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Around the Big Ten: Setting up Week 1 and predicting the final standings

Welcome to Big Ten Football.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 01 Big Ten Championship Game - Northwestern v Ohio State Photo by Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Big Ten Football is back, everyone! Training camp is officially over for the 14 teams in the conference as they prepare for the first game of a nine-week sprint with no scheduled bye weeks. Game on.

“Around the Big Ten” will take a look at the happenings from the weekend, but this week we simply set the table for the season. Here is what the first weekend of games is set to look like for the conference.

All times Eastern

Friday, Oct. 23

Illinois at No. 14 Wisconsin, 8 p.m., Big Ten Network

This might not look all that interesting on paper, but there is an interesting juxtaposition here of Illinois being rather upperclassman heavy vs. Wisconsin, who is replacing a lot from last season (including a young starting quarterback in Graham Mertz). Illinois scored the upset in this game last year, too.

Saturday, Oct. 24

Rutgers at Michigan State, 12 p.m., Big Ten Network

My question for Michigan fans this week is whether it will be more fun for you to watch your in-state rival play a potentially competitive game against Rutgers or watch your rival to the south beat up on Scott Frost? This game could really stink, but features a pair of coaches making their debuts (Greg Schiano for the second time at Rutgers) at their respective schools.

Nebraska at No. 5 Ohio State, 12 p.m., FOX

See above.

Iowa at Purdue, 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

This one is immensely important in the Big Ten West pecking order. I can see the winner of this game emerging as a sleeper favorite in the division.

No. 8 Penn State at Indiana, 3:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1

Penn State comes into this year with big expectations after returning most of its team from last season. Indiana does the same from one of its best teams in program history. This one should be a heck of a lot of fun to watch.

Maryland at Northwestern, 7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

This is the game that competes with MSU-Rutgers as the one with the least amount of intrigue this week. However, there are certainly storylines to pull from with Maryland’s second year under Mike Locksley and some young star power on offense. If Peyton Ramsey plays well for Northwestern, the Wildcats could be primed for another Pat-ented Fitzgerald turnaround.

No. 18 Michigan at No. 21 Minnesota, 7:30 p.m., ABC

Easily the biggest game in the conference this week. Both of these teams come into the season looking for a shot to knock OSU off its pedestal. The signal-caller that performs better between Joe Milton and Tanner Morgan should put his team in the driver’s seat to win.

For good measure, here’s how I project the Big Ten to finish this upcoming season pending the COVID-altered season madness that I’m sure is to come.

2020 Big Ten Standings so far

West East
West East
No. 19 Northwestern (4-0) No. 9 Indiana (4-0)
No. 10 Wisconsin (2-0) No. 3 Ohio State (3-0)
Purdue (2-1) Maryland (2-1)
Iowa (2-2) Rutgers (1-3)
Nebraska (1-2) Michigan State (1-3)
Minnesota (1-3) Michigan (1-3)
Illinois (1-3) Penn State (0-4)