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Big Ten: The toughest schedules, easiest paths to championship

The Big Ten’s schedule is here, and some big early-season matchups are on the docket.

Week 2 of college football will orbit the Big Ten, where Halloween will be dominated by matchups between rivals: Ohio State at Penn State; Michigan State at Michigan; and Wisconsin at Nebraska. It’s those games that may very well decide battles in the East and West divisions early in the season, particularly the Buckeyes’ trip to Penn State.

Which teams have the easiest schedules and the toughest? Who has the easiest path to the Big Ten Championship? We’ll explore below as we rank the toughest to the easiest schedules.

The Big Ten decided Wednesday to reverse its decision to cancel the fall football season amid new medical breakthroughs (daily antigen testing for COVID-19) and announced an eight-game schedule with a ninth game tacked on during championship week. While the Big Ten Championship Game is played, the other teams not in Indianapolis will face off in a seeded format for one final game. They’re calling it Champions Week in the Big Ten on Dec. 19.

The schedule doesn’t give the conference room to breathe, however. No postponements will be allowed. If a game is unable to be played as scheduled, it will have to be canceled. That could hurt the playoff contenders in the eyes of the committee as other conferences such as the ACC, Big 12 and SEC built in bye weeks to potentially make up games and play as many as 10 games.

What happens if Penn State and Ohio State are unable to play in Week 2? Suddenly the strength of schedule for both teams take a gigantic hit, and the playoff committee might drop those teams much lower than we’re accustomed to seeing.

All of this will be discussed until we’re blue in the face in mid-November, when the first playoff rankings are released, by enough with the hypotheticals. Let’s breakdown what we know. Here are the toughest schedules in the Big Ten and the path to a Big Ten title for all 14 teams.

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