The Big Ten made a big move last week when it announced all fall sports would shift to a conference-only schedule — which includes the football season scheduled to kick off on September 5 — in response to the rapid growth of the coronavirus pandemic.
It was the first of the Power 5 leagues to make the move, but the Pac-12 followed closely, announcing the same plan for its conference two days later.
It was big news that put the ACC, Big 12 and SEC in a spot where they have to consider making a similar switch. The start of fall camp is rapidly approaching, and the pressure is increasing for athletic programs around the country to move forward with their biggest moneymaker.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 have already surrendered some marquee games. Michigan won't kick off its season with the cross-country voyage to Washington, and the same goes for Ohio State's trip to Oregon in Week 2. Penn State won't host Virginia Tech and Michigan State won't welcome Miami in Week 4. Iowa and Iowa State's annual rivalry game will have to take a one-year break, and the highly anticipated showdown between Wisconsin and Notre Dame at Lambeau Field was lost.
So where does the Buckeye football program stand now, and what happens next?
Exploring a 10-Game Big Ten Schedule
|10/17||@ Michigan State|
|10/24||@ Penn State|
Multiple reports indicate the Big Ten is considering an additional league game for this year's slate, bumping conference play from nine games to 10.
To the right is Ohio State's schedule as it stands after canceling its contests against Bowling Green, Oregon and Buffalo. The Buckeyes of course play the other six teams in the Big Ten's East Division. The cross-division matchups for this fall are Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska.
One of the benefits of canceling the nonconference games is it gives the Big Ten and its members flexibility. The league essentially gave itself a couple of extra bye-weeks. That's two more opportunities to isolate players who test positive for Covid-19 during a week without competition, if in fact the league is considering a 10th conference game.
And if that 10th game is in play, here are two options.
Add a Cross-Division Matchup
This is the option that makes the most sense from a competitive standpoint, but it's the riskiest from a safety perspective.
The league could and likely will take travel into consideration. It could map out the least amount of distance for its added cross-division matchups. So instead of making Maryland travel the 1,200 miles to face Nebraska (or vice versa), the league could pair the Cornhuskers with a team like Michigan, which is separated by 750 miles.
With that in mind, Purdue would be a good candidate for Ohio State's added opponent. It'd be a bit more travel, but the Buckeyes could also reciprocate the trip Wisconsin made to Columbus last fall with a visit to Camp Randall.
Play a Divisional Opponent Twice
This option would require less travel, but brings in some complicated tiebreakers in the event of a split. But oh... the possibilities.
What if the Big Ten allowed Ohio State and Michigan to face off against each other twice in one season? There's been talk of rearranging some of the more important conference games by front-loading them. The Buckeyes could host Michigan to open the season and then make a trip to Ann Arbor to end it.
Who says no to that?
Penn State and Michigan State could trade blows twice. Maryland and Rutgers could play the we totally belong here rematch. Then the outlier, Indiana, could matchup against in-state Purdue.
What's your ideal solution for the Big Ten adding a 10th game?