Revised Big Ten Schedule to Start on Labor Day Weekend

Tom Brew

The Big Ten released its revised schedule on Wednesday morning and, unlike the other conferences, the league will start on time during Labor Day weekend.

The league wants to start early – at least for now — so they can build in bye weeks in case games need to be moved if positive COVID-19 tests become a problem at certain universities. Two bye weeks are built in, and all games are scheduled through Nov. 21, not a week later that Saturday after Thanksgiving as usual. Just about all conference schools are sending their students home for good after the holiday weekend.

There is still plenty of concern about whether the season can start on time or not, because six Big Ten schools already have had to pause workouts because of excessive positive tests. Players safety is still the first and foremost priority, according to conference commissioner Kevin Warren.

"It would be purely speculation for me to sit here today and say that this is the percent chance I think we have a season," he said. "What went into the decision was to afford us the best possible opportunity to be as flexible as we possibly can." 

The bye weeks start in October for three weeks, and the schedule was set up for teams who are playing early in the year to share the same bye weeks in case games need to be moved. All 14 schools also have crossover games scheduled in Week 1 and Week 12.

The schedule is constructed in a way that allows the season to start as early as the weekend of Sept. 5, but also provides the ability to move the start of the season back to Sept. 12, 19 or 26 through strategic sequencing that allows games to be moved to a latter part of the schedule

For now, the Big Ten Championship Game remains scheduled for Dec. 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, though it could be moved as late as Dec. 19.

Teams can begin preseason practices on Friday, Aug. 7, or earlier if permitted under NCAA guidelines related to first dates of scheduled competition.

There were several topics where people were most curious. Such as:

Starting time for season

The league will use the extra days of Labor Day weekend to spread out the games on the Week 1 schedule. The first game will be on Thursday night, Sept. 3, when Ohio State, the conference favorites, travel to Illinois.

Indiana will play at Wisconsin on Friday, Sept. 4. That's the only game from the original Week 1 schedule that remained intact.

There will be five games on Saturday, Sept. 5, including Minnesota at Michigan State, Nebraska at Rutgers, Northwestern at Penn State, Purdue at Michigan and Maryland at Iowa.

Adding a 10th game for everyone

The league added one crossover game to everyone's schedule. The league normally plays nine games, six inside the division and three crossover games. It's been debated since July 9 as to how the draw would go with the added game and how it might impact the division races. Here are the new games:

  • Ohio State at Purdue
  • Penn State at Illinois
  • Indiana at Minnesota
  • Maryland at Iowa
  • Michigan State at Nebraska
  • Michigan at Northwestern
  • Rutgers at Wisconsin

Bye weeks built into schedule

Several bye weeks are built into the schedule in October, which are Weeks 5-7 on the schedule. Teams who are playing each other during the two previous weeks have the same bye weeks in case games need to be moved.

The schedule will be able to remain flexible as its goes along as well. That final week of the season on Nov. 28 could be used as well as needed, and the league also announced that they have the ability to move the date of the conference championship games as need be.

When rivalry games are played

The big one, the Michigan-Ohio State game is in Week 8 on Oct. 24 in Columbus, and not at the end of the season. Indiana and Purdue is the only normal rivalry to end the season.

Minnesota and Wisconsin are playing each other in Week 4. Nebraska and Iowa, also usually a final-season game, will be played that same weekend, on Sept. 26.

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