The 2019 college football season marks the 150th anniversary of the sport’s first game, the 1869 encounter between Rutgers and Princeton.
The Big Ten, America’s oldest conference dating to 1896, celebrates that tradition heartily. That history feeds into our list of the most intriguing week-by-week Big Ten college football games of 2019, though the main focus is on the near future. This year could see one of the best Big Ten title races in recent memory, in both divisions.
There is, however, one old-school rivalry trophy game we simply cannot resist.
Week 1: Northwestern at Stanford
Two brainiac schools, each boasting very solid football programs with designs on the Rose Bowl, clash Aug. 31 in Palo Alto. These teams have met seven times but not since 2015.
Week 2: Nebraska at Colorado
An old Big 8/Big 12 clash renews again on Sept. 7 in Boulder. Last year’s meeting in Lincoln saw Cornhuskers quarterback Adrian Martinez limp off injured as the Buffs rallied to win.
Week 3: Penn State vs. Pittsburgh
Another great old rivalry is rekindled Sept. 14 in Happy Valley. These schools first met in 1893, just the seventh year of the Nittany Lions’ football program. =Sadly, after this year the battle for Pennsylvania college football supremacy will take another hiatus.
Week 4: Michigan at Wisconsin
This is a dandy matchup on Sept. 21 in Madison as the conference schedule somewhat kicks into gear (there are two other Big Ten games but several other league programs still play out of conference). Both teams have league title hopes and neither will relish the thought of starting 0-1 in the B1G.
Week 5: Penn State at Maryland
Was this a rivalry before the Terrapins joined the B1G? Depends who you ask — PSU leads the all-time series 39-2-1, so from a Maryland perspective it has been a source of pain. Anyway this game is Sept. 27, a Friday night, and Maryland will cancel some classes that day to try to rev up the atmosphere.
Week 6: Michigan State at Ohio State
The Spartans are looking to shake off an uncharacteristic 7-6 campaign and would love to prove they’re back in the thick of the league title race on Oct. 5 in Columbus. The Buckeyes have won the past three in the series by blowout (48-3, 2017), nail-biter (17-16, 2016) and in between (26-6, 2018).
Week 7: Penn State at Iowa
Last year’s game was a squeaker, 30-24 to PSU in Happy Valley. The Hawkeyes will host the Nittany Lions Oct. 12 in Iowa City looking to put themselves forward as a B1G West Division contender.
Week 8: Ohio State at Northwestern
The rematch of last year’s B1G title game will be a measuring stick for both teams on Oct. 18 (another Friday night) in Evanston. The Wildcats got within 31-24 early in the fourth quarter last December in Indianapolis before Dwayne Haskins (499 passing yards, 5 TDs) and the Buckeyes pulled away.
Week 9: Michigan vs. Notre Dame
Both teams will have this one, Oct. 26 in Ann Arbor, circled well in advance. Michigan harbored College Football Playoff dreams well into November in 2018. The Fighting Irish turned those dreams into a reality, carrying an unbeaten season into the CFP before Clemson trounced Notre Dame in the semifinals.
Week 10: Nebraska at Purdue
Admittedly this is the only decent matchup in a fairly weak week (sorry) that has only four B1G games on the docket. Still, this Nov. 2 meeting in West Lafayette will be interesting just to see if the Cornhuskers defense and special teams can handle electric Boilermakers star Rondale Moore.
Week 11: Iowa at Wisconsin
This game, Nov. 9 in Madison, could well be a determining factor in the B1G West Division race. The Badgers have won three straight in the series; no senior class has left Iowa with four losses to Wisconsin since 2001.
Week 12: Minnesota at Iowa
Yes, we know Michigan State is at Michigan this week. But this one, Nov. 16 in Iowa City, is bigger than all of that. This is the B1G’s best trophy at stake, the Floyd of Rosedale. It’s a big bronze pig. But you knew that already (the Big Ten has the most fun trophy games by a mile, gang).
Week 13: Penn State at Ohio State
The B1G East race could well be settled Nov. 23 in Columbus if Michigan underperforms. Both teams are replacing outstanding quarterbacks — Trace McSorley (PSU) and Dwayne Haskins (OSU). The Buckeyes have erased double-digit fourth-quarter deficits each of the past two years against the Nittany Lions.
Week 14: Ohio State at Michigan
This week features splendid matchups and rivalry games to fire up the natives throughout the Midwest: Iowa at Nebraska, Wisconsin at Minnesota, Northwestern at Illinois, Indiana at Purdue. But if we have to explain this choice for game of the week, Nov. 30 in Ann Arbor, you’re reading the wrong website.