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Dienhart: Big Ten Considering Cancelling Nonconference Games Due to COVID-19

Nebraska’s football games against South Dakota State, Central Michigan and Cincinnati would be replaced by a single conference game, resulting in a ten game football schedule.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 07 Big Ten Championship Game Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tom Dienhart of Rival’s reports that the Big Ten is leaning towards cancelling all of this season’s nonconference football games and instead playing a ten game, conference only schedule.

“Yes, it hasn’t been officially decided,” said a Power 5 head coach. “We have a big meeting tomorrow (Thursday, July 9). But, yeah, it just seems to me that probably in the last week and a half, I could just kind of tell from the tone of our leadership that that’s the direction that they want it to go and felt most comfortable going. Nothing has been decided. Nothing’s official. But I would be surprised if it’s not that.”

Teddy Greenstein, currently on a furlough from the Chicago Tribune, hinted at something similar earlier this morning, but can’t write about it because he’s not able to.

Dienhart indicates that the official decision could come as soon as late next week. Dropping the non-conference games and then moving up many of the conference games leaves bye weeks in the schedule in case games need to be cancelled due to a flare up. There’s even talk about moving games up to “Week Zero” to Saturday, August 29, or starting the season later, in order to give schools more time to get testing and processes better defined before starting the season.

Nebraska is currently scheduled to open the season on September 5 with Purdue; that game along with Northwestern at Michigan State and Indiana at Wisconsin are the only Big Ten games scheduled for Labor Day weekend. It would seem likely those games would remain intact.

However, other games on the schedule will likely be moved up into September, though it would seem that the rivalry games planned for Thanksgiving weekend would remain at the end of the season.

Also, it’s interesting to note that the Big Ten would add an additional conference game to the schedule. Could those Rivalry games the final weekend become “home-and-home” arrangements where they are played earlier in the season and then again at the end of the season? For Nebraska, that would mean the Huskers traveling to Minneapolis to play the Gophers and then playing the Gophers again to close out the season in Lincoln, should the virus allow? I could see that happening to ensure that those games get played at least once. A variant of this would be to duplicate the Axe matchup between Minnesota and Wisconsin as well as the Supermarket game between Nebraska and Iowa.

A more likely possibility is that an East division team would get added to Nebraska’s schedule. In this situation, Nebraska would play a game against either Indiana, Maryland, Michigan or Michigan State. Since Nebraska only plays four conference games in Lincoln, it would seem likely that the additional game would be played in Lincoln. Each of those schools listed above already have five conference home games, which would indicate that they would be adding a road game. (The home/away balance would make it even more unlikely that the Huskers would play the Gophers twice, but a home-and-home with Iowa could still fit the schedule.)

There was no indication at this time as to whether fans would be able to attend any games this fall.