The B1G West may truly be the wild, wild West this season.
As everyone remembers, Northwestern captured the division last season by going 8-1 in B1G play. But after losing quarterback Clayton Thorson, many expect the division to be a tougher battle in 2019.
Preseason predictions vary drastically across analysts and publications, and it truly may be the wildest division in all of college football. As we settle in and get ready for Week 1 action, here are the five games that will likely decide the B1G West:
There’s nothing like the last game of the season to decide the division champ, and that could be the exact scenario. The Hawkeyes won nine games last season and return a number of key players. For Nebraska, expectations continue to rise entering the second year of Scott Frost and Adrian Martinez. This showdown in Lincoln could be huge.
Set for a September 28 showdown, this will be a great early test for both teams. The Badgers and Wildcats are coming off of games against Michigan and Michigan State, respectively, but this will be the first division game for both sides. It should shed a lot of light on who has an early leg up on contending. Northwestern returns a lot defensively while the Badgers still have Jonathan Taylor to lean on offensively.
This game is set for November 16 and could play a late factor in the division. By this point, P.J. Fleck’s Gophers will know if they are in the West until the end or playing for a bowl bid. For the Hawkeyes, they’ll likely be playing for the division, and possibly even more if things fall just right. Minnesota will likely be on the outside looking in at the division race, but they would love to add a signature road win over a (likely) ranked Iowa squad late in the season.
Another game set for November 16, this will be a battle between two teams looking for a bit of redemption this season. The Cornhuskers are looking to put last year’s 4-8 debacle in the past while the Badgers fell flat after preseason Playoff expectations a year ago. Both teams are likely to still be in the West race at this point, and the showdown in Lincoln will be one you won’t want to miss.
Another last game of the season, this rivalry showdown could loom larger than normal. In fact, look for the outcomes of the Nebraska-Iowa game and The Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe to ultimately decide a West winner. If the Badgers take care of busy up to this game, a revenge victory over the Gophers will mean a trip to Indianapolis. If Wisconsin falters in the game, the Cornhuskers or Hawkeyes may be playing for a trip to the B1G Championship. Either way, expect plenty of fireworks in Minneapolis on November 30.