The Big Ten released a revised schedule for the 2021 football season on Friday, ensuring that traditional rivalry games revert back to the final week of the regular season, among other notable changes. Six Big Ten matchups will be played at different sites than originally planned, and dates for many other games have been changed.
The conference reduced the number of games in its 2020 season to eight games because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The adjustments made to the 2021 schedule should avoid needing the same home team having to host for three years in a row for those games. Spreading around the burden of hosting throughout the other teams for the six games, this is likely in the hope that teams can manage their safety protocols appropriately.
WHICH GAMES CHANGED LOCATION?
Here are the games that changed venues from the original schedule that was laid out in 2017: Michigan State at Indiana on Oct. 16; Wisconsin at Purdue on Oct. 23; Michigan at Michigan State on Oct. 30; Purdue at Nebraska on Oct. 30; Indiana at Michigan on Nov. 6; and Nebraska at Wisconsin on Nov. 20.
Two rivalry games were moved back to their traditional spots at the end of the regular season. Iowa plays at Nebraska on Nov. 26, and Wisconsin visits Minnesota on Nov. 27, joining Ohio State and Michigan in Ann Arbor, Indiana visiting Purdue and Illinois hosting Northwestern during the final weekend slate.
KEY MATCHUPS TO WATCH
The Big Ten schedule will also see several neutral site games for fans to feast on. Nebraska and Illinois will tentatively kick off the conference season in Dublin, Ireland, on Aug. 28, while Wisconsin will face Notre Dame on Sept. 25 at Soldier Field in Chicago. Former Wisconsin QB Jack Coan transferred to the Irish this offseason.
Northwestern’s home game against Purdue on Nov. 20 will be played at Wrigley Field in Chicago, according to reports, after the Wildcats were originally scheduled to play Wisconsin inside the Chicago Cubs’ home last season before the pandemic forced scheduling changes across the sport.
Illinois hosts Wisconsin in Champaign on Oct. 9, with new Illini head coach Bret Bielema facing his former team for the first time since departing Madison.
WATCH OUT IN WEEK 2
The second week of the regular season slate features some very interesting non-conference matchups that could certainly impact rankings as the season progresses. Ohio State will host Oregon, Michigan will host Washington, and Iowa resumes its in-state rivalry with Iowa State when they visit the Cyclones on Sept. 11.
That marquee matchup between the Buckeyes and Ducks will be the first meeting between the two schools since the 2015 National Championship, won by Ohio State inside AT&T Stadium. OSU remains a perfect 9-0 against Oregon all-time.
Indiana hopes to build off their remarkable 2020 season where they finished 6-1 in the conference, and the Hoosiers have an intriguing non-conference tilt with Cincinnati in Week 3 in Bloomington.
As it currently stands, the Big Ten is planning on operating the schedule as is, with no COVID-19 contingencies built-in. However, league officials are fully aware that changes could be necessary and last year prepared them to adapt if circumstances arise.