What will the 2020 season hold for the usual suspects, and which teams may make a startling challenge for the conference title? Those are naturally important questions for the Big Ten, but there are many, many more.
6 Big Ten teams will begin conference play on opening weekend. Indiana and Wisconsin will be the first to go at it when the Hoosiers travel to the defending west division champs Badgers on Friday, September 4.
The next day, Northwestern travels to Michigan State, and Purdue visits Nebraska.
The question looming in East Lansing is how soon Michigan State will have a head coach. Mark Dantonio stepped down February 4 and a number of quality candidates, including Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell, have resisted overtures to leave their present post.
Nebraska and Northwestern are both looking to rebound from terrible 2019 campaigns. We can't help but wonder what the online sports betting sites believe in the chances of that to occur. The Cornhuskers, 5-7 a year ago, have endured three consecutive losing seasons - the program's longest such streak since a 6-year stretch of futility from 1956-1961. Meanwhile, the Wildcats finished 3-9 last season after being picked by some to win the west division.
The intersectional spotlight for opening weekend will be on Michigan as the Wolverines travel to Washington for the debut of new Huskies' head coach, Jimmy Lake. It's a huge game for the Blue and Maize, and head coach Jim Harbaugh, which need to demonstrate early that they have a shot at beating Ohio State at the end of the year and claiming a Big Ten title.
Speaking of Ohio State, the Buckeyes have won or tied for 8 straight division titles. They are the three-time defending conference champs. Ryan Day was an impressive 13-1 in his debut as the head coach in Columbus and he'll begin 2020 with another victory as the Buckeyes will welcome Bowling Green to "The Shoe".
Week 2 presents a much bigger challenge for Ohio State when the program hits the road for the pacific northwest to face Oregon, the reigning PAC-12 champs. The Ducks were 12-2 a year ago and are 21-6 in the first two seasons of the Mario Cristobal era.
Penn State also gets a breather in week 1 by hosting MAC member Kent State, but heads to Blacksburg the following week for the first-ever meeting between the Nittany Lions and Hokies.
The very first game for any Big Ten team this season falls on Thursday, September 3 when FAU visits Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are coming off a historic 11-2 campaign under third-year head coach P.J. Fleck. FAU was a 49-6 winner over UAB for the Conference USA title last year as the Owls finished 11-3, but head coach Lane Kiffin has since moved on to Ole Miss.
Rutgers will be looking to end 5 straight years of sub-.500 football with the return of Greg Schiano as head coach. The Scarlet Knights will ease into the schedule with a home game versus Monmouth before hosting Syracuse in week 2.
Obviously, we won't know everything we need to know about the Big ten after those first two weeks, but they will be telling.