Conspiracy Theory Saturday got off to a bang when the Big Ten’s Week 1 schedule was released on Fox Sports' “Big Noon” kickoff show.
Guess where Nebraska, the Big Ten’s rogue member, starts the season?
Columbus, Ohio. The Shoe. Have fun starting 0-1 on Oct. 24 (or 23).
“I think Ohio State will be a two-to-three touchdown favorite,” said Fox Sports analyst Urban Meyer, whose Buckeyes just slid past the Huskers (36-31) during his final season as coach.
Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields learned of the Nebraska matchup during ESPN’s “GameDay” show. He helped bring Big Ten football back by launching a #LetUsPlay online petition: “The stuff we had to go through was crazy. It’s mind-blowing the way God works. Our whole team’s excited. We can’t wait.”
More fodder for the pro-conspiracy crowd: Nebraska’s other crossover opponent (from the East) is Penn State.
The Huskers, who semi-threatened to play outside the Big Ten after fall football originally was postponed in August, could not have a tougher draw.
Ohio State is the league’s best hope for a College Football Playoff berth. Its other crossover opponent is Illinois — not Wisconsin or Minnesota, considered by most the best from the West.
Penn State’s second crossover is Iowa.
Here are 10 other takeaways:
1. Illinois gets the best and worst if it.
The Illini go to Rutgers on Nov. 14 and host Ohio State two weeks later.
The Scarlet Knights seemed to get dragged into the Big Ten’s restart, implying their availability for games would be a week-to-week decision. Would Illinois get a win if Rutgers doesn’t suit up and cite COVID-19 cases?
2. Pat Fitzgerald & Co. should be thrilled with Northwestern’s draw.
The Wildcats open with Maryland, which lost its final seven games last season and barely has practiced because of an on-campus outbreak.
In Week 6 Northwestern travels to Michigan State, which has a depleted roster and coach Mel Tucker in his first season with the Spartans.
3. Each team is guaranteed 8 games.
The Big Ten title game is set for Dec. 19, one day before College Football Playoff selections will be announced. “Champions Week,” as the Big Ten calls it, doubles as Consolation Week, with plans to have the No. 2 team from the West take on No. 2 from the East, 3 versus 3, 4 versus 4, etc.
4. There’s no announcement yet on non-Saturday games.
The first teams are slated to kick off Oct. 23, a Friday.
5. Fox Sports analyst Joel Klatt tweeted his belief that Ohio State drew the most favorable schedule.
Klatt then listed Wisconsin and Minnesota, both of whom cross over against Michigan.
Guess Klatt isn’t too high on the Wolverines.
“Not playing Ohio State is the only factor,” Klatt replied on Twitter.
6. Wisconsin and Minnesota also have legitimate playoff aspirations.
Wisconsin’s crossovers are Michigan (home) and Indiana (road). Minnesota opens at Michigan and hosts Maryland in Week 2.
7. Michigan fans are upset about the schedule, somewhat understandably.
On top of facing East foes Ohio State and Penn State, its crossovers are Minnesota and Wisconsin.
8. Speaking of Ohio State and Penn State …
The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions will meet in Week 2 in State College, Penn. No “whiteout” though. The only spectators will be family members of players and coaches.
9. Week 1 has several sneaky-good games.
Michigan travels to Minnesota for the Little Brown Jug. Gophers star receiver Rashod Bateman has re-enrolled and hopes to rejoin the team after opting out last month. Michigan has had several opt-outs, including quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, who is seeking a transfer. Standout offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield hopes to return.
Also in Week 1: A rematch of Illinois’ upset of Wisconsin last season, Penn State-Indiana and Purdue-Iowa. Will Rondale Moore, the conference’s most exciting player, get back in gold and black after an August opt-out?
10. Michigan-Ohio State is on the final Saturday of the season.
As it should be. It’s a Dec. 12 game in the Horseshoe.
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