All eyes on Happy Valley. In exactly one month.
Nearly a month after the conference announced it was restricting fall sports to a conference-only schedule, it released its new football schedule Wednesday morning. We’ll see how long it holds up. The season is slated to begin on its original weekend of September 5, but the mantra of “Jenga 41,” the name the league gave to this scheduling model, is flexibility.
Illinois and Ohio State will kick things off Thursday, September 3, with Wisconsin hosting Indiana the following day.
With a 10-game slate, each team kept its original opponents and gained one crossover. Northwestern was blessed with a visit from Michigan on November 21.
Earlier reports indicated the B1G would look to front-load divisional games, but that is not the case. Instead, Northwestern has challenging bookends to its season, playing what many project to be four of the top five teams in the conference during what are currently the first and last two weeks.
NU opens up on the road at Penn State on September 5 and closes the year hosting the Wolverines. The Wildcats have byes on October 10 and November 7.
Commissioner Kevin Warren told BTN’s Dave Revsine the revised schedule “epitomizes fluidity” and he’s taking everything day by day.
The Big Ten’s approach of starting the season on time was slightly different than other conferences like the SEC and Pac-12, which announced they would begin their seasons later in September.
The Big Ten Championship is still set for December 5, but it could be moved to the 12th or 19th, allowing for three weeks to make up games after November 21.
If officials determine the season can’t start on time, they can move it back as far as October 3. The current plan allows teams to open camps on Friday.
According to multiple reports, including The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach and the Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein, Warren spoke with student-athletes for two and a half hours Monday night to explain the conference’s new medical protocols and answer their questions. The consensus Warren said he got from them was they want to play, under the right guidelines.
It’s been well publicized that Warren’s son, Powers, plays football for Mississippi State. The commissioner told Auerbach that he’d feel comfortable with his son playing if he were in the Big Ten.
The schedule allows for 41 collapsible games, which are options to shuffle contests, assistant commissioner Kerry Kenny told Auerbach.
Now, the teams will wait and see how players respond to the conference’s decision. Minnesota star WR Rashod Bateman opted out Tuesday morning, and he surely won’t be the last big name to make that decision. Reports said Penn State stud linebacker Micah Parsons is expected to do the same Wednesday.
The conference also released updated testing standards. High-contact sports will be required to administer PCR tests to players twice per week, which have to be administered within three days of scheduled competition. The testing will be managed by an independent lab, like Major League Baseball does.
Warren told Auerbach testing will likely take place Mondays and mid-week so results are returned in time for Saturday games. He also mentioned that the league hopes to expand screening with rapid tests should they become available.
A lot has been made about how Ohio State and Michigan will not finish their regular season playing against one another, as “The Game” is arguably the biggest rivalry in all of college football and maybe even North American sports. For the first time since 1942 according to NBC Sports, the Wolverines will not end their season against the Buckeyes and will instead take on Northwestern at Ryan Field (which is basically the same thing).
NU is expected to resume workouts Wednesday after it announced Monday that one player tested positive for COVID-19. The team has exactly a month left to prepare for its first 2020 matchup.