The Big Ten’s move to a nine-game conference football schedule wasn’t the only new look in the 2016 and 2017 schedules released Thursday.
How’s this for Ohio State’s season opener in 2017: The Buckeyes will open the year Sept. 2 at Indiana — their first opener against a Big Ten school since 1978 (Michigan State) and their first debut on the road since 1998 (West Virginia).
What will not change, to the delight of most, is their other bookend. OSU and Michigan will continue to play on the last Saturday of the regular season: Nov. 25, 2016, in Columbus and Nov. 26, 2017, in Ann Arbor.
The rest of the conference schedules featured few surprises. Ohio State opens the 2016 season Sept. 3 at home against Bowling Green and hosts Rutgers on Oct. 1 in its Big Ten opener.
The Buckeyes, who along with Michigan will play in a remodeled seven-team East division, host Northwestern and Nebraska and travel to Wisconsin for their crossover games against West opponents in 2016; they host Illinois and travel to Nebraska and Iowa in 2017.
Michigan opens conference play Oct. 1 at home against Wisconsin in 2016 and Sept. 23 at Purdue in 2017. Both are among the Wolverines’ crossover games.
The Wolverines will also host Illinois and visit Iowa in 2016, then host Minnesota and travel to Wisconsin in 2017. Though the league has moved to parity-based scheduling for crossover games, one quirk stood out — Michigan will not play Nebraska between 2014 and 2017.
UM and OSU should both expect an increased dose of early conference games in the future.
While the Big Ten Conference play in recent years has not started until the fourth or fifth week, the league wants to follow the lead of the Southeastern Conference, among others, in gaining early exposure.