The 2017 season is still several months away. But we never stop looking forward here at the Big Ten blog.
It may be ridiculously early, but we’re examining what will be the must-win game and the potential trap game for each league team this fall. Up next: the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Must-win game: Oct. 7 vs. Wisconsin. Nebraska’s chances to make its first Big Ten championship appearance since 2012 meet its first -- and likely its biggest -- obstacle during the first week of October. Wisconsin remains the team to beat in the West with four division titles in the last six years. Mike Riley got his Cornhuskers back to a nine-win season last year. To fully prove his positive-energy approach is superior to the cantankerous coach he replaced, he’ll need to eventually reach double-digit victories and play for a championship. Riley’s team should be favored to win its first five games of the year, setting up the Badgers’ visit as the first big-time Big Ten matchup of the fall.
Trap game: Oct. 28 at Purdue. Nebraska gets a bye week to regroup after facing the Badgers and Ohio State in back-to-back weeks, which will present a temptation to relax before heading to Purdue. The Boilermakers have been the league’s doormat for the past several years, but if new coach Jeff Brohm has successfully installed a good chunk of his offense by late October they’ll have a chance to surprise some teams in shootouts. Brohm’s Western Kentucky team led the nation with 45.5 points per game in 2016. The ability to score in bunches might not make Purdue an immediate consistent threat, but it does give them a chance to put a scare into any opponent if the offense hits a rhythm on any given game day. A loss to the Boilermakers, especially after facing a harrowing duo in its two previous games, could derail a positive start to the season for Nebraska if it’s not careful.