6 games that will decide who makes the B1G Championship Game
After tweaking the schedule a few times, the B1G is committed to the third edition of its slate. With just 8 conference-only games in the regular season, every matchup means so much more in 2020.
Here are 6 games that will decide which teams will find themselves in the B1G Championship Game on Dec. 19.
Ohio State at Penn State
Date: Oct. 31
2019 result: Ohio State 28, Penn State 17
Why it matters: As it stands right now, the final games of the B1G regular season take place Dec. 12. However, it’s possible we’ll be watching the B1G East title showdown in Week 2 of the conference slate. There’s a good chance Ohio State and Penn State will be favored in their 7 other scheduled matchups, so plenty will be on the line in this one, maybe even a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Ohio State star quarterback Justin Fields competing probably for one final season is great news for college football and Buckeyes fans as he is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country. Unfortunately for Penn State, it appears college football will miss out on a whiteout in a packed Beaver Stadium, which could have been a great equalizer.
Ohio State has won 7 of the last 8 games in the series, with Penn State getting a home win in 2016.
Iowa at Minnesota
Date: Nov. 14
2019 result: Iowa 23, Minnesota 19
Why it matters: Well first of all, the winner of this game gets a pig trophy, so this is serious business no matter how good the teams are. Both teams should have fairly good passing games this season. Nate Stanley ran out of eligibility, but Spencer Petras will take over the quarterback spot for Iowa with plenty of options to go to.
For Minnesota, Tyler Johnson ran out of eligibility, but Rashad Bateman opted back in to the season after first saying he would get himself prepared for the NFL Draft, where he is projected by some to be a 1st-round pick.
After its upstart season last year, Minnesota joins Iowa as B1G West challengers to perennial favorite Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes have won each of the past 5 games in the series.
Minnesota at Wisconsin
Date: Nov. 28
2019 result: Wisconsin 38, Minnesota 17
Why it matters: Wisconsin and Minnesota play each other for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, which is among the coolest trophies in all of sports. With the Badgers chugging along for the past few decades, this has been a one-sided rivalry in recent years until Minnesota beat up on them in 2018 to give this game a little more excitement.
Wisconsin shouldn’t have many issues on the defensive side of the ball, but the Badgers are replacing two offensive stars from last season in wide receiver Quintez Cephus and running back Jonathan Taylor, both now in the NFL. In addition, the Badgers will likely be starting the season with redshirt freshman Graham Mertz at QB as Jack Coan battles through a foot injury. Who knows who will be at the helm a month from now?
For Minnesota, it will be interesting to see how well Tanner Morgan performs at quarterback. The Golden Gophers lost Johnson at wide receiver to the NFL, but Bateman remains. Regardless, the receiving corps isn’t as deep as last season, and Morgan will have his work cut out for him against this Wisconsin defense.
In 2018, Minnesota reclaimed the axe for the first time since 2003, but Wisconsin won in a snowy game to close out the 2019 regular season.
Penn State at Michigan
Date: Nov. 28
2019 result: Penn State 28, Michigan 21
Why it matters: This is an incredibly important late-November matchup, especially if Penn State finds a way to beat Ohio State earlier in the season. The Big House can be a tough place to win.
A major key to this game could come from the quarterback position. Will Penn State’s Sean Clifford continue his improvement from last season, and what can we expect from Michigan? Joe Milton is expected to be the Week 1 starter for the Wolverines. Shea Patterson was a quality B1G quarterback last year, but Jim Harbaugh’s ongoing quest to find a star QB continues.
Penn State and Michigan played each other fairly evenly the past decade with the Nittany Lions winning 6 of the last 10 matchups.
Wisconsin at Iowa
Date: Dec. 12
2019 result: Wisconsin 24, Iowa 22
Why it matters: This annual matchup is for the Heartland Trophy. Is it possible the B1G has too many trophy games? Of course not, so why even ask such a silly question? If you love old-school, ground-and-pound college football, Wisconsin and Iowa going up against one another should be the highlight of your fall. We know both teams will run, run and run some more.
This matchup will take place on the final day of the regular season, so both teams’ quarterbacks should have plenty of experience by then. But Graham Mertz and Spencer Petras are likely to be the quarterbacks to start the year, and they’ve combined to throw 21 career passes in college. Depending on how the season goes, quarterback play could be a major factor in this game — and in determining how much this game matters.
The Badgers have won 7 of the last 8 games in the series, including the last 4.
Michigan at Ohio State
Date: Dec. 12
2019 result: Ohio State 56, Michigan 27
Why it matters: The newest version of the B1G schedule will feature Ohio State and Michigan playing on the final day of the regular season. Can Harbaugh get his first win against Ohio State? It’s hard to say there’s much pressure on him and Michigan because I don’t think most people consider the Wolverines to be much of a threat to the Buckeyes at this point. The gap between the two programs has continued to increase with Ohio State scoring 56 and 62 points the last 2 times the teams met.
The rivalry is heating up more off the field than it is on the field. After Jim Harbaugh called out Ohio State during a B1G coaches conference call this offseason, OSU coach Ryan Day reportedly told his players the Buckeyes plan on scoring 100 points against Michigan in this one.
Ohio State has won the last 8 games of this matchup and 15 of 16.
Still, if Michigan enters with 1 or zero losses, this classic rivalry game will matter — a lot.