It doesn’t matter whether a team is competing for a B1G title and a College Football Playoff berth or scrounging around the bottom searching for a single victory, every program has that must-win game.

Some of the games we’ve had circled on our calendars since last season ended. Some of the matchups are so insignificant that we most probably aren’t aware they’re even happening. In a conference with a sizeable talent gap according to the Associated Press and Coaches polls, those must-win games range in magnitude and importance.

But, for each individual team, those games are extremely important. With that said, let’s not waste any additional time. Here are the must-win games for every B1G team this season.


Nov. 4 at Purdue

Why it’s a must-win: The second year of the Lovie Smith era might be a little better but there’s still plenty of work remaining in the rebuilding process. There aren’t many winnable games on Illinois’ schedule this season so the Illini need to take advantage of every one.


Sept. 9 at Virginia

Why it’s a must-win: Assuming Indiana doesn’t knock off Ohio State in the season opener, the Hoosiers have a huge road test against Virginia the following Saturday. This has the feeling of a swing game that could dictate the remainder of the season. With the best team IU has had in years, starting the year 0-2 would be a bit of a letdown, even in Bloomington.


Oct. 28 vs. Minnesota

Why it’s a must-win: Closing out October with a win is extremely important for the Hawkeyes, especially considering the first two weeks of November are brutal. Iowa needs a win against the Gophers to build momentum heading into games against Ohio State and Wisconsin to begin the final month of the season.


Sept. 23 vs. UCF

Why it’s a must-win: Look at Maryland’s schedule. Even for a team that’s expected to see dramatic improvement, wins are extremely difficult to come by. Beating UCF would give the Terrapins a jolt before starting an absolutely brutal conference slate.

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Nov. 25 vs. Ohio State

Why it’s a must-win: Brady Hoke once said “it’s the most important game on the schedule.” Though Jim Harbaugh has done magnificent things in two years, he’s 0-2 against the Buckeyes. Fans are going to get a little restless if Michigan doesn’t win this year.

Michigan State

Oct. 21 vs. Indiana

Why it’s a must-win: You could probably that Michigan State has four or five must-win games this year considering the circumstances. Before a three-game stretch that includes trips to Northwestern and Ohio State, with a home game against Penn State sandwiched in between, the Spartans get Indiana at home. Lose that game and Michigan State will be limping to the finish line.


Oct. 14 vs. Michigan State

Why it’s a must-win: Outside of a road trip to Oregon State in non-conference play, this could be the first true challenge P.J. Fleck encounters in his new position. Beat the Spartans and Minnesota might just prove to be a contender in a wide open West.


Nov. 24 vs. Iowa

Why it’s a must-win: Nebraska hasn’t lost three-straight to Iowa since the 1940s, granted the series was sporadic until the Huskers joined the B1G. Winning a rivalry game to close out the year is an excellent way to build confidence for a young team. Plus, Big Red Nation won’t be happy if Mike Riley falls to 0-3 against the Hawkeyes.


Sept. 30 at Wisconsin

Why it’s a must-win: This is a big one for the Wildcats, but one they have to win to prove they can compete in the West. Pat Fitzgerald has said he wants his team to take the next step and start challenging for division titles. The first step is knocking off the reigning champs.

Ohio State

Oct. 28 vs. Penn State

Why it’s a must-win: Remember what happened the last time Ohio State lost a critical home game? With College Football Playoff implications on the line, a loss in Columbus could cost the Buckeyes one of the four bids, just like 2015. All eyes will be on this late October battle.

Penn State

Oct. 21 vs. Michigan

Why it’s a must-win: Honestly, you could take your pick here. Penn State battles Michigan and Ohio State in back-to-back weeks. That’s going to be a major test for the reigning champs. Penn State plays Michigan at home and a week before the matchup with the Buckeyes. The chances of repeating as B1G champs takes a real hit if the Nittany Lions can’t beat the Wolverines.


Oct. 21 at Rutgers

Why it’s a must-win: With three really tough games to start B1G play, the Boilermakers have to come away with a win in Piscataway to prove they’ve got some fight. If Purdue can’t beat Rutgers, Jeff Brohm may not win a league game in his first year in West Lafayette.


Sept. 9 vs. Eastern Michigan

Why it’s a must-win: Chris Ash’s team is going to be better than last season, but that won’t necessarily show up in the win column in 2017. Beating Eastern Michigan would ensure the Scarlet Knights get at least two wins again this fall. A loss to a mediocre MAC program would be a pretty telling sign and would turn a lot of fans away really early in the year.


Sept. 30 vs. Northwestern

Why it’s a must-win: The Wildcats appear to be the biggest challenger in the West. And the Badgers have had trouble with Fitzgerald and Co. recently. Owning the head-to-head matchup could be crucial in determining the division winner.