5. Michigan at Michigan State, Oct 15 TBD
These two teams don’t particularly like each other. After taking a two year break from the rivalry, Michigan State beat the Wolverines 34-17 at the Big House, extending their winning streak to three against their rivals.
This game will feature some great offense, including two of the best quarterbacks the Big Ten has to offer in Denard Robinson and Kirk Cousins. The winner might be the first team to score 60.
4. Michigan at Ohio State, Nov 26 TBD
The scumbags are gone, ala Jim Tressel, Rich Rodriguez, Terrelle Pryor, but the rivalry is not going anywhere. The past seven years have been all Buckeyes, but Brady Hoke and Heisman Trophy candidate Denard Robinson would like to change that.
This game won’t have the magnitude of the 2006 version, in which the teams ranked one and two in the entire country, but it’s still Ohio State and Michigan. Buckeye fans hope they have the next version of Troy Smith at quarterback, while the faithful in Ann Arbor just want their defense to stop somebody this season.
3. Wisconsin at Illinois, Nov 19 TBD
It’s never easy predicting how the bipolar Illini football team will perform in any given season. When they are primed to breakout, they disappoint, and when you forget they are even there, they shock the college football world. So what will it be this season? No Mikel Leshoure. No Martez Wilson. No Corey Liguet. The Illini won’t do anything this season right? Well, that’s what they want you to think.
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase returns after a great freshman season and looks to be even better in 2011. The young QB finished last year on a high note, throwing 13 TD’s and 1 INT in his final seven games. Few freshman quarterbacks get the opportunity to start every game in the Big Ten, but Scheelhaase did and that experience will make him that much better this year.
The Illini won’t be many people’s pick to challenge in the Big Ten in 2011, but a favorable schedule could set up a big game in Champaign against the Badgers. With the Buckeyes in a state of chaos, Illinois may be the only challenger to the Badgers in the Leaders Division. It may seem crazy, but this game could decide who plays in Indianapolis in December.
2. Wisconsin at Ohio State, Oct 29 8 pm EST
The Buckeyes may be down this season, but don’t think for a second they have forgotten about last season’s game against the Badgers. Ohio State entered the matchup as the #1 team in the nation but everything changed after Badgers wide receiver David Gilreath returned the opening kick for a touchdown.
Wisconsin won the game, handing the Buckeyes their only loss of the season, as Madison partied hard to Jump Around all night long. This year will be different for the Buckeyes, acknowledging the absence of Terrelle Pryor, Jim Tressel, and possibly the opportunity for a bowl game, but the hunger will still be there.
Could this be the game where the Buckeyes get revenge and end the Badgers undefeated season? Or will Wisconsin have their way with the wounded? The answer will depend on how the Buckeyes react to the situation and how quickly Braxton Miller will progress at quarterback.
1. Nebraska at Wisconsin, Oct 1 8pm EST
Forget saving the best for last. That must have been the thinking of the Big Ten when they clashed the two best teams in the conference on the opening weekend of Big Ten play. Aside from featuring two potential top-10 teams, this game will be the battle of the newcomers.
Nebraska enters the Big Ten after a solid 10-4 season in 2010. Freshman sensation Taylor Martinez dazzled early on, having many people talking Heisman. Those talks tailed off however, much like the Huskers, as Martinez played like a Freshman quarterback down the stretch, scoring only one touchdown in his final 4 games.
Now Martinez returns, along with senior defensive tackle Jared Crick who may be the best defensive lineman in the nation in 2011. Both will be key for Nebraska’s chances in the Big Ten and this game.
On the Wisconsin side, quarterback Russell Wilson should make his Big Ten debut in front of a rocking crowd at Camp Randall. Expectations vary for Wilson in Madison, but many feel that he could play a huge role for a team that was in pretty good shape without him.
The atmosphere for this game will be insane. Few teams march into Camp Randall and leave with a win, especially in primetime games. There is no question this is the best game the Big Ten has to offer, and the winner will be the favorite to win the Big Ten Championship in December.