For a third time, Nebraska has its 2020 schedule in hand. And this one appears just as formidable as the previous versions.
National college football analysts repeatedly chortled at the Huskers’ expense as Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” released the Big Ten slate one week at a time Saturday morning. The treacherous abbreviated path begins for NU at Ohio State — the No. 2 team in the preseason Associated Press poll — and features the Huskers hosting a crossover bout against East Division power Penn State (preseason No. 7). West squads Wisconsin (No. 12), Iowa (No. 24) and Minnesota (No. 19) also loom in the next few months.
“They wanted football, they got it back now,” Fox analyst Brady Quinn said. “Good luck with that schedule. We’ll see how much progress that (coach) Scott Frost and Adrian Martinez, their quarterback, have made.”
At roughly the same time on ESPN’s “College GameDay,” Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields — whose petition last month to restart Big Ten football collected more than 300,000 signatures — said his team was excited to play.
Responded ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit: “I know the only other guy that’s more excited is probably Desmond Howard to see Ohio State play Nebraska.”
The Husker schedule in full: at Ohio State (Oct. 24), vs. Wisconsin (Oct. 31), at Northwestern (Nov. 7), vs. Penn State (Nov. 14), vs. Illinois (Nov. 21), at Iowa (Nov. 28), at Purdue (Dec. 5) and vs. Minnesota (Dec. 12). A ninth plus-one game will follow Dec. 19, when squads play the team that finished with the same ranking in the opposite division.
The Big Ten Conference announced today the schedule for the 2020 football season, including an eight-game Conference-only schedule starting the weekend of October 24 plus a ninth game for all 14 teams during a newly created Big Ten Champions Week the weekend of December 19. pic.twitter.com/jaDXMhh2C8— Big Ten Conference (@bigten) September 19, 2020
Oct. 24 is the latest opener for Nebraska since 1892. Fox said that game against Ohio State will be in its “Big Noon Kickoff” window at 11 a.m.
While many on social media cried foul on the Big Ten for punishing Nebraska with a difficult schedule for being outspoken in wanting to return to play, the latest iteration is very similar to the previous two. Ohio State and Penn State — the most difficult crossover gantlet for any West team this year — were on NU’s original 2020 schedule that came out in September 2017. A third crossover game against Rutgers from that first version was dropped.
Athletic Director Bill Moos, who is part of the league’s scheduling committee, said this week the group had to be “very sensitive” to how fair the recrafted schedules are to each school.
“That’ll be a big part of our discussion,” Moos said.
The original 12-game campaign was replaced by a 10-game, league-only slate Aug. 5. That version lasted six days before the conference postponed the season. It also included NU crossovers against Rutgers and Michigan State. Schools had been without schedules since the conference announced a football restart Wednesday.
The Big Ten and Nebraska leadership indicated that the league will play Friday, too, though specific start times and television information will be announced later.
The Huskers are playing Iowa on Thanksgiving weekend, though it remains unclear whether that game will occur on Black Friday as it has the past nine years. Moos said this week that he would like to keep the rivalry on that day.
Also of note, Nebraska’s new schedule includes the same tweaks from the 10-game version that had NU hosting Wisconsin for a second straight season and traveling to Purdue in consecutive campaigns. The league has said this will start new annual home-and-away rotations with those schools.
All Big Ten games will be without fans in attendance beyond family of staffers and players. Moos, in a letter to season-ticket holders Saturday, repeated his thoughts from Wednesday that NU is seeking “creative ways” to engage fans this season and will share details in coming weeks.
Stringent medical standards — combined with a schedule that has no bye weeks — also means it’s very possible every Big Ten team won’t play its entire lineup of opponents.
Players and team personnel will begin receiving daily on-site, rapid-result antigen tests no later than Sept. 30. Programs must keep their daily positive tests for COVID-19 below 5% — for Nebraska’s listed roster of 154, eight is over the limit — and their overall population positivity rate below 7.5% using rolling seven-day averages or the team can’t play. Players who test positive must sit out at least 21 days.
“We’re very excited for our players, for the community, for the state, for us to be able to return to competition safely,” UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green said Friday.
Two games could decide the two divisions Dec. 12, when Ohio State hosts Michigan and Iowa travels to Wisconsin. Ohio State at Penn State (Oct. 31), Minnesota at Wisconsin (Nov. 28) and Iowa at Penn State (Nov. 21) are among other key contests. Crossover games for projected West contenders: Iowa — Michigan State, at Penn State; Minnesota — Michigan, at Maryland; Wisconsin — at Michigan, Indiana; and Purdue — Rutgers, at Indiana.
The 2020 Nebraska football schedule
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