The 2017 season is still several months away. But we never stop looking forward here at the Big Ten blog.
It might 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 Ohio State Buckeyes.
Must-win game: Oct. 28 vs. Penn State. Typically, the safest bet is to simply plug in The Game in this spot for all that the rivalry means beyond the chase for the conference championship. And in terms of bragging rights and with Urban Meyer still unbeaten in the series, the reality is Michigan will always be the most important game for the Buckeyes. But this year, the showdown with the Nittany Lions might come close to eclipsing it, with both Penn State and Ohio State expected to be surefire preseason top-10 selections and James Franklin’s club currently holding possession of the Big Ten title. On top of that, the Nittany Lions pulled off a huge upset of the Buckeyes last season that helped unexpectedly springboard them on to the title. But this time, both sides will come in with no shortage of hype and expectations. Few matchups in the country will boast the star power on display at the Horseshoe on Oct. 28, and the outcome figures to have national title implications.
Trap game: Nov. 4 at Iowa. On the heels of the clash with the Nittany Lions and opening up the closing stretch of November when it becomes more challenging to ignore The Game at the end of the month sits what could be a tough test on the road against the Hawkeyes. In case the Buckeyes need a reminder, they can look back at what happened to the Wolverines when they visited Iowa last year, when a Big Ten title was still well within Jim Harbaugh’s reach. The Hawkeyes are going to be a bit off the radar again this offseason and have some key questions to answer on the roster, but they’re annually one of the league’s most fundamentally sound programs, and they won’t be welcoming hosts for Meyer and the Buckeyes.