver Rashod Bateman of Minnesota and Rondale Moore of Purdue.
Bateman had 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns in 13 games for the Gophers last year, leading the conference with an average of 20.3 yards per reception. He was named the Big Ten’s Richter–Howard Receiver of the Year and was one of 12 finalists for the Biletnikoff Award.
In 2018, Moore was the first true freshman all-American in Big Ten history, but he was limited to just four games last year due to injury. Moore said the Big Ten’s enhanced safety protocols, especially around daily antigen testing, made him comfortable playing in 2020. Purdue opens Saturday vs. Iowa.
Michigan drew the toughest crossover schedule in the East Division A challenging opener awaits Michigan’s young cornerbacks at Minnesota on Saturday, then a Week 4 game against Wisconsin will test Don Brown’s defense. The Wolverines have to replace two-year starting QB Shea Patterson.
Michigan State opens the Mel Tucker era on Saturday vs. Rutgers. Tucker was hired away from Colorado to replace Mark Dantonio as head coach. Tucker likely has a year or two of rebuilding ahead of him as the Spartans lost a lot of talent off last year’s team. Tucker was only 5-7 in his one year at Colorado yet MSU made him one of the Top-15 highest-paid coaches in the country.
Purdue may not have coach Jeff Brohm for Saturday’s opener. He tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday. He could still be back by the weekend with enough negative tests. Alabama coach Nick Saban tested positive last week but subsequently tested negative three times and was able to coach during the Crimson Tide’s win over Georgia on Saturday.
Here’s the full Week 1 schedule with TV network:Friday
- Illinois at Wisconsin | 8 p.m. |BTN
- Rutgers at Michigan State | 12 p.m. | BTN
- Nebraska at Ohio State | 12 p.m. | FOX
- Penn State at Indiana | 3:30 p.m. | FS1
- Iowa at Purdue | 3:30 p.m. | BTN
- Michigan at Minnesota | 7:30 p.m. | ABC
- Maryland at Northwestern | 7:30 p.m. | BTN
- Ohio State -400
- Penn State +500
- Wisconsin +600
- Michigan +1500
- Minnesota +2200
- Iowa +2500
- Nebraska +5000
- Purdue +10000
- Michigan State +15000
- Indiana +15000
- Northwestern +35000
- Maryland +40000
- Illinois +50000
- Rutgers N/A
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