Key game for each Big Ten team examines the key game for each Big Ten team heading into the 2015 season.

The Big Ten reporters were asked the key game for each conference member heading into the 2015 season.

Here are the results.


vs Nebraska, 10/3
Okay, Illinois, are you ready to show that you’re going to be a player in the Big Ten West race? Getting the Huskers in the Big Ten home opener should do it. However, bad things happen to the Illini when the two teams play, going 0-5-1 after coming up with a 9-6 win … in 1924. As Big Ten brothers, Nebraska has beaten Illinois 84 to 33 over the last two years. –


@ Northwestern, 10/17
Of course the Big Ten opener at Wisconsin is massive, and of course the regular season finale at Nebraska is important, but Iowa can lose those two games and still come up with a phenomenal year. If it can hold serve at home, and not get caught up in a firefight at Indiana, the Northwestern road trip becomes one of the dangerous hiccup moments. The Wildcats will see this as a must-win home game, but coming off a date with Illinois, and with three of the next four games at home, Iowa – who won last year’s game 48-7 - could be in the midst of a big run with a win. –


vs Rutgers, 10/17
IU was deep in the midst of its free-fall last year when it got tagged by the Scarlet Knights in a 45-23 loss on the road. This time around, it’s a home game in the middle of the season sandwiched between road dates at Penn State and Michigan State. If the Hoosiers can start out 3-0, and if they can maybe get by Wake Forest, there’s a chance to start out 5-2 with a win over Rutgers. Lose this, and it could require a minor miracle to get to a bowl game. –


vs Iowa, 10/18
While West Virginia won’t be any slouch, the Terrapins non-conference schedule and a matchup with Indiana could mean Maryland has a chance for a perfect 5-0 start. Hosting Ohio State is almost a forego conclusion, but getting the Hawkeyes two weeks later before a trip to Wisconsin could set the Terrapins up to be bowl eligible by mid-October. – Josh Harvey,


vs Michigan State, 10/17
If with Harbaugh at the helm it’s still going to take a little working and tweaking to get back to the level Michigan football is supposed to get to. However, assuming there isn’t a Big Ten title coming this year, all that really matters is setting the stage for big things going forward. One of the huge steps is to finally start to win the rivalry games again on a regular basis, and that means Michigan has to at least split between their home games against the Spartans and Buckeyes. You want to really kickstart the Captain Khaki era? Beat Michigan State for the second time since 2007 and Ohio State for the second time since 2003. –

Michigan State:

@ Ohio State, 11/21
The Spartans had Urban Meyer’s number in 2013, beating the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship game. Last year Ohio State returned the favor, eventually not only winning the Big Ten East but the whole dang thing. When these two pair up, it’s not only must watch television, but one of the best games in the country. Both teams will likely contend for a national title again this fall. – Josh Harvey,


vs Wisconsin, 11/28
Minnesota fans are very content with the progress the Gopher Football team has shown under head coach Jerry Kill coming off back to back eight wins season, including a January 1st bowl game. That being said, there's no game Minnesota fans want more each year than the Wisconsin game. It'll most likely play a large factor in determining the Big Ten West for the second straight year, and it's at home. The Gophers need this game to take the next step under Kill. – Ryan Burns,


vs Wisconsin, 10/10
The Badgers have had the Huskers number, outscoring them 129 to 54 in their last two meetings. Both schools are considered contenders in the Big Ten West and both schools feature new coaching staffs. While a road game to Minnesota, a school that has beaten Nebraska two years in a row, is almost as equally important, the Huskers have to protect their home field. – Josh Harvey,


@ Stanford, 9/5
Sometimes a team needs to start out setting a tone for the rest of the way. Beating Minnesota in the Big Ten opener will be vital, and winning at Wisconsin or Nebraska is a must to have any hope of being in the hunt for the West, but coming up with a home victory over a strong Stanford team at home might show the potential for big things. It’s the type of win a team that wants to be good needs to have. –

Ohio State:

@ Michigan, 11/28
OK, it seems like it's always Michigan, but this year's game should have some added prominence. It'll be the first meeting between Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh, and it could be the last hurdle for Ohio State on what many expect to be an excellent regular season. Many have already pointed to 1969, when Bo Schembechler's first Michigan team upset an unbeaten, defending national champion Ohio State squad in Ann Arbor, as a historic parallel to this year's game. Time will tell, but that's the game of the year for the Buckeyes. – Jeff Svobda,

Penn State:

@ Ohio State, 10/17
If chalk holds, Penn State will be 6-0 heading into the showdown with the Buckeyes in Columbus. The Nittany Lions figure to be heavy underdogs. But the game will be important to gauge where James Franklin’s program is in comparison to the nation’s elite teams as it continues to shake of the burden of NCAA sanctions. Was last year’s closer-than-anyone-expected OT loss to the eventual national champs in Happy Valley a fluke? Will the 49-point loss PSU sustained on its last trip to the Horseshoe (2013) still be weighing on the minds of the Lions? This year’s Penn State-Ohio State game ought to be a great measuring stick for the Lions. – Mark Brennan,


@ Bowling Green, 9/26
There are several Big Ten to fry – seriously, Purdue, beat Indiana for the first time three years – but the losses to MAC teams have to stop. The Boilermakers lost to Central Michigan last year and Northern Illinois in 2013. Bowling Green is one of MAC’s best. Purdue needs to act like a Big Ten team. –


@ Penn State, 9/19
Last year's matchup between the two ended in a crushing 13-10 loss for the Scarlet Knights in front of a sold-out crowd and national television audience. Every Rutgers player and fan is hungry for the rematch. Not only is it meaningful off the field for Rutgers, but the road trip to Penn State is a momentum swing game either way. Christian Hackenberg's protection is improved, and Rutgers has to find a new way to get the edge. – Sam Helmman,


@ Minnesota, 11/28
The key conference game is likely the season finale at Minnesota, but the real key for a lot of Wisconsin fans is the season opener against Alabama in Arlington, Texas. The Crimson Tide are one of the premier programs in college football year in and year out. The Badgers frankly are not but have become a very consistent program over the last decade. If UW wants to take the next step in terms of national reputation, the Badgers need to show they are competitive on the big stage against a big opponent. They showed a little bit of that in their overtime win against Auburn in the 2015 Outback Bowl. UW has a lot of question marks on its roster in Paul Chryst's first season at Wisconsin. What better way to find out where you are good and where you need improve than a terrific litmus test against a program that has won three of the last five national championships? – Ben Worgull,

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