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 the must-win game and the potential trap game for each league team this fall. Up next: the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Must-win game: at Wisconsin, Nov. 11
Can the Hawkeyes still win the Big Ten West Division without beating the Badgers? Sure, and since the game is in Madison, Wisconsin, it would be an understandable loss. Yet it's also undeniably true that the road to the division title goes through Wisconsin these days. Iowa knows that very well, as its victory at Camp Randall in 2015 was a driving force in its Big Ten championship game berth. This will be a tough turnaround for Kirk Ferentz's team as well, as Ohio State visits Kinnick Stadium a week before the trip to Wisconsin. Maybe the Hawkeyes can spring a home upset against the Buckeyes, as they did last year against Michigan. But if not, the game against the Badgers becomes even more vital to their division hopes.
Trap game: Wyoming, Sept. 2
There aren't many games on this schedule that scream "trap," unless you figure Illinois or Purdue will be good enough to win in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes will have to watch out for that game against the Boilermakers, which is sandwiched between the Ohio State and Wisconsin showdowns and the season finale at Nebraska. But there's still a major talent disparity between the two programs at this point. Wyoming will similarly have its hands full going to Kinnick for the season opener, but this is a team that won eight games a year ago and returns most of its two-deep under Craig Bohl. The same Craig Bohl who used to coach at North Dakota State, and ... well, we'll leave it at that. Iowa should be heavily favored in Week 1, but it had better not overlook this Mountain West opponent.