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MADISON - When the 2014 and 2015 Big Ten schedules were released, the first in the new 14-team Big Ten, Wisconsin football fans understandably rejoiced.
For the first time since the early 1990s, Wisconsin wouldn't play Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State or Penn State in a season, and having crossover games against newcomers Maryland and Rutgers seemed like the conference schedule makers did the Badgers a favor.
If the Badgers apparently caught a break the first time, the Big Ten is making sure to challenge Wisconsin in 2016.
Announcing the 2016 and 2017 schedules Thursday morning, the first nine game schedules for the Big Ten in 30 years, Wisconsin will open on the road against Michigan and Michigan State, return home to face Ohio State, travel to Iowa, host Nebraska and then travel to Northwestern. The first three are crossover games.
Wisconsin is also slated to travel to Blacksburg, VA, in 2016 to take on Virginia Tech in a series that was originally supposed to begin in 2008, meaning the Badgers currently have six home games and six road games that season.
Wisconsin will have five conference home games in 2017, hosting Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, Purdue and Maryland, which joins the Big Ten in 2014. Rutgers, another Big Ten newcomer, and Penn State are not on Wisconsin's schedule for either 2016 or 2017.
One thing both schedules have in common for the Badgers – each season will end with a game against rival Minnesota. Wisconsin will host the Gophers to finish the 2016 season and travel to Minnesota to finish off 2017. The two teams are also playing their final regular-season game against each other in 2014 and 2015.
As a result of the nine-game conference schedule and the Big Ten's schedule rotation, every student-athlete will have the opportunity to play against every other team in the conference at least once during a four-year period. The Big Ten is returning to a nine-game conference schedule for all teams for the first time since the 1983 and 1984 seasons.
Oct. 1 at Michigan
Oct. 8 at Michigan State
Oct. 15 vs. Ohio State
Oct. 22 at Iowa
Oct. 29 vs. Nebraska
Nov. 5 at Northwestern
Nov. 12 vs. Illinois
Nov. 19 at Purdue
Nov. 26 Minnesota
Sept. 30 Northwestern
Oct. 7 at Nebraska
Oct. 14 Purdue
Oct. 21 Maryland
Oct. 28 at Illinois
Nov. 4 at Indiana
Nov. 11 Iowa
Nov. 18 Michigan
Nov. 25 at Minnesota